The Djembe Drum
Originates from Africa
A Quick History of the Drum in Question
There is general agreement that the traditional distribution of the djembe is geographically associated with the Mali Empire, which dates back to 1230 AD and included parts of the modern-day countries of Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Senegal. However, due to the lack of written records in West African countries, it is unclear whether the djembe predates or postdates the Mali Empire. It seems likely that the history of the djembe reaches back for at least several centuries and possibly more than a millennium.
The name djembe comes from the Bambara people in Mali and means “dje” for gather and “be” for peace – so one could say “to gather in peace”.
From the 1950s onwards, the djembe drum started to appear in countries outside of Africa. The traditional ways of playing the instrument were and still are taught all over the world. The new millennium has seen a progress unlike anything before when it comes to the creation of new generation djembes.
The evolution of the djembe in the Western world is quite remarkable. Shells made of fibre glass and recycled wood fibre instead of tree trunks. Animal skins swapped for synthetic drumheads. The tuning of the drum made easy by adding tension to the rim (ring), using a simple square-shaped drum key and no more ropes.
Popularity of the djembe has grown mainly because of two reasons. First, the drum is unique regarding its sound frequency range. Many other rhythm instruments which are played with hands, including bongos and congas, do not have the low end bass that the djembe has. With this advantage, the djembe shines in both low and high pitched sounds.
The second reason has to be globalization. For example, Eastern cultures have spread across the world and the djembe is one of the best drums to play along kirtan and bhajan events, where people come together and sing songs. Nowadays, you can see drummers playing the djembe even in night clubs to the latest electronic dance music tunes.
This is the perfect time to learn the djembe drum. Learn it in a modern way, play rhythms that actually work – quiet when necessary, slow when necessary, suiting various settings. The key to playing well with others is doing so tastefully. Be attentive, considerate and thorough and magic is guaranteed to happen.
A Short History of the
Man Behind the Brand
Learning, Performing and Teaching in the Digital Age
Ian Mikael Kirss is the son of drummer Jaan Kirss. Under his watch, he started learning the drum set in 1999 after entering music school with piano 3 years prior. While the piano lessons were a chore, the kit was a joy. Learning was made fun thanks to the inspiration of American nu-metal band Slipknot and their debut album. For the first 4 years, Ian went all-in with learning to play what the band had recorded.
In 2004, the internationally recognized cymbal and gong company Paiste put together a competition in Tallinn, Estonia. Ian won the main prize, which was a lifetime contract with the company, becoming a Paiste artist at the age of 14. From there on, Ian’s father and sister Helena Victoria put together a family drum show and started performing nationally, as well as internationally.
Ian Mikael joined the rock band House of Games in 2007 and went straight on tour with U.S. rock legends WASP as the warm-up-act, playing 5 major cities in the United Kingdom. As of 2018, he plays drums in the rock band Sounds of September. That same year the band travelled to Netherlands twice, to ultimatelly win the Female Metal Event (FemME).
In 2010, Ian started playing the djembe drum with international musician Tom Walsberg in Estonia, Bali (Indonesia) and Koh Phangan (Thailand). This relationship led to many collaborations with world-travelling troubadours, shamans and musicians. Since then, he has performed with the djembe at events like Bali SpiritFest, Mindvalley University, Shama Retreats in Tenerife and more.
Ian has been a drum teacher since 2005, teaching the drum set, djembe, hand pan, cajon and udu. As of 2022, he is the brand ambassador for Heliton Handcrafts, which creates some of the best handpans in the world.
These days, he is fully commited to growing the Djembe Master brand by regularly creating new YouTube videos and full-length masterclass courses. Ian has customers in 35 countries.