“Spread my fingers? Are you nuts? That’s not how they do it in Africa!”
Easy, tiger! Let’s look at the situation under a microscope, shall we?
Most times when I see a djembe video online, there’s somebody slappin’ and strokin’ their drum while their fingers are fully touching each other. It’s either the bass that is been hit in the center or the slap that’s been hit on the edge of the djembe. Why people do that is beyond me and it could actually be that nobody told them they own the freedom not to do that.
You see, having your fingers together does two things in a slightly negative direction. One, you lose the chance for the djembe to sound 4.7% better and two, you lose the opportunity to save 7.4% of energy. The bass stroke just sounds that tiny bit better when you spread your fingers. It has more surface area and the drumhead gets a nice flat stroke, taking the high pitched sounds coming from the top to a minimum. Long live a proper bassy bass stroke!
Word on the street is that a good djembe technique is one which conserves energy. Meaning – all extra movements and efforts are out the window. Or if you’re hearing that wisdom on an actual street then all extra movements are in the open and speeding towards the cosmos. In any case, you shouldn’t be doing things that don’t have to be done when playing the djembe properly.
Try it for yourself – have fingers together and play anything and then do the same things while spreading fingers. Can you hear the difference? Can you feel it?