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The Djembe and Spirituality

29th Oct 2014

Across cultures, borders and continents, spirituality is deeply rooted in the music produced by its people. The songs and rhythms that define these cultures speak of mythology and history, as well as the spiritual beliefs within tribes, clans and families. The Djembe is an example of the profound connection between music and the spiritual world that guided tribes through celebrations, seasons and natural events. This percussion instrument has not only become a representation of the Malinke tribes in West Africa, but has taken on a new life as an instrument of drum circles and healers around the world.

The African Djembe was first seen during the Mali Empire during the 13th century, used in ceremonies or as a means of communication between tribes in West Africa. It migrated across West Africa with the Numu, blacksmiths associated with the Mandika or Susu populations. However, legend has it that the first Djembe was made by a tribeswoman who accidentally broke out the bottom of a mortar and used a goat skin to cover up the hole. Others believe that the Djembe, often referred to as the "Devil Drum," may have been a gift from Djinn, a malevolent, male spirit not unlike a Genie.

African Drum Djembe Rhythms

From its origin, the Djembe became an important part of the spirituality of tribes in West Africa. The goblet shape of the Djembe is a common symbol in cultures across the world, representing love, emotion, spirituality and life. It is believed that the Djembe contains three spirits: the spirit of the animal from which the drum head was made, the spirit of the tree used to construct the hollowed-out shell and the spirit of the instrument maker. Some also believe that the spirit of the djembefola playing the Djembe becomes part of the drum. The Djembe was used in ceremonies to mark the cycles of the moon, seasons, harvests and celebrations like marriages, births and deaths. Djembes were also used by the healers in tribes, using rhythm to help calm patients.

Today, the djembe continues to provide a spiritual outlet in Africa and around the world. Its increasing presence in modern drum circles and healing events brings the rhythms of Africa and Mother Earth into the lives of all people. Many djembe drummers attest that beating the djembe skin is more than keeping a beat, but a holistic spiritual practice that brings a deeper understanding of the world and the people within. From its roots in African spirituality to the modern practices of drumming within spiritual circles, the djembe is an instrument of the soul, bringing peace, understanding and love throughout the world.