This beautifully beaded, popular jembe [also known as djembe] includes many of the adornments for which the Asante and other Akan peoples are famous. Known as ‘sankofa’ after the long-necked bird adinkra symbol adorning the base shell. ‘Sankofa’ means ‘I shall return’ and symbolizes the link between America and Africa. The drum is also swathed in traditional-design kente cloth and decorated with some of the famous brasswork of the Asante. The end result is a truly unique and stunning instrument.The jembe is perhaps the oldest of the sophisticated West African drums, and perhaps the most popular. We know that it has been used by generations of ‘griots’ and ‘jalis’ – ritual storytellers, musicians, and royal advisers – at least as far back as the great Mali Empire of Sundiata in the 13th century. The Malians were led by Mande-speaking peoples, and the empire was so extensive that populations which trace their roots to this ethnic group exist across West Africa from Senegal down to Guinea and across to western Nigeria. The jembe is named after the sound it makes when slapped and tapped (jem-be).
The Djembe is a Mande instrument, the product of the savannas, but probably built using forest products brought back by far-ranging Mande traders. It is the ancestor of the Bugarabu [also known as Bougarabou] and the Kpanlogo, but constantly updated. Famous jembe players hail from Senegal and Mali but also from Ghana
[To learn more about jembe players,
. The popularity of the drum has generated many imitators – from western-style metal/ceramic/plastic models to factory-produced cheap Asian models. None of these can reach the depth and diversity of found in a real hand-crafted West African jembe.