Djembe & Mande Music Page
(last revision 08/31/99)



YEAR:  1998

I emailed and requested a review copy, which was sent very promptly. Since Adam Rugo's comments were exactly right in so many cases I will quote from his post:

"The Mennonites are a Christian denomination whose mission is direct involvement in the world to help people and relieve suffering. (snip) The Mennonites' work goes beyond simple evangelism and conversion to hands-on work to materially benefit the poor and suffering of this world. I have worked with a Mennonite organization here in St. Louis, a shop that sells hand crafts and art work from developing nations. The shop is part of the Mennonites' Ten Thousand Villages program. Through Ten Thousand Villages, the Mennonites are helping craftspeople in the developing world to receive more of the profits derived from the sale of their work in the U.S. than would normally happen in a "for profit" situation (in other words, in every other situation that you find djembe drums for sale). Djembes from Burkina Faso are among the items that Ten Thousand Villages offers for sale."

My guess is that the video was developed to be shown in the Ten Thousand Villages shops (which are found between British Columbia and Florida) as background information on both the djembe and the culture of Burkina Faso. There's interesting footage of village life, some pretty hot drumming, and a section on the construction of djembes in the village, taking the viewer through the carving, skinning, lacing and tuning process. The closeups of the djembes shown both in Africa and in the Ten Thousand Villages stores look to be good quality - the skins, ropes and rings look "tight" and finely crafted. I was delighted to note that the drum shown in Africa was indeed tuned high and crisp! I am no expert on Burkina Faso, but what was said about the coutry and culture seemed accurate and to the point. Burkina Faso is presented as a proud culture, with vibrant music and arts. The challenges that the people face in terms of uncertain harvest, poor water quality and poverty are also pointed out in the context of explaining the Ten Thousand Villages mission of providing: "vital and fair income to 3rd world people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. This income helps pay for food, education, health care and housing."

Adam also wrote:

"As a non-profit organization, the Mennonite Central Committee probably had little in the way of financial resources to put into the video, so 9 minutes was probably all they reasonably could afford to produce. Also, you have to imagine the purpose of the video. If it's available for loan, the MCC must want people to see it regardless of whether the MCC receives any money for it. The purpose of the video must be to help explain a tiny bit about the culture of origin and use of the djembes Ten Thousand Villages stores sell. This is quite different from "for-profit" videos we have seen produced to really teach specific djembe rhythms and to earn income for the djembe teachers and producers of such videos." 

Again, right on the mark - and the video is excellent quality. It's certainly not an instructional video, but it is an interesting glimpse into life, and the use of the djembe, Burkino Faso.

Master craftsman and drummer Dougouti Kone is interviewed, and shares that the work of The National Artisan Center (from which Ten Thousand Villages purchases their djembes) in Ouaguadougou, Burkina Faso is to "preserve the cultural history of Burkina Faso, and to provide a school to train and retrain craftspeople in the traditional skills". He talks about his refusal to modernize construction methods, as he understands the importance of the traditional ways.

The film ends with a jam session in a Ten Thousand Villages shop, featuring a Burkino man named Issa on djembe, joined by a group of friends playing electric bass, acoustic guitar, and a variety of hand percussion instruments which are likely also available at the shop. The celebratory spirit is clearly present among the group!

Based on what I saw, I'd probably feel pretty good about supporting Ten Thousand Villages with a purchase. There's a similar chain of stores in New Zealand and Australia called "Trade Aid". I will always do a bit of shopping when I encounter one - I usually pick up some useful, good quality percussion toy at a very reasonable price. I get to spoil myself a bit, AND feel like I am supporting a good cause at the same time!

Ten Thousand Villages, 
704 Main St
P.O. Box 500
Akron, PA 17501-0500
(717) 859-8100
(717) 859-2622 FAX

Michael Wall