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In 1985, after several years of amateur drum playing, I took my first djembe workshop with Adama Drame. This encounter was decisive. I was immediately attracted to the instrument and the music, and have dedicated myself to them ever since. Given the growing interest in traditional African music, especially percussion, I wanted to makeavailable a book that both places the instrument in its African context and enablesthe reader to start to learn to play. It would be pretentious to try to produce an exhaustive work on so vast a subject. Since traditional music is usually passed on orally, the transcription of African rhythmics might be open to criticism and using Western notation to write down a type of music which is radically different might seemarbitrary. My goal is not to establish absolute or limiting rules, but rather to pass on in written form a synthesis of my personal research and experience to others interested in this extraordinary instrument. This book is not just a simple methodfor learning an instrument. It is for a wider audience: percussionists from all backgrounds, percussion teachers, instrument makers and music lovers will all find it instructive. The beginning percussionist cannot claim to "play like a pro " after reading this book. Regular practice is necessary, as well as a certain rigor and, above all, supervision by an experienced teacher who will help and guide him or her in this work. Several trips to WestAfrica will bring him into direct contact with the djembe's cultural milieu and give him the pleasure of playing with local musicians. Africa's unique atmosphere is indispensablefor learning to play really well. In the meantime,a compact disk has been included to enable the reader to better understand and interpret the written material. The repertory given here is not simply "African inspired". The rhythms presented are real traditional standard rhythms whoseauthenticity and accuracy have beenconfinned by such eminentmusiciansasAboubakar Bamba, Koumgbanan Conde, [.amine Soumah, Mamady Kei"ta, Noumoudy Kei"ta and Souleymane Dembele. I sincerely thank themfor their interest. In contributing to the making of this document, they have helped give a new dynamic to percussion and West African rhythmics in the world. I would also like to express my gratitude to Morton Potash, Franr;ois Kokelaere, Jean-Pierre Journet, Julien Andre, Modibo Bah, Ravy Magnifique and Youssouf Tata Cissefor their help and advice. The reader will find here a pedagogical aid, written with passion and all possible accuracy, allowing him or her to taste the pleasure of playing this instrument. I hope it will arouse a desire of one day attaining the musical excellence of the great masters.
And now the

moment has come to turn to the djembe and its music..,



-6- .The empire stretchedfrom the Atlantic Oceanto the west of Gao on the Niger River. 1968.Vassalseverywhererose up and threw off the Malian yoke. the son had to follow in his father's footsteps.therebyearningan extraordinaryreputation.he is attributed a very important role in traditional Mandingo history.. the lula. 1. Caste differentiation becamemore systematic. had a great destiny. sealing alliances. who was paralyzed for seventeenyears. democratic system.the sole heir to the throne. They are the heroes and warriors whom the griots throughout West Africa continue to glorify as if they were still alive.specialistsin iron and other metals. she plotted against him. the Susu and the Syenara. After his death. The story goesthat SogolonKedjougou. Soundjata's astonishing strength and generosity had made Tassouma Berete jealous and fearful. which becamethe main basis of the economy. it is said). which he later abolished. Soundjataalso codified the clan system. Kankou Moussa won fame with his celebrated pilgrimage to Mecca. Senegaland SierraLeone. such as Ami Kolta. he had many mosques built in his colonies. The Empire of Mali reachedits height during the reign of Kankou Moussa.> dary hero. Mandingo music today is conquering the world under the leadership of star musicians as well-known as they are talented. gave birth to a sick boy. 1960. He developedagriculture. the USRDA. who then became his vassals. The slaves did the hardest and most unpleasant work. amplified by social crisis.one of the wives of Fara-Koro Makan Kegni. Seriousconflicts arosewithin the national direction of the single political party. At that time. Mali. was to oversee the group's safety. He then laid the foundations of the Mandingo Empire. . the Kaado. Mory Kante. During his journey. where his mother died on the eve of his departureto reconquerhis native country. there was real innovation. Soundjatahad a stepmother. the Empire of Mali. His story is told in "Janjon" and "Soundjata Fasa". among them the Wolof and Sereri peoples. This led to a military takeover on November 19. sung. A great among the greatest. . the most famous Mandingo epic chant(l). After several years of French colonization under the name of French Sudan. . She and her son exiled Soundjata. Gambia. and oriented trans-Saharan commerce towards gold trading.There are several 'versions of Soundjata's end. 1991. internal quarrels weakenedthe government. Mali became an independent and sovereignrepublic on September22.Tradesand professions becamehereditary: from that time on. He was called Soundjata. Many kings were born in the historical land of the Mandingo empire. along with his whole family. the Ivory Coast. In the realm of social relations. creating a political crisis.This saga comprisesseveralhundred versesthat are played.During Modibo Kelta' s presidency.who helped her son. Caste members were to entertain and satisfy the material needs of the group. Their zone of influence currently includes parts of Burkina Faso. a thirteenth-century mythical and legen. 2. Liberia. Salif Kelta. Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau. They went to Nema. usurp the throne. sacking and submitting the different peoples.The Mandingo Empire disintegrated. the Saga of Soundjata. who came in 1352.Numu: smiths.Fune:a kind of holy beggar. The most widespreadversion says that he drowned in the Sankaranninriver. The Maninka belong to a Mandingo family that includes many prestigious ethnic groups. he distributedso much gold (12 tons.Jali: griots.At the historic battle of Kirina. ruining the Maninka slave trade.He was overthrown by the tragic eventsof May 26.Garanke: cobblers or dyers. contributing to the spreadof Mali's renown beyond the borders of Sudanand attracting many Arab travellers to his country. who ruled the country single-handedly for 23 years. The essential duty of the nobles. Soundjataprosperedon the way back. Soundjata and his Mandingo allies triumphed over SoumangourouKante.the first republic experienced severe economic difficulties. King of the Susu. that he causedthe Cairo precious metals market to crash. known as Mansa Moussa 1(13421360).. enabling the establishment of a multiparty. Theterm nyamakaladesignatesgroups within different clans composedof the . Soundjatawas proclaimed Mansa. Colonization considerablymodified the map of the Mandingo region and dispersedthe Maninka peoples. Preexistinggroupswere divided into three impermeable strata: the horon (important people and nobles).DakaranTouma. A pious sovereign. TassoumaBerete. the Soninke. or Emperor. his death is shroudedin mystery. Like his life. MansaMoussareigned over a vast and prosperous empire. Soundjata'shalf-brother. under the direction of Lieutenant Moussa Traore.4 ~ ~ oundjata. danced and discussed during important ceremonies. the nyamakala(2) (caste members) and the jon (slaves). The main events of his life are recountedin chroniclesof the time andin numerousAfrican history books. Each stratum's role was well defined by rules of centuries-old customs. King of Kings. placed at the top of the hierarchy. including the Bamana. The most famous of thesewas the Moroccan Ibn Battuta. a pilgrimage that is still legendary.

