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Music and Power

Made by Silama Traoré and Drissa Tounkara
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Djembe / Photo: Carmelle Bégin


The instruments played by the hunters, which include the djembe, are also used to produce the secular music intended for young people and women. This music is heard during celebrations and is known as kamalen n'goni. The djembe has a central role in the music of the Malinke and Khassonke peoples, as well a in that of the sedentary Peul of the Wassoulou region, who use the instrument to produce the music related to the mythical antelope and the origin of agriculture, and to accompany the music associated with work in the fields, Muslim religious holidays, rites of passage (baptism, circumcision, marriage and funerals) and hunting. The djembe comes in various sizes and is made from a single piece of hard wood. It is carved in the shape of a goblet and covered with a goatskin that is held in place by iron hoops tightened by ropes.