Best Djembe Music – 8 Djembe Masters You Should Know

Best Djembe Music

In search of the best djembe music out there? 

Here's a list of our favorite African drumming albums from some of the most famous djembe players of all time.

There are a handful of players that shine as true djembe masters - those musicians who have pushed the limits of what can be achieved.

We've put together a list of the best djembe music and world class djembe musicians for your general amazement.

This list could be as long as your arm, but we wanted to keep things simple. Please give a shout out to your favorite djembe masters in the comments. Hey, we might even add them to the list...

1. Famoudou Konate

Famoudou Konate

Our favorite album: 

Famoudou is an initiated master of Malinké drumming. He has been performing since 1948.

He was lead djembe soloist in Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée (The Guinea Ballet) for 28 years from 1959-1987.

Mamady Keïta once said of him: "Famoudou's hand is so clean, his sound is so pure, that I wondered if I'd ever be able to play like him."

He is the subject of two documentaries and has released eight albums.

Famoudou performs and teaches regularly in Europe, Japan, Israel, North America and West Africa.

The album we have chosen, Malinke Rhythms and Songs 2, is way more exciting than the title lets on.

It was released in 2003 and contains 14 tracks. We like it because it features lesser known rhythms - lots of stuff you won't find anywhere else.

2. Ladji Camara

Ladji Camara

Our favorite album: 

"Papa" Ladji performed with Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée in the 1950s.

He travelled throughout the world and appeared in shows on Broadway in New York City. He has performed with Nina Simone.

Camara also worked extensively in the US with Chief Bey and Babatunde Olatunji.

Our favorite album of his is from his days with Les Ballet Africains. It features over an hour of pure genius and is a must have for any keen djembe player.

3. Mamady Keïta

Mamady Keita

Our favorite album: 

In 1964, 15-year-old Mamady joined the Djoliba National Ballet.

He showed such promise as a performer that the following year he was appointed lead soloist. He would go on to become the group's Artistic Director.

In 1988 he moved to Belgium, where he founded Tam Tam Mandingue percussion school. The school now has several franchises across the world.

He has appeared in several films, has recorded an extensive catalogue and has several instructional books.

Keïta currently lives in Mexico and continues to teach and perform with his band Sewa Kan.

Our favourite album is his first album, Wassolon, and it is some of the best djembe music ever recorded. Listening to it you'll understand why he was destined for greatness.

4. Adama Dramé

Adama Drame

Our favorite album: 


Adama was born into a family of griots - artists who recount the history of their village through music and storytelling.

He became a professional musician at the age of 12 when he joined his father's band.

Under his father's strict instruction Adama became an accomplished musician and a performer of great technical ability.

He has performed all over the world and is currently instructor and artistic leader of Ballet Foliba.

The favorite album is Dakan. It is more modern in style and shows Adama's versatility. Great singing and balafon too.

5. Abdoulaye Diakite

Abdoulaye Diakite

Our favorite album: 

At age 16 Abdoulaye was