The letter "u" is pronounced like the "00" in "boot". is used for -7- . The names. derived from the French. is pronounced like the "a" in "cape". "j" is pronounced like the "dy" in "Goodyear". instruments and rythms is that of the mandingo alphabet. The .Faso Busa Bwa or Bobo Dafin Dagari Fulbe Gurumance Gurusi Jula Lobi Mosi Sarnogo Syenara or Senufo " Coast Bete Birifu Bole Dan Ebiriye Fulbe Gagu Gere Guroor Kweni Jula Koyaga Maninka Syenara Turuka Wob6 Yakuba Aboron Ani Atiye Barnana Bawule '- Baga Basari Fulanior Peul Gereze Jalunke Jula Kisi Koniagi Landuman Maninkaor Malinke Nalo Susuor Soso Temine Tornaor Lorna Tuculeri Bamana or BambaraKaadoor Dogon Sarnogo Bela Kakolo Somono Bozo Kasonke Songolor SonraY Bwa Mamara or Miyanka Soninke. Sarakole or Maraka Fulbeor Peul Maninka Suraka or Moor Jula Mosi Syenara Tarnasheq or Touareg Tuculeri Wasulunke Wolof Basari Fulbe Jula Lebu and Gambia Maninka Sereri Soninke Suraka Tuculeri Wolof ethnic class groups Fune Jali Garanke Maabo Numu - ---c-' used for the namesof ethnic groups. The original spelling.

Lower caste. They do no manual labor and do not work the land. Griots may be men or women." replied the griot.. for they are initiated in the secrets of nature and plants. from the Arab word for "chronicle". Today. like the one who one day obstinately refused to sing for King Biton of Segou. n WestAfrica. It is therefore unusual today to find young people who know the "tarik". True professionals of speech. to realize that they were of good stock: there was always a hero amongtheir ancestorswho servedas a referencepoint. Legend has it that the Prophet gave his slave Bilali three coffers intended for his three grandsons who afterward went to Mandan and founded the village of Kikoronin. But their function remainsimportantwhen mediators. story-tellers and musicians generally have very common names. or bards. also called "tarik". where many. "What's wrong?" the King finally asked. The novices learn the art ' . Thisexpression is formed from "belen" .All griots believe that the day they start working will unquestionably be the beginning of fame and fortune. "It's in your kingdom. baptisms and funerals without them. __a. They did domestic work for him until they earnedhis trust. their children learn the art of public speaking and develop their memory.learning as much as they could absorb. meaning "rod" and "tigui". And it is still the griot who arranges traditional marriages. which becomes their working tool. the young griots left the family home and went to study with a great master. According to oral tradition. the griots orjaliw were a caste apart. It is therefore possible to enjoy this status without practising any of its extremely difficult tasks and activities. 2. It is difficult to imagine weddings. One is a griot by hereditary filiation. In the Mandingo world there are many villages ning centerswhere young people interestedin oral traditions go. unableto claim to belong to a particular masterdue to changesin social and geopolitical structures(the royal courts have disappeared). Called "belen tigui"(l) they are the keepers of the oral tradition. Diabate or Cissoko. Before the written word was used. After their minds had beenopened. he began teaching them "buruju"(2) which enabled them. rewards and gifts. the griots have become independent. but are supported by the nobles. acquisition of land and also of beautiful women (the kings in general had thirty wives). He proved his competence by being clever enough not to cause the nobleman whose praises he sung to lower his head in shame. One does not say "no" to a griot. meaning "master of".they no longer needto tell the truth. "The prettiest girl of the Empire lives in the village of the neighboring kingdom and you haven't married her yet! How can I sing your praises?" Upon hearing these words. they were respected. whom he then married. in Kita dofo (a suburb of Kita) and in Krina " cities wherethe traditionsarewell kept in Mali. the Maninka came from Mecca. These genealogists. 1. indispensable for perpetuating institutions. Some of them are also healers. He was the one who goaded the kings to fight to the death in combats that were motivated by glory. the oldest griots travel very little.8 - . that nothing is right. in the presence of other nobles accompanied by their own griots who knew the content of what would be said and chanted. becamean object of the highest esteem.the griots taught and exchangedknowledge orally. In Manden. serving a king or a power on whom they in turn depend. To learn from the source. While still very young. their origin goes back to the times of the prophet Mohammed. Hamadaor Famada(Kouroussa society) in Guinea. intervening in inter-family problems disputes. sire.they say what pleases and prompts generous donations. They are settled there. Some griots started wars. His skill was revealed during large public events glorifying his superiors. According to the renowned specialist Kele Monson Diabate. the griots. codified castes defined the social hierarchy. engaged in oratorical art and music. As the society's heralds. in the greatfeudal societies like the Mali Empire. they left the master and became in their turn keepersof the "tarik". . the king prepared his army and launched a war to abduct the girl. Great griots are rare. the sowing season is punctuatedwith their chantsand music. "Buruju": the origins of institutions and family genealogies. When hejudged them capable of learning. The griot was therefore the depository of a dynasty's history.courted and feared. living mainly in cities. Praising equally noblesand important people. They readily submit to the power of money. they are both loved and despised. It is a matter of honor. the people's living memory. instead. The griot was also bellicose. now a rarefied lore. Within the highly structuredand hierarchical Mandingo society. of a genealogy. like Kouyate. among other things. remaining attached to tradition and the land where they were born. they are mastersof ceremony for local festivities in their communities. they are surrounded by an aura of mystery. They prefer the lure of quick money to volunteer work which no longer attractsanyone.show and music. ~ especially in K6la (Kangaba society). power.


