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The Kid Should See This

The Djembe, an instrument played for the king of Mali

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In this Five(ish) Minute Drum Lesson, an ArtsEdge video from Kennedy Center Education Digital Learning, African percussionist Farai Malianga introduces two drums—the cajon and djembe —and discusses the djembe’s historical importance to the West African Mali Empire.

The djembe is a loud drum made with goatskin, metal rings, rope or string, and wood. It was played for the king of Mali “as a form of communication that was used from mountain top to mountain top” to announce that the king was arriving.

djembe drum used for communication
djembe drum
In the video comments, Malianga writes:

There are many interpretations of the culture. I too have learned many variations on the history of the Djembe. I chose to share the one that would give insight to beginners on the drum as a communication tool… To further study look into the stories behind the Griot/Djeli the use of Balaphone and Kora as the instruments accompanying the historians that sing…

The purpose of this video is to encourage people to further learn about the culture by painting a 5 min overview. Please support the other teachers and share their knowledge as it is equally valid.

In the video below, Malianga demonstrates a rhythm called Funga, using the djembe‘s bass and tone sounds.

Find more music and dance resource videos for educators at the Kennedy Center Education Digital Learning YouTube Channel and at

Watch these videos about drums and instruments next:
• Percussion instruments: Eleven demonstrations
• The map of notes on a steel pan drum
• Intro to Drums – cdza music
• How Notes and Beats Go Together (The Rhythm Pyramid) from Classical MPR

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