How a Djembe Is Made

Learn how a djembe is made from the musicians at Wula Drum in this Howcast video.

Okay, here’s a very quick overview on how a djembe from West Africa is made. The drums from West Africa are handmade, and they’re made out of one piece of wood. It’s very solid. One piece of hard wood. The woods have different names from Africa. You have acajou, lenge, fady. You have duki-duki wood. Many different types of names for hard woods, but they’re very dense. That gives the best sound for the djembe.

You have a different person for each part of the drum. One person does the sanding. One person carves the inside of the drum. One person carves the outside of the drum. And one person may do the decoration. These are different hand tools that are used. It takes a long time, a lot of work, but you’ll notice that the drum is carved very cleanly on the inside. You’ll see that there’s a bowl shape. This is what helps the drum sound good. If you look inside a drum and you see that it’s not smooth, not carved well, then it’s not professionally carved.

The drum is made by taking the wood, taking some rope. We like to use very strong, strong rope so that when you stretch the skin you get a good pull out of the skin. What they do is they take the skin, they place it over the drum, and they have two rings. Then the rope will weave up and down from the ring to the bottom ring and then they pull it tighter and tighter until the drum becomes very tight and has a higher pitch. The skin is shaved. It’s a goat skin, and it’s shaved by hand. We like to shave them by hand because that makes the best sound. Some people will take chemicals to take the hair off, but then the sound won’t be as good. So you have goat skin. You have very dense African wood, and you have very strong rope. That’s for a handmade djembe.