funerals andinheritances. bamboo. gourds. whosereso- The Gambian kora. Hand clapping is the only accompaniment. kariyan. Sachsand E. they are playedto this day at eachstageof agricultural work (tilling. The instruments listed here are classified according to the four large categoriesof traditional organology established by C. their quality residesabove all in the richness of the timbre. its own assetsand flaws. 1. I. dunun. In this category. strident or soft sounds which reproduce as closely as possible the sounds and music of nature. Here are the instruments most representative of Mandingo music. file.iron.10- . with its own beauty. ones that have a more or less direct relation with the djembe and its music. but also slipshod and even rudimentary. Aerophones: This category includes all instruments whose sound is produced by vibrating the air contained in a tube. But they all have one thing in common: they are never mass-produced. with a personality of their own. They are also used by the national dance companies. When played outside their traditional framework they enable musicians to integrate quite naturally into instrumental groups and modern combos throughout the world. There are no real instrumentmakers. interpretations. Membranophones: These are instruments with a membrane stretched over a hollow support. using no strings or membranes: Their constructioncan be very careful. then. Using all sorts of resonantmatter. siko. which "speaks Mandengo"(l) is not tuned the same way as the Malian kora.Likewise. They are played during initiation ceremonies. tI Idiophones: are more or less victims of the general technical evolution of wood and metals. childhood. kora. horns. it is a very substantial source of music. madeessentially from natural or found materials (wood. songs and dances and popular festivities. kele. The latter. . kesekese. as well as the multiple and variable terminologies. yon Hornbostel. puberty. Chordophones: Their soundis madeby causingthe string or strings. They let 'joi~ devivre" andgaietyburstout andgive expression to ardor in work. is unique. nkoni. etc. given the size of the regions and the great variety of populations and ethnic groups. bala. wasamba. There are sacredinstruments.and there are popular instruments. ntama. It is difficult to itemize them all. expressing refinement. games. kirin. Each drum. A spoken language of Gambia. while keepingtheir fundamental elements. stretchedbetweentwo fixed points on a support. 2.). and the Maninka flute resemblesthe flute from Fouta only in tone. animal skins. . sowing. vibrating. hunting and fishing. Instruments are thus invented that produce nasal. The musician designs them himself. In Africa.to vibrate: bolon.plack Africa has an infinite number of musical :P instruments. A spoken language of Mali and Guinea. harvesting). As on integralpart of African social life. yabara. The human voice must be added to this category. the Guinea bala does not have the same "scale" as the Burkina Fasobala. more or less strangeand often complex. Modern materials are used more and more and often produce instruments with a wide rhythmic and melodic range. using various artifices. bara. solemnityand piety in the rituals. filendunun.The sound is obtainedby striking the membranewith the handsor a stick: nancechambers andorifices sometimes have a shape that lend themselves to symbolic or mythological djembe. for example. gita. the instrument must be able to produce unusual tones. They are also called air or wind instruments. which "speaks Mandenka"(2). not in language. communicatingto them the languageof his ethnic group and endowing them.except for the djembe and certain instrumentslike the kirin or the nkoni. the sound is produced by the vibration of the material itself. They accompany birth. evidence of the liveliness of traditional music.

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The ntama can also beat dance rhythms when played with the djembe. especially in the Bondialan region. . in the Bamanamilieu.12- . the bongolo. The ntama is a double-skin drum with variable tension made of a hollowed-out hourglass-shaped wooden barrel. This kettledrum. The barais usedin all popularfestiveevents. its resonance chamberis higher and it is played differently: one hand strikes directly while the other hand plays with a stick. With its narrow center placed under his arm-hence the designation "armpit drum". around 60 cm in diameter. used by criers to announce meetings on the public gathering areato hear urgent information. this technique is supplemented by playing with the fingers on the sameskin. 2. by another skin-covered In the Bamana milieu. which is sewn and held in place by a system of hide strip laces. The NTAMANI is smaller. . Also called CU or KUNANFAN. The ends are covered by two goatskins stretched over a stiff circle and tied togetherby flexible leatherlaces. It is struck with both palms. bara is accompanied Its shapeand the way it is assembledmake this drum a closerelative of the djembe. generally calfskin. The skin is struck with a thin curved stick. is made of wood and covered with a skin. thereby modifying the pitch and creating sliding and altered tones. For the ntamani(2).<" n Mali. HOURGLASS DRUHS THE NTAMA . sometimes larger. It either hangshorizontally by a belt from the musician's waist or is placed on the ground. All social classesare familiar with this age-old " instrument.the drummer varies the pressure on the lacing. both the Bwa and the Kaado are said to have invented this instrument. Indeed. its sliding tones recall some spokenAfrican languages.HEHrSPHERE DRLJHS THE BARA The bara(l)is from theSegou regionof Mali. It is used .However. 1. This drum is also called the" talking drum ". the drum.

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the yabara used to be played to accompany the bolon during great ritual ceremonies honoring titular genii or the manes. Generally cone-shaped. 1. In Mali. cowries(l) or rounds of wood (and sometimes "gombele" beans). dry sound. village ancestors. made of woven plant fibers. The player holds one in each hand by a small handle.RATTLES THE KESEKESE O riginating in the Faranah region of Upper Guinea. THE Y ABARA The yabara is from the Guinea forest region inhabited r by the Kisi. the kesekese is the favorite instrument of the Mamara ethnic group in the Sikasso area of Mali. Toma and Gereze ethnic groups. . In the Sikasso region. they are always played in pairs. a small piece of hollowed wood held in the palm of one hand and struck by a small stick held in the other. whose stem serves as a handle. The kesekese accompany chanting and certain very rapid dances. jugshaped gourd. the koro. Cowries are small shells that were used as money throughout the Mandingo world from earliest times Today they are only used as ornaments and in magic. The gourd is held by its "handle" and swung back and forth while the other hand pulls the end of the string bag downwards. It is an external percussion rattle made from a whole. This produces a clear. The gourd is emptied and wrapped in a fairly loose string bag studded with real snake vertebrae.14- . the Bamana use the yabara (also called tchitchakara) by itself for their festivities. They are often accompanied by another instrument. using alternating movements. These internal percussion rattles are closed containers containing small pebbles or seeds and come in a variety of shapes. The musician creates a rhythmic accompaniment for singing and other percussion instruments.

