“There are no most-imporant-beats, bro! We are all equal! The beats are all equal!”
Hold your goats, bro. Of course some beats are more commonly played than others, thus making them more relevant to learn.
If you as a djembe player want to play along to other musicians, you better know that a straight beat, for example, is still the king. Somebody somewhere starts playing, you may want to start adding your part smoothly. Basically, don’t start to play with a drum solo. Keep you part to a minimum at first. Then you can build on top of that. So a straight beat, with only one loud bass and one loud slap stroke, is quite perfect for most occasions.
Then there’s what I call the 332. It has one bass stroke and two loud slaps. The slaps are not straight at all, giving the beat a cool unexpected groove. This beat really gets new djembe players excited because it’s sounds like much is happening. In a way, there is. Yet, it’s still an eight-stroke beat. Don’t hold yourself back from playing this 332 beat to a straight guitar song for example. It’s really amazing to put together a straight thing with a not so straight thing. The guitar is playing something similar to a 332 and you go straight with your djembe. The guitar is playing straight and you play the 322. Could be amazing. Definitely check out the “3 Most Important Djembe Beats” video to get the full picture.
The third most important beat with a djembe is a 16-stroke beat. This one is really cool. It really comes alive when played with a faster tempo. First, gotta go slowly at it, promise? Like the 322, this one also isn’t straight. It is actually a 33424. I show this beat in depth in the Djembe Masterclass for Beginners Volume 2 course (Lesson 17).
So you see, there are some beats which are universally easy to play with drummers or other musicians. These rhythms are commonly the backbone of something to build upon. You can always play in a more complicated mannor, but the basics should always be remembered.