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How a Djembe is Made: Wood Source & Lathing (Part 1 of 2)

Do you play the djembe? If you don't, you will want to! Having and playing an authentic handcrafted djembe, or introducing one to your own collection, is great fun!

At X8 Drums and Percussion, hand drums are our passion! Each environmentally-friendly, handcrafted djembe drum we build is a genuine masterpiece of design and makes an exciting conversation subject!

Originating in West Africa over a 1,000 years ago, the djembe is played by hand using your fingers and palms. This hand drum was first used in ritual dances and tribal ceremonies. In addition, long before cellular phones and text messages, the djembe even functioned as a way to communicate between tribes with great distances between them.

Just like djembes of historic times, the present day djembes resemble a goblet or chalice having a flared bottom. The drumhead is covered in stretched African goat skin and secured by rope.

And since we're talking trees, special care for the environment is essential. Each drum is meticulously hand-carved from a piece of lawfully collected, plantation cultivated mahogany hardwood. This indicates we don't make use of more trees than the forest can naturally yield, and we systematically replant the timber used to produce our djembes.

So, as you can see, we not only make high-quality hand drums, we make djembes that are good for the environment. Additionally the surplus wood and material are recycled and purchased by members of the community so there is very little waste!

Here on our naturally eco friendly mahogany wood plantation, trees are selected for hardiness and level of quality, then labeled for felling.

Once the wood is sorted and chopped into drum size logs, a craftsman takes a single piece of hardwood to the lathing table, where he forms and sculpts the wood.

Working with just a curved chisel and techniques passed down from master to apprentice, the craftsman patiently and methodically shaves off the bark and then cuts the wood into shape from the exterior in, deftly switching the chisel head from side to side.

This distinguishing goblet form gives the drum its strong bass note, therefore it is important that the artist craftsman gets it perfect. Too small, then the bass is too high-pitched. Too big and it will be extremely hard to hear distinctions in tone.

At this point once the exterior is sanded clean, the craftsman grouts the inside as well as thins the walls employing an long, gouge. Djembe drums are not completely smooth inside of the shell, yet possess particular patterning or grooves carved in to the inside to improve the tonal quality of the djembe and decrease unpleasant overtones.

Now that you know more about the djembe, you'll certainly want to get started drumming!

Next: Djembe Shell Carving & Painting

Djembe Buying Guide

1. Introduction to Djembes

2. Djembe Wood Source & Lathing [Video]

3. Djembe Shell Carving & Painting [Video]

4. Compare Brands of Djembes

5. Which Size Djembe is Right for Me? [Video]

6. Key Tuned vs. Rope Tuned Djembe

7. Djembe Drum: Wood vs. Synthetic

8. How to Tune a Djembe [Video]

9. Earth Friendly Djembe

10. A Note About African Djembes

11. Djembe Rhythm Exercises [Video]

12. Djembe Rope. Why Quality Matters.

13. Taking Care of your Djembe

14. History of Djembe Drums

15. How to Play the Djembe [Video]

16. Play the Djembe is Easy for All!

23rd Jun 2019

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