It makes a rhythm and then you dance…

Posted: January 26, 2012 by mahmerkhan in Uncategorized

The diasporic object of my research paper is the Djembe. It is a drum that was made and originated in West Africa, specifically Guinea and Mali. At its widest, the drum is 13 inches and at its tallest, it is 2 feet. The thickness of the wood of the Djembe drum is about 1 inch. The drumhead is made of goatskin. It is about 30 pounds in mass. The drum is hand carved from a singular piece of wood. It is made hollow and on the inside the carvings are rounded off for the sound to resonate in a specific, louder tone. The goat skin covering the drum head is also made from a singular piece that comes from the back hide of the goat. The “spine” of the hide can be seen on the drum. It is stretched and tightened via a cord. The cord is longer than necessary for tuning purposes, as over time, the drum head will get loosened. The Djembe drum is hand made and it costs around $600 CAD. The wood of the Djembe is a hardwood that is made of Mahogany. The method of tightening the cord around the drum is very complicated. The drum head is tied around two iron rings that are the circumference of opening around the top of the Djembe shell. Another iron ring is placed around the middle, where the wide meets the narrow. The skin of the drum head has been extended over the rim to protect the drummer’s hands when playing the drum. Had it not been covered, the iron rings (covered in cloth) would usually be seen and also injure the hand of the drummer. Some Djembes leave the fur of the goat where the skin covers the iron ring for design purposes. It has a few external carvings for design. The wood of the Djembe, on the outside has been coated for protection. The inside is coated in an oil, usually palm oil. The cord is so taut one can play a tune from just from cords themselves. The Djembe is made during the summer season so that the wood is warm and easier to work with. It also resonates sound better when warm, as colder months make the wood brittle thus vibrations do not ring out as well. Maintaing a Djembe is necessary. The entire should be covered when travelling and it should not go from hot to cold rapidly. It should be stored in a relatively dry room at room temperature. The skin of the drumhead should be oiled lightly from both inside and out. After 6 months of continuous play, it should be tightened by a professional. In addition, the Djembe is shipped from West Africa to Toronto, the cords may get lose. If theres one worse then not having a Djembe, its having a out-of-tune Djembe…


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