making the world a better place through intention

latest music projects

music education lessons and materials

latest projects in the studio

sample recordings

CDs, ringtones, and sheet music

read my blog!

Yahoo! Messenger and (sometimes!) webcam: mungerna
Y! messenger? IM me!

Check out my other sites:
Welcome to! Music Education services by percussionist N. Andrew Munger

Go To: West African Percussion, Drumset, Symphonic Percussion

Elements of the Djembe Ensemble

Lead Djembe

The "showiest" instrument in the ensemble, the lead djembe player's role is to signal the dancers and other instrumentalists for any changes in the music, and to inspire the dancers in their performance. This player is basicaly the "conductor" for the ensemble
Accompaniment Djembe

Up to three rhythmic accompaniments are played on other djembes, usually tuned lower than the lead drum so they don't interfere with the leader's rhythms. These parts provide the rhythmic "meat" and keep the flow of the music pushing forward.
Dunun (Bass Drums)

The melody is provided by three bass drums played with sticks, and in some regions with a metal bell corresponding to each drum. These drums are the basis of what makes each rhythm song unique. Individual rhythms may be found in multiple pieces, but the melodic combination is unique to each.

Kenkeni -
high pitch

Sangban -
middle pitch

Dununba -
low pitch

In American ensembles, players may double on two drums, but traditionally one player plays only one drum.

The storytellers of the ensemble. Olatunji says "if nobody's dancing, it's just noise". All the instrumentalists direct their music towards the dancers, who tell a wordless story through their motions.

Music in Africa is a community event, and everyone takes part. There would be no reason to play or dance if no one were there to listen and watch. Why tell a story if no one is listening?

The Instruments of the Griot (Djelli)

Voice Kora Balaphon
The djelli (male) or djelli musso (female) tells the traditional stories of the people and composes new tales honoring prominent people and commemoration events, all in songs using high, clear vocals and soaring melodies. The Kora, a 21-string harp is one of the djelli's main accompaniments, with a high pitched, stacatto sound that blends with the djelli's voice. Quick arpeggiations and melodies are common, in a style that reminds westerners of banjos and slide guitar (which both probably descended from the kora). The 21-note predecessor of the xylophone is made of tuned wooden bars suspended over hollow gourd resonators. With a sound and style very similar to the kora, the balaphonist can play chords, arpeggios, and melodies, often at the same time.

Online Tutorials - Hand Drums and African Percussion

To view the notation on some of the tutorials properly, you need to have the BACH font installed on your computer. It is available as shareware from here

Hand Drum Warm Up Exercise

Suitable for djembe and/or congas, a great exercise to get the hands moving.

World Rhythm Essentials

Ready for more? Check out these free video lessons working with hand drum exercises and rhythms!

If these tools have been useful to you, please consider leaving a tip!

If you're looking for something else, let me know, and I'll do my best to add it!