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cut out of gourd and pierced in the middle. they . This instrumentis playedprimarily by initiation society musiciansand minstrels affiliated with hunting brotherhoods. It is also played by women griots during and after singing. '-" off evil spirits and accompany singing during the retreat period following the operation. . between 15 and 20.. When they are played in pairs. A rocking wrist movement markstherhythm. The playing technique varies according to the instrument's ethnic origin. 16- . Grooveson eachsideof a lengthwiseslit canal are scraped with a small metal rod. The number of discs. clacking sound. are made with angled sticks. SrSTRLlHS THEWASAMBA W asamba<l).a finger slipped througha ring attached to thetube.SCRAPED rNSTRlJHENTS THE KARIY AN The kariyanis a hollow iron tubeopenalongits entire it is held in the palm of the hand. The sliding disks hit one another and make a crisp. r length. each segment being 20 to 30 cm long (hence the name "arching sistrums").the wasamba announce their presenceto passers-byand strangers. are shaken up and down and rubbed against each other. Newly circumcised boys are not to be approached by just anyone.andaccompanies the rhythmssetby the hand clapping of groupsof other women. on which several disks of diminishing diameter. Also called WASAKUMBA (Susu ethnic group) and LALA (Fulbe ethnic group) (photo on the right). Wasamba are used mainly during circumcision ceremonies. to ward .About 4 cm in diameter. This instrument is saidto datefrom theMiddle Ages. used in initiation rites.and20 to 30 cm long. are threaded. corresponds to the age of each initiate.

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Originally called soron. It is also found in traditional Maninka orchestras.who have addeda fourth string. this instrument was man-sized and was played standing. . A sheepskin is stretched and nailed over a wooden resonance chamber. decorated with rings. When a city was taken. nkoni = string instrument. They are stretched on the round wooden. where young people play i evening gatherings. At the end of the pole is a resonator(l). The nkoni is above all the griot's instrument. A thin metal sheet.and pinches the strings with his thumbs. The Mandingo Empire's history can be discovered through the nkoni' s music. The bolon is the double bass in Mandingo music. He holds it by the pole. called dozonkoni(2). his wrists resting on the calabash. . Dozo = hunter. 1.with the instrument placed facing him betweenhis legs.. LUTES THE NKONI The nkoni is a Sahelianlute found among the Fulbe.-.exhorting warriors to enduranceand valor.CURVED HARPS THE BOLON ~ ~ The bolon is a curved harp comprised of a large r calabash. a curved wooden pole and three strings. It accompanies the historian or the chronicler and is used to illustrate narratives of brave deeds. SoninkeandMoors. notched neck and held by sliding leather rings (like on the kora). 2. the soronplayer alwaysprecededthe military leader~ the conqueredvillage.the stringsare now nylon. a perfect support for the kora. It is mainly played for hunting ceremonies. Oncemadeof horsehair. a sort of small guitar with a boatshaped box andthree strings. three strings.18~ . The musician most often plays seated. It exalted courage..It is also now found among the Bamana. acts as a resonator. The Bamanahave anothercurved harp with two :. The dozonkoni is mainly found in Mali's Wasoulou Belidougou regions.

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The drumheadof the djembe is made from goatskin. the musician restretched the skin by heating it over a small wood or cardboard fire (this technique is still used by some drummers in Africa). respect or to obtain the cromise of a betrothal. The woods used are chosenfor their density. 1. The connecting part in the middle of the djembe is the "collar". The size generally varies from 55 to 60 cm high and 30 to 38 cm in diameter(somedjembefrom the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are wider). The tension system is of braided nylon cords. and is given as a sign of agreement. lenke. dogora. Traditionolly. The skin is held with threemetal hoops(cf: Assemblinga djembe). it comprises a flattened cone "foot" whose cavity opensinto a larger resonance chamber or "body". Originally. Made of a single hollowed out and sculpted piece of tree trunk. the djembe skin was sewn and assembled with thin strips of braided leather or cow gut. The worojiri(l). gueni and calcedrat are the woods most frequently used. woro = kolo. it also plays an important role on certain occasions. The edible kolo nut is red or white in color. r Its goblet shape resembles the mortar used for pounding millet.tone and toughness. Jiri = tree. -22- . If the tension slackenedduring playing.~ 1:21 The djembe belongs to the membranophone family.

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The drummers follow the dance.with drumssettingtherhythm. His assorted tools.like joy and sadness.with instrumental accompaniment (stringsor percussion).songsof praise.24 - . The djembe is therefore essentially played by men. His coherent.nature and thickness of the wood determine its weight. The craftsman is 1.dancingsongs. honoring the grooms. djembe accompaniment players and dunun players. circumcisions. This generally concludes with a fast finale. It is also usedby all West African dancecompaniesand national troupes. their families. . With its bright rhythms. accompanied above all by strings. and stopping signals to end or temporarily stop the dance. . betrothals. instrumental music is generally the domain of men. n West Africa. The songs vary according to the ethnic group and the event. They can be performed by all members of the society.This techniquewas elaboratedby dancecompany drummers. chairs dependson the balance and harmony of its forms. The djembe is used at the various social events that make up traditional festivities: baptisms. Family membersare responsiblefor the organisationof celebrations and women gnots are generally in charge of the festivities.whose words relate directly to the event: ie. which the craftsman knows. weddings and some funerals. . The rhythm is generally CONSTRUCTION and finish that areof major importancein making a good instrument. as well as ceremoniessuch as assembliesand mask festivals.They determinethe synthesis of knowledge to be assimilated by those seekingto be initiated. they produce a perfect simultaneity between the music and the dance. griots. The dancesreflect aspectsof a past epoch and life. They lead the different songs. coded instructions enable them to express themselves. creating a rhythmic link between the singing and the instruments.They convey different moods. composed by superimposing different intertwining rhythmic units. must machetesand adzes. the musician is also the sculp.The other women participateeither by forming a synchronizeddancecircle. Traditional dances handed down from generation to generation make up the greatest part of each ethnic group's surviving artistic and cultural heritage. They can be divided into three categories: .Thesedances are reservedfor the initiated. smithsor cobblers.. thesedances help identify the dancer'scaste:ie.and is also usedfor teaching in danceclasses. The etc. Called "smiths". Secular dances Thesedancesillustrate all the eventsof community life. and expresspopular communal delight and the ardor of group work. When the singing startsthe djembefola soloist gives his group of accompanists the rhythmic support and the speed for the intoned chant (the same rhythm can be found in different chants). specializing in woodwork(l) and The djembe'spitch (cf: Assemblinga djembe-The skin) in fabricating everyday objects such as mortars. to move with the group and the assembly.The soloist beatsthe various rhythmic formulas correspondingto the dancers' different movements. or by clapping their hands.FUNCTION . The djembe is not mass produced. The also include mask and puppet dances. The dancescan be classified in three very distinct categories: Ritual dances The main characteristicof thesedancesis their religious or magic element. frequently a sculptor.narrative or epic songs. it is above all the instrument of dance. as well as mores and activities. Each djembe is r handmade and therefore unique. crowbars. songs introduce the drum music. Certain proportions. tor. The interweaving produces a rich and varied polyrhythm. thereby acquiring the highest social and spiritual values. The djembe is played in a group of several percussionists comprised of a soloist. including gouges. In the Maninka tradition.allow him to achievea construction be respectedbetweenthe "body" and the "foot". Very occasionally. Castedances During popularfestivities. vocal music that of women. not vice versa. The soloist can give starting signals to change the dancers' steps. or the parents of a child being baptized. each sex having its own dance steps.

