(Pronounced "jem-bay") These are large, hand-made, goblet-shaped wooden drums. The Djembe is the drum of the Mandinka people, dating back to the great Mali empire of the 12th century. A goblet-shaped hand drum traditionally chiseled from a solid log, the Djembe is found in many West African countries. It is traditionally played standing with the drum between the legs and supported with a shoulder harness, but can also be played seated. A sacred and versatile drum used traditionally in healing ceremonies, ancestor worship, rites of passage, warrior rituals, as well as social dances. Today, djembes are the most popular drums for playing in drum circles and are also widely used in various types of popular music.
We're proud to say we have the largest and best selection of djembes in the DC Metro area! We work with a number of different suppliers and our selection is constantly changing. Below, we'll list examples of some of the drums we usually have in stock. Keep in mind that each wooden djembe is handmade and appearances will vary. Sizes, specs and prices are all subject to change depending on availability from our suppliers. The best way to purchase a djembe is to visit our shop and try out as many as you like; they all sound different! If you are just starting out and not sure what you're looking for or how to get a good sound out of the drum, we'll be happy to demo drums for you. If you can't visit us in person, we'll be glad to hand-pick a drum for you out of our current selection based on the qualities you're looking for -- contact us.
Rope-tuned djembes sometimes need to have their rope tension tightened or loosened. This might be due to the player's sound preference (a "tighter" djembe produces a higher-pitched, crisp sound, while a "looser" djembe usually has more of a bass response), and/or changing climatic conditions. The natural skin heads tend to expand and loosen in humid weather, and tighten up in dry weather. If a drum gets too tight due to dry conditions, the head can split - so we recommend checking your drum often during the winter. If there is not much "give" to the head, we'd advise loosening the tension slightly. There are tutorials on YouTube you can check out to learn how to do this (it's a good skill for every player to know), but we also perform this service in-store (usually requires leaving your drum here for a few days). If you buy a djembe from us, your first adjustment is free. Otherwise, adjustments are $15. We can also rehead your djembe - see this page. If you try out a djembe at our store that you really like but the tension/pitch is not quite where you'd like it, we'll adjust it for you before you take it home.
Ghanaian drums represent the bulk of our djembe selection. We work with several different suppliers who provide different "grades" of djembes.
Generally, the less expensive djembes are imported by us in bulk from a couple of different Ghanaian suppliers. They have good-quality goatskin heads, sturdy but lightweight wood shells (some plain, some carved with designs), and good quality black rope. Note: we do NOT carry "tourist quality" djembes! We have high quality standards and have worked with our suppliers directly over many years with specific requests on the quality of materials and craftsmanship. To the right is a picture of one of these drums with a 10-inch diameter head (ghanaian_10.jpg). Prices on these drums range from about $100 to $175 depending on the size.
We also work with local drummers Kweku Owusu and Kristen Arant, who run an organization called "Drumming Up From Poverty." DUFP mentors children in the Arts Center community in Accra, Ghana in the traditional arts of drumming and drum-building, as well as in other community-building activities. Kweku and Kristen bring back drums built at the DUFP center in Accra to sell at our shop (proceeds help fund the program). These drums have excellent quality goat or cowskin heads, lightweight wood shells (some plain, some carved with designs) and good quality black rope. Rings are usually wrapped with purple cloth. Currently, we are carrying an 8-inch diameter size at $150, and a 10-inch diameter size for $225 (or $265 with cloth case). See an example of one of these drums to the right.
Finally, we sometimes have larger, high-quality Ghanaian djembes from a supplier who visits us every few month and lets us hand-pick drums. They are generally about 11-12 inches in diameter with best-quality goatskin heads, heavy wood shells and rings wrapped with colorful cloth. Priced at $250-$275. These drums have a great tonal range!
Toca Djembes -- We carry a large selection of Toca "Synergy" or Freestyle Djembes. These have a fiberglass shell (several colorful finishes available) and a goatskin head (synthetic heads also available). We usually prefer the rope-tuned drums, but mechanically-tuned models are also available. Toca djembes are incredibly lightweight and easy to travel with. They have a very loud, crisp sound. If you've found that traditional wood djembes are too heavy for you, this is a great alternative. Toca djembes also have a 1-year warranty on the head: Toca will replace your drum if the head splits in that time frame. Sizes range from 9 to 14-inch diameters, and prices range from $89.00 to $225.00 We always have a big selection of these drums. Contact us for details on our most current selection. Remo Djembes -- We can special order Remo Djembes, which have a fiberglass shell and synthetic heads and are mechanically-tuned. A number of sizes and finishes are available. If you are looking for a synthetic-head drum, we recommend the Toca Freestyle djembes; we feel they sound closer to the traditional African djembes. But we can special order for you any Remo djembe. See Remo's website and contact us.