29th Oct 2014

Bougarabou vs. Djembe

With all of the different sounds in traditional African music and drumming, it can be confusing to know which drums create the different harmonic tones, especially when the sounds can be so similar as the drums vary in size, shape and design. For the novice or beginner drummer, determining which drum is the best for their needs is a process that can only happen through trial and error, by listening to the different sounds that each drum produces and deciding which sound, tone, timbre or pitch best fits in with the drummer’s own style and needs.

Djembe drums also originated in Western Africa, are made from hardwoods like the Bougarabou, but are smaller in height and head size. The heads themselves are made from thinner hides, such as goat hide, giving the Djembe a lighter tone than the Bougarabou. Djembe drums are smaller, more portable and versatile in the way they can be held and the way they produce bass (the "trampoline" sound), tone (the mid-range sound) and slap (much like the crack of a whip) sounds. Djembe drums are great for beginners, for drum circles and for teaching kids and others how to beat out basic rhythms.

Bougarabou demo

The Bougarabou, sometimes called the “African Conga,” hails from Western Africa, and is specifically attributed to Senegal. It resembles the shape of the Djembe, but it is larger and shaped more like an hourglass than a goblet. Bougarabou drums have a head that is typically made from antelope or cow hide, lending itself to a deep bass tone that may imitate a typical bass drum. Since Bougarabou drums are larger than Djembes and can create lower tones, but they are also less easy to carry around and require a strap or a stand if the drummer is not sitting. Bougarabou drums are often played in groups of four, like Conga drums or as a harmonic back up to the Djembe. Due to the mechanics involved in playing these larger drums, many times musicians playing the Bougarabou drum will take advantage of the larger surface space of the drums and wear bracelets with bells to enhance the sounds of their rhythms.

Deciding between the Djembe and Bougarabou drum can be a tough decision to make (and wouldn’t it be great if all decisions were this tough?). Both are excellent drums that can enhance any song, drum circle, class or workshop and both share a rich history based on African culture.