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gives greaterfreedom of movementand allows one to move about while playing. It also amplifies the volume of the djembe and facilitates better collaboration and a more harmonious dynamic between the drummers and dancers.A judo belt works well. For a good position. is strapping the djembe back problems: around the waist. beating This the The has direct repercussions on the spine. It is important to choosea sturdy strapwide enoughnot to dig into the shoulders. To prevent the drum from sliding.If it is too short. provides second greater ease of movement method. it is better to shift the djembe's foot to the side of your leg. The djembe restsbetween the drummer's legs. you will stoop. the strap is crossedin back. The djembe's collar should be mid-thigh level. The djembe maybe carriedin two differentways: The most common method is using a long shoulder strap (4 meters long maximum). If it is too long. -26- . When moving around. This position. the strap should be precisely adjusted. most currently in the upper body but can cause lower used in Mali. more suitablewhen playing for dancers.PLAYING POSITIONS Usually the djembe is played standing. the djembe will be too high.

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the whole body is called upon and stimulated by this comprehensive instrument. hands. African drummers traditionally use the "drumming played. .ORAL SOURCES in rhythm and simplifies the task of "keeping the tune in one's head". It is also very important to develop your ear W estern musicians musical tradition. the voice . The phonetic method undeniably facilitates singing .be possible to play them at different exercises are mastered and assimilated. a literal translation of the spoken language. but it is indispensable. bad posture. it ~ Do not try to acceleratetoo quickly at first. in which several instruments play. such as: keeping rhythm while striking with precision. This is difficult to master at first. corresponding to distinct sounds. This action allows you to keep a steadyrhythm. -32- . Songs in onomatopoetic form are reworked on the drum. African musician feelsno needfor anexternalized temporal guide. the traditional '-. . . The beat designates evenly spaced reference points in time. feet. the harmony. The drummer plays them. or combines them as he chooses and according to precise dance phrases. eachsoundcorresponds to a syllable.. have inherited an important a long written memory aid. exercisesthat follow. and energy. It The drum's music is therefore always based on spoken phrases. ie.. varies and ornaments them. on meaningful series of words.}J PUL~~J'ON . A metronomeor a drum machine(less: mightbehelpfulto ensure evenness in the1. language". enables them to separate the music from its context. fatigue. The ear. . in order to respect what happens in a group.by listening to recordings (cf: Selected Re- cordings). Precise ways of beating the drum are used. Once tempos. Tempo has a major role in djembe music.. For this reason. Learning or "having" the beat is indispensable for learning and mastering the following exercisesand rhythms.by listening to yourself and the musicians you play with. or lack of stamina. Marking time with the foot requires the upper and lower limbs to be independent of each other. It is advisable to keep this in mind as a complement In Africa the reverse is true: oral tradition remains the to Western notation when singing all of the parts most important and most frequently used source. The musician relies on it during a piece and it creates better cohesion among the players. as will lose precision and maybe the sound gether.I'"'J ontrary to Western musicians. Going beyond a certain speed additional difficulties.


Holding both hands in the correct position helps you find the skin's optimal tones with flexibility and ease. And discover the pleasure of sharing with other musiciansclear. invent your own. r rl~l~ . He alsotries to get the richest and most varied soundsfrom his instrument.34- . pefore you start to learn the rhythms. 2 3 . then with the left. begin by practising slowly with the voice. airy playing andrhythmscomposed of distinct and precise notes. After you have executed and assimilated the following exercises perfectly. To really feel the length of the notes and the different soundsproduced on the drum. Use the onomatopoeiae given or make up your own.j I I I .THE DJEMBE'S DIFFERENT SOUNDS A good percussionist is not content to play the same rhythmic formulas repeatedly but knows how to vary them..By playing with the different pitches. use muffled and "touched" strikes... Change the sound. first with the right hand. you can also give the rhythm a melody. 1 '~-r ri'--i'--:. here are l> some simple exercisesto loosen up the hands and practice the different strikes described above. Be careful to balance the two hands perfectly (neither should strike harder than the other). Next try playing the exercises.





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play the first djembe accompaniment. being careful to respect the cycle: 8-measures. repeat the starting signal slowly several times. into a "signal to stop". . The startingsignalsetsthe tempoandrhythm.-- follow.Then play the seconddjembe accompaniment. ."Dununba". To start each combination correctly. for example. and in Mali there can be a seconddunun. then. To stop the rhythm. the kesereni and sangba can be supplemented with the dununba. . Repeat. in 8-measure cycles. or he might add three or four instruments. adding signal to stop.Keeping a steady tempo. A soloist will have as many different accompaniments as there are accompanists. begin with one other musician and practice the two djembe accompaniments. sing the djembe starting signal. They are interpreted differently according to the country or region of origin. becauseof the interweaving.At first. alternating these accompaniments several times.The following rhythms have r been chosen from among thosemost frequently used. then do a stopping signal. The ones below are the most representative.then the second alone. The Dunun . play the second Once these different stagesare accomplished. rhythm". it is essentialto use the different as reference points: they are the "heart of . dance class. for example . for example. for example: Starting Signal 11- Signal to stop )1- 13EJ=: In some cases.Do the same thing for the first djembe accompaniment. the most common. Only when these stages are accomplished and when each percussionist is perfectly at easewith all of the rhythmic formulas can the group work start. one after the other. but combining the different rhythms is difficult.the stop signal is different from the start signal: Starting Signal Signal to stop 42~ .Repeat this with the second accompaniment. To do this. danceperformance. The Diembe djembe accompaniment. working together without a starting or stopping signal.. Eachmotif may appeareasyto drum by itself.but this time one instrumentplays after the other. .Work gradually in the same way as for the djembe. and finally the dununba alone and then with its bell. harmony. It is given by the first djembe player. . The two can switch parts during playing.The versions presented are neither rigid nor immutable. go back to the first accompaniment. In Guinea. without stopping or repeating the starting signal. then with the bell. To interpret and understand the repertory well. . A soloist with Ii particular way of playing might prefer a single accompaniment. It is not necessaryto limit the djembe accompaniments to two per rhythm.the group can play the whole rhythm together. ~ . . In order to keep perfect stability and :. etc.Next you can practice the different dunun accompaniments with one or two other musicians.After the starting signal. before playing with a group. starting with the first dunun.After the starting signal. the samesignal is . one extra beat added.which canbe playedasa slapand For "Jansa". it is indispensable to master each of the rhythms and all of the djembe and different dunun motifs alone. the soloist and the event: wedding feast. recording.


CD Track 17 . Great dancers sometimes manipulate a rifle or pestle while dancing. originating in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso (Bobo Dioulasso). CD Track 16 Starting signal and 2nd djembe 1st dunun 2nd dunun KL/RL/Ef F rom the Jula ethnic group.JANSA . in The jansa is undoubtedly the most popular entertainment dance in Khasso. This rhythm is played during festivities towards the end of Ramadan. It takes place in the evening or at night. the end of winter and good harvests. It starts slowly. picking up speed when a talented dancer goes into the middle of the circle. in the public square. The following version is the most popular in the cities.44- . It is for all people and all occasions: the full moon. F rom the Kasonke ethnic group. originating the Kayes and Kita region of Mali. It is the last big fling for the young girls who will be married the following year. the 27th night.

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HAND . HAND KASA Co rom the Maninka ethnic group. soro and dub on are other rhythms played along with the kasa. originating in the Bougouni circle. the dunun called didadidunun is the instrument played for the didadi.This rhythm is played to encourage farmers during sowing and harvesting. and everyonecan interpret it as they like. CD Track 25 48- . The didadi is organized during the end-of-the-year holidays or to celebratethe arrival of an important person.D(DAD( F ro~ the Bamana ethnic group. It is an easyrhythm to danceto. r The kasais played at all eventslinked to the harvest. CD Track 24 . The hand plays the drum on the skin opposite the one hit by the wooden drumstick. There are severalkasa. In the Sikassoregion. of Mali's Sikasso regIon.Konkoba. originating in the Kouroussa region of Upper Guinea. complementing the stick's playing.

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CD Track 28 50C. at the end of the fishing season. Currently. during popular celebrations and festivities. where hip rolls provoke a circular movement of the buttocks. in In this country. The rhythm and dance stepswere named for this drum. consisting of unveiling the pentelu(l) to the musicians and the audience.~ SAgAR - " F rom the Wolof ethnic group. the sogolon is played with the djembe i~ the" Traditionally. celebrates CD Track 29 1. the most common instrument is the sabar. -50- . The best known are the "air conditioner". in the Mopti region of Mali. Pente/u are underskirts worn only by married women. where several variations have been transposed for the djembe. It is set on the ground or strapped to the side of the body. and the "fan".a skin drum played with one hand and a thin wooden stick. They are of different colors and can be embroidered with provocative phrases. There are several styles of sabar dancing. It Bamako district. This rhythm is very popular in Senegaland in the rest of West Africa. this rhythm is played with three bongolo and a bara.OLON F rom the Bozo ethnic group. the Dakar region of Senegal.

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KUKU exist in this region. It is playedonly on the djembe. 2. of Mali. played to men and women griots. the real sanja is not played on the the sanja. 4. Another drummer keepsup an accompanimenton a small djembe. F rom the Koniagi ethnic group of the Beyla and Kerouaneregions in the Guinea forest area. On these occasions. it is called lamban. zing "Ambianci Foli"(3) ask the djembefola Traditionally. someassociations vocal rhythm was interwoven with "Fasa"(l). Recountingthe Mandingo epic. Danceof the griots. Only these In Guinea. Griot dunun. Songsof praise. This rhythm is bala. The kuku hasbeenmodified and adapted with dunun and djembe solos for the National Ballet Company.Two small drumsareaddedto the sidesof the soloist's djembe.-"""". very graceful dancewith circular movements. F rom the Maninka the Kayes region ethnic group. Today.He canonly do so in djembe. CD Track 32 . This rhythm is played for the end of the harvest festivities and during celebration festivities. which is not a griot instrument like the circumstances. in CD Track 33 1. Neighborhood festivities. 3. The whole is called a three-headeddrum. this predominantly arms spreadout. This piece traditionally openedthe ceremoniesfor griots sing each other's praises and execute the death of a king or a very important man. the ntama and the jalidunun(2). -52- .asthe dunundoesnot 5ANJA instruments accompanythe sanja.

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For this rhythm. originating. this rhythm is also called denadon.f Upper Gu~n. played throughout the This rhythm is mainly played by young pubescent girls to celebrate good harvests. Kawa IS above aillhe rhythm of the medecme man. ethnic group. in the Far~nah region o.ea. the djembe is accompanied by the bala.I<AWA F rom th. the ntama and the file. CD Track 36 HENJANf F rom the Maninka Maninka country. In Guinea. CD Track 37 NOUMOUDY KElT A 54- . It IS played durIng CIrCUmCISIon periods to contain evil spirits and protect the young initiates from them.e Maninka ethnic group.

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UPPERGUINEA (continued) SIGUIRI FARANAH Mamaya Menjani Soboninku Sofa Soli Soliwule We'ima Kala Kankamba Denadon Ja Jagbe Fankani Koso Koma Konde lamban GUINEA FOREST REGION NZEREKORE Kuku 5 headed drums Kawa Konjan Konkoba Sac Soko Soli Toro MIDDLEGUINEA LABE Fulani Rhythms LOWER GUINEA CONAKRY. BaKE In this region. we find mostly Susu rhythms such as: Kakilembe Sorsone Tiriba Yole Yencadi Guinefare Mane Sintie Makuru Yokui -56- . KINDIA.

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including Fofana Georges Kemoko. Memory also is important. Many great drummers.To interpretit well.n composed by the "Ballets Koteba de Cote-d'Ivoire"(l). the dunun group plays the secondstaff. Mamady "Kargus" Kelta and Mamady "N'Toman" Kelta. Thisversion is by Fofana Georges Kemoko and Mamady "N'Toman" Ke"ita -60- .The djembe group plays the first staff.The first drummer plays the first starting signal measure. and the troupe immediately joins in.l1NrSON'DRl1HSrGNAL U ere is one of many "drum signals" . have belonged to the troupe. . . a company created and directed by Souleymane Koly. This starting signal is presentedmainly becauseit is played in unison by a troupe of djembeand dunun ~ drums. as are the song and the different sounds. it is necessary to work on the group's orchestration and homogeneity. CD Track 40 2 Djembe Dunun 1.





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) The djembe has three iron hoops (generally r made of cement rods). The third hoop is the support hoop. grease the entire drum inside and out with sheabutter (or linseed oil. which I learned someexperienceto avoid getting discouraged. a rounded edge will hurt your hands less. it is customary for a percussionist to result. just as a play your drum.) Check that the wood is not pock-marked with little holes.. a larger and a smaller one. You don't get a good soundthe first time you change the skin of his drum himself. then sand it down to get a perfect finish. Likewise. It will take three or four tries to get a good assembled with your own hands! The instrument O nce the skin is off. The two larger hoops are placed on the upper perimeter of the drum body. Also. The small hoop goes on the collar. and fill them in using a dense mixture of wood glue and fine sawdust (more efficient than ready made wood putty. operation is in fact long and difficult. It is important to eliminate all irregularities on the perimeter: they can cause cuts in the skin when you shave it. being slightly larger than the tension hoop which it supports. verify that there are no cracks in the wood. If there are. They are wrappedaroundthe drum barrel and then soldered. To protect. even out the upper edge of the djembe. the first djembe you guitarist changes the stringsof his or her guitar. n Africa. an anti-termite treatment is imperative. round them down completely. preserve and nourish the wood. work. If necessary. will facilitate your task will seemeasier. It goes inside the skin. The redo won't be your best. which will be pulled up over it during the assembly. Two are tension hoops. If you see a fine wooddust in the drum.The through repeated experience. and you will learn other little tricks as you go And it is so satisfying to play an instrument along. -66- . which is easier to find. Get help the first time from someone who alreadyhas The procedure advised here. 6 or 8 mm in diameter (depending on the djembe's diameter). To do this use a wood rasp.This supporthoop is the largestof the three. It is on thesetwo tensionhoopsthat the knotsaretied to hold the lacing which tightens the skin.

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) For example. If the skin doesnot comefree easily. undothe lacing. you can let the skin soak in water for an hour. . 2/ Determine the best placement for the upper hoops (neither djembe nor hoops are perfectly round!).1/ To takeoff the old skin. tap the upper hoops with a hammer. It will then be possibleto use the skin to make a dunun. . To remove the inner hoop./ ~ l Finish this step by tying a squareknot to join the ends of the cord (on each of the two tension hoops). This avoids tearing. Mark the drum body with the felt-tip pen at the place where the hoops are soldered so that you can find this placement easily once the skin is in place.68- . 3/ Tie an identical numberof "lark's headknots" (as shown below) on the two tension hoops. a hoop 35 cm in diameter should have no more than 30 knots. about two fingers apart on the larger hoop (closer together on the smaller hoop. Spacethe knots evenly. Startwith the horizontal lacing and then undo the vertical lacing.

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Holding the lower part of the instrument with your feet. 14/ Once the cord's slack has been taken up.r. Begin lacing by locating the middle of the cord. you may be ableto shift the skin.Otherwise.It keepsthe skin from being too low on the drum body when you finish assemblingand tautensthe skin. At the same time. TENSION 12/ Removethe three metersof string used to hold the hoops in place (cf.r. This part is essential. Place it correctly on the knots. 11/ Now check one last time that the skin has no holes in it. If you seea flaw. 13/ Do a preliminary tightening of the cord.r. Pull gradually. pull the skin upward strongly to stretch it.r. IV. graspthe ends of the skin. or the skin will drop too quickly and too low on one side.you will need to use anotherskin."""~&& 9/ Preparethe 16 meter long vertical tension cord by burning its ends so they won't unravel. ~ -70- . placing the flaw on the edge.III. without forcing at first. Be careful not to missany knots or you will haveto start over! 101Once you have laced and knotted all around the djembe.Lace to either side by weaving the ends of the cord around each of the knots successively. thereby ensuringthat it will have the samelength at both ends. bringing the skin down 1 cm all around the djembe. be sure that the two hoops stay parallel to each other. ASSEMBLY -_&&&r. Eliminate any wrinkles that might form in the skin between the two top hoops. attach the two ends with a knot as shown below. Look through it towards a bright light from the foot side.8).

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Shown below are a few ways of weaving which produce various tensions and designs.VI. To get rid of any slack in the vertical tension cord causedby drying. 21/ Now do the crosswiseweaving which doesthe final stretching. 1 2 3 4 . Pulling this cord is very hard on the hands(and also on the back). DRYING AND FINISHING 19/ Lay the djembe on its side to keep the wood from splitting during drying. so wrap it around a thick wooden stick which gives you leverageto make the pulling easier. well-aired place.72- . Let the skin dry for at least three days in the sun or in a dry. It is often necessary to weave two turns to get the most out of the skin. 201Verify that the skin is perfectly dry. pull it firmly one last time and redo the overhandloop.

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PREPARATION Materials . but it can also be sewn.20 metersof nylon cord.two sheets of sandpaper . Using the hammer. The secondmethod.dunun can be assembledwith metal hoops.a screwdriver . You can employ two used djembe skins to make a dunun. Carefully remove any metal shavings. 4 mm in diameter .as the skins are already shavenand therefore thinner. -74- . sturdyneedlefor leather .two rectangular. is more traditional. Make it look like new with two coatsof oil paint.a lighter . The skins are attachedto the cord by meansof nylon thread rather than by knots. Then more cord weavesthe skins to each other. This savesmoney and also makes sewing easier. The djembe was originally madethis waJ]as well.a flat paintbrush 25/ Drill a hole in the top and bottom of the barrel.Sandthe outside. - A I. In the sewing method describedbelow. double-edged razorblades .a hammer . cut out the two ends.two goatskins .rags . removing old paint or advertising.3 mm in diameter.3 metersof string Tools .1/2 litre of oil paint . decorating it as you like. Then.4 metersnylon thread.a largepair of scissors .for sewing .a 30 or 56 litre oil barrel . trickier and less common. the metal hoops are replacedwith nylon cord.Be sure not to use a barrel that has held toxic or inflammable products.a long.pliers andleatherstitchingpalm . using the jigsaw or the pliers. wash the inside to eliminate any grease. like the djembe. flatten the cut edge against the inside.solvent. The readercan practice either the hoop or cord method on either instrument. With abundantamountsof solvent.a pair of metal shears or ajigsaw .

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following the sameprocedure. using the first method (cf.What's difficult is to keep the skin from slipping off the barrelbeforehaving sewnall the way around. turning the drum two or three times to get the desired result. V. 38/ When you have finished tightening the cord. Pull them evenly. To hold the two skins in place and prepare for the cord lacing. The tension is much looser than for the djembe. When you have finished. TENSION 37/ Pull the skins gently. 36/ Weavethe 15 metervertical tensioncord between the two skinsby passing back andforth undereachof the stitches from oneskin to the other(cf. tighten the thread and tie a squareknot with the 10 cm part you left at the fIrst stitch. This skin can also be pulled off gently. setting the skin on the ground.J::A£!Jig 351When the second skin is sewn. turn the barrel over. This will move them down to about 2 cm below the edge. eliminating the cord's slack. 41/ Finish the edges of the skins by folding upward. 42/ The drying and finishing are the same as for djembe (cf. VI. 33/ When the first skin has been fitted. 34/ Fit the other skin on the other end. 401Shavethe skins if necessary(cf. attach the two ends with an overhand loop. 19 & 20).76- . 8). !Y. 18). .:. 17). 43/ Weave the horizontal tension cord (cf. cross the 3 meters of string tightly between the two skins (cf. FINISHING 39/ Turn up the ends of the skin and cut the excess with the scissors (cf.32/ Sew the next stitch at a distanceof threefmgers from the first. 9). place the barrel on its side. and then repositioned after the second skin is sewn. 21). Be sureto makethe samenumberof stitches on both skins. 16). (Use your hand as a measureto make the spacing even).


"Sabougniouman" ded in 1972.Here is a list of WestAfrica's major musicians. Famoudou Konate Guinean Former lead drummer. Theyare eminent musicians. founded in 1958. lives in Guinea. "GrandsBallets d' Afrique Noire de Paris". lives in Guinea. lives in Guinea. "Ballet National Djoliba de Guinee". Lance". lives in Holland. where he founded his own group in 1988. Lamine "Lopez" Soumah Guinean Former soloist. pd soloists: Aly "Kanya" Sylla Mamadou "Mohamed" Camara Also 1st soloist of "Wassa". lives in Mali. "Ensemble National des Ballets Africains de Guinee"."Grands Ballets d' Afrique Noire de Paris".whosework truly embodies traditional Mandingo percussion.. "Ensemble National de Guinee". Aboubakar "Abou Batteur" Ke"ita Guinean Former soloist. lives in Guinea. lives in Guinea. Fode "Fade Marseille" Youla Guinean Former soloist. Guinean Guinean Guinean Former 1st lead drummer. "EnsembleNational desBallets Africains de Guinee". lives in Guinea. "Ballet National Djoliba de Guinee". Guinean des Ballets Africains "Ex EnsembleNational desPercussionsde Guinee" Koumgbanan Conde Guinean Former lead drummer. Alhusseini "Solo" Cherid Guinean Lead soloist of 'Wassa". Arafan Toure Former lead drummer. Kante Guinean Dunun specialist. ADAMADRAME 18t soloists: Aboubakar "Fatou Abou" Camara Guinean Former1st soloist. lives in Guinea. "Ensemble National des Ballets Africains de Guinee". -78- Fadouba Oulare FAMOUDOU KONATE . Noumoudy Ke"ita Guinean Former lead drummer. Adama Drame Burkinabi Lives in Ivory Coast. founded the "Ensemble Instrumental Foliba" in 1990. deceased. "EnsembleNational desBallets Africains de Guinee". lives in Guinea. lives in France. foun- Amara Kante Former 18t soloist. sangba specialist. Malian Troupe of Bamako.Someare listed with their nicknames. lives in Guinea.

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The recordingslisted here are among the most representative. New-York (CD) Playa Sounds 65170 . Ladji Camara (LP) Lyrichord LLST 7345 Les Ballets Africains de la Republique de Guinee Vol1 Silo (CD) Buda Records 82513 (CD) Buda Records 92579 Louis Cesar Ewande Cano (CD) Bleu Citron OMD 545 80 .SELECTED RECORD(NQS This selectionof Mandingo music is not exhaustive. Adama Drame Rythms of the Manding Tambour djembe Foliba Percussions mandingues Djeli Great Masters of Percussions 30 ans de Djembe (LP) Philips 6586042 (LP) Auvidis 4510 (CD) Playa Sounds 65122 (CD) Playa Sounds 65085 (LP) Auvidis 4519 (CD) Auvidis 6126 (CD) Playa Sounds 65177 Africa Soli Sali (CD) Sango Music 007 (Netherlands) Bamba Dembele et Ie groupe Djoliba Percussions Vol 1 Vol2 (K7) Syliphone 8350 (K7) Syliphone 8351 :::isse Famoudou Konate Sima Farev (LP) Nubia SA 300021 Rythmen der Malinke Guinea (CD) Museum collection 18 Staatliche Museen. Stauffenbergstrabe 41 1000 Berlin 30 (Germany) Fode Youla Percussions Music from Africa Kaloum Basikolo Ne Ne Yancadi (LP) SAJ 19 (LP) SAJ 26 (LP) SAJ 48 (LP) SAJ 50 (LP) SAJ 54 Free Music Behaimstrasse 4 1000 Berlin (Germany) Kassoum Diarra Kassama percussions Africa. Preubische Kulturbesitz.

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