28th Oct 2014

Women Djembefolas in Modern Times

If we talk to djembefolas, or musicians who specialize in playing the djembe drum, we may find that the djembe has traditionally been played by men. In fact, that seems to be the case with most drumming across the world. Native American traditions, as well, call for drummers to be male, especially drumming used for spiritual and ritualistic purposes. It is only recently that we are seeing an increase in women drummers in ritual ceremonies and the topic is extremely controversial and agitating in some circles. For this reason women djembefolas in modern times deserve a look.


Over the last decade or so, female djembefolas have become an intriguing aspect of society. Due to the popularity of African drumming in cultures outside the continent, women are given more opportunities to express their drumming skills. In traveling drum troupes and African ballets, women djembefolas in modern times are enjoying more acceptance than their predecessors. It may even be said that because djembefolas have typically been males, female djembe drummers are an enticing change of pace and the interest in seeing something different allows them to showcase their talents. Of course, being an anomaly is not enough to maintain interest; women djembefolas in modern times also seem to be able to tap into an inherent spirituality than many listeners find heart wrenching and alluring.

As drumming increases in popularity, so does the desire to see female drummers in action. Likely, this is a perfectly natural reaction since females comprise little over half the human population. Women give birth to all humanity, both male and female, so it would be abnormal to lack a curiosity for how the djembe changes its voice dependent upon the gender of the musician. Womanhood brings with it a different experience of humanity and the djembe is a tool geared for the expression of our various conditions. A well-tuned djembe has an amazing ability, in the right hands, to set one’s hair on end. Women djembefolas in modern times are notorious for expanding the spirits of their listeners.

Looking through history from an anthropological stance tells us that women were likely the first drummers. As a sacred act, drumming was part of the role of priestesses and Goddess-worshippers throughout pre-recorded history. Even the history of the djembe itself offers the story of the first djembe being created by a woman. As time goes on, we will cease to see drumming as something that “girls don’t do” and continue to look forward to the voices arising as a result of female djembefolas.