Djun-djun is the generic name for a family of bass drums that developed in West
Africa. Along with the
djembe, the djun-djun originated in the ninth century Mali Empire among the Mandinka people. Both are instruments primarily of
the region that includes Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ivory
Coast, which all have significant Mandé populations.
Each djun-djun is made out of the base of a tree
then covered on both sides with cow skin (or
sometimes goat skin) that is held on with rope or steel rings. This
family of double-headed, cylindrical, rope-tension drums consists of the
(literally “big djun-djun”), which has the lowest
tone and is the largest in the series. Next is the mid-tone, medium-sized
sangban and lastly, the high-toned
which is also the smallest.
Djun-djuns provide the
rhythmic base for the djembe.
are wide variations on how the djun-djun is played throughout West Africa.
For example, in Mali they sometimes play with just one djun-djun and a bell (kenken)
that is held in the hand. In some regions of Guinea the djun-djun is played
with no bells, or only two djun-djun are played.
are two primary playing styles for djun-djuns. The traditional style
has each player using a single drum resting on its side, either on the floor
or on a stand. Each player strikes the head with a stick held in one hand
and a bell mounted on top with the other. For the other style, known as ballet style
as it is used in the National Ballets throughout West Africa, one or more
players has command of their own set of three djun-djuns
standing on the floor. Playing like this allows a more complex arrangement
for the dance.
player is called a djundjunfola
or "one who gives voice to the djun-djun."
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