Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section
(last revision 02/11/99)



Hi All

I am reluctantly going ahead and alerting you all to a product I previewed in Nov.  I feel it is my responsibility to alert people to the true nature of this product. The website I originally found the item at is: Their number is (800) 762-0060. The product title is 945V African Drum: The Djembe. If you have also seen this video and empathise with the below, then I urge you to write or call them with your comments.

Below is my last letter to them...

Aloha (Deleted)

Thank you for your response. I would have prefered to have a live conversation, as I have already invested money and time into this product. I will do as you ask and write out my comments, in the order I encountered the items I have issue with, so please forgive the lack of literary precision.

1) Upon opening the booklet included with the video titled "African Drum: The Djembe", the first thing I see is a drum which is NOT a Djembe.

2) The "objectives" given in the booklet include:

 "a) Learning about the history of the drum."

Not only is there absolutely no history about the drum, the Mande culture it orginiates from or any information about its use in a traditional context, there is not even a single reference in the video to the drum being from Africa!

"b) Learning how a djembe is made."

The construction of the drum in the video is NOT how djembes are made. Traditional African djembes are carved from a solid log, made of very specific, dense woods which are highly resonant. The construction methodology in the video is the author's method only.

"c) Learning how a djembe sounds."

The drum in the video sounds nothing like a real djembe.

The "answers" given in the booklet state that djembes are made of "pine" -totally false.  It states that the skin is waxed - again, false.

The name of the drum, "djembe" is consistently mispronounced throughout the video - the correct pronunciation is "jim bey", the "D" is silent.

There are major audio editing glitches in the film.

The context of the video in your catalog is set by the title:  AFRICAN Drum: The Djembe.  This is not a traditional djembe, not from Africa, not even constructed using traditional methods.  It is a video about the percussion music of an experimental music ensemble, and the construction techniques of someone who is making up their method as they go.

The video is actally about theatre, puppets, experimental music,
inventiveness and NON-traditional, NON-African drumming and drums.

The drum maker's inexperience is so profound that he doesn't realize that he has botched the rope tuning method and actually UN-tensioned an entire row of knots!

I feel that (as titled) the video is deeply disrespectful to Mande
culture (source of the djembe) and African drumming in general.  The narrator/author's comments such as:

"I master none..."
"If I had had to pay for lessons and sacrifice in order to learn..."
"If I can make a violin or djembe without learning how to, then I can play by instinct"

...are very disrespectful to the art and craft of instrument makers and musicians who study an entire lifetime to learn the techniques required for constructing quality instruments, and performing with excellence. The closing message of the video teaches children (who are the target market for educational videos) that apprenticeship, attention to detail, craftsmanship and tradition are all valueless.

The djembe is probably the single most popular hand drum in the United States today. There is an internet group dedicated to djembe drummers withover 600 members worldwide.

In my opinion this product is an attempt to capitalize on the present hand-drumming craze in the U.S. The name Djembe is being used to sell a product completely unrelated to African drumming.

This video is a mismash of mis-information. Continuing to sell this video under it's present title will eventually result in a outraged response from African-American educators who know anything at all about djembe drumming and Mande music.

I am caucasian, and a djembe player of 7 years experience.  I find the video offensive, and disrespectful to the African people, and to committed U.S. students of hand drumming.  If a video like this was made about violin, trumpet or guitar playing it would never see the light of day.

My request is that you change the title and description of this product in your catalog immediately to reflect its actual content.  Please advise me of your actions on this matter.

michael wall