This djembe historical past information is taken from my very simplistic analysis and is predicated on the tales I’ve been informed by numerous djembe academics, different music academics, elders and historians that I’ve spoken to while travelling in West Africa. I can not assure its accuracy and would welcome suggestions from any reader who thinks that any a part of it’s incorrect.
Early West African Cultural History
It focuses primarily on the historical past of the Mande Empire of West Africa and the way it has influenced djembe enjoying immediately. The ‘trendy’ historical past of West Africa was primarily influenced by colonialism (and its subsequent demise) however this has additionally led to some confusion because the totally different languages (French, English and the indigenous dialects) typically use totally different phrases to explain the identical factor. For the needs of this research, the next interpretations are used: Mande – the unique homeland thought-about to be the bigger stretch of the river Niger roughly between Kouroussa (Guinea) and Bamako (Mali). (Mande may be known as Mali). Malinke – these individuals who stay geographically inside the homeland of Mali and Guinea Mandinka – these individuals who have settled additional West within the Senegambia space (Senegal and Gambia) Crucial factor to recollect is that the interval of historical past we’re speaking about right here was earlier than colonialism and earlier than the borders of Guinea, Senegal and so on., have been shaped. You must think about, subsequently an enormous space with out these borders (however I’ll in fact check with the names of those ‘trendy’ nations for ease of understanding).
The Starting of the Djembe
The West African Mande empire was established early within the 13th century by a legendary warrior referred to as Sunjata. At its peak, within the 14th to 16th centuries, it was a particularly highly effective empire and had expanded to Gao within the East (simply close to the Niger river on the Mali/Niger border), Timbuktu within the North and all the best way West to the Atlantic coast. Within the Mande society, there have been 4 courses of hereditary skilled artisans; blacksmiths-sculptors (numu), leatherworkers and potters (karanke), musicians/singers (jeli) and orators (fina). It’s thought that drumming is intently related to the blacksmith/sculptors and goes again hundreds of years, nicely earlier than the Mande empire was shaped.
The Jeli, considered the guardians of Mande music and oral traditions, performed the Balafon, Koni and Kora. They have been a particularly necessary a part of Mande tradition and society and have been coveted by the king.
Ethnic Music and Devices
There’s a clear and elementary distinction in Mande society between jeli and nonjeli musicians; the jeli have an obligation to dedicate their lives to music and this will probably be transferred by means of generations. The nonjeli, nevertheless, typically confronted resistance from their households in the event that they selected to dedicate their life to music. Additionally they tended to work in nonjeli spheres of music (corresponding to djembe and drumming). Part 2 of this History will comply with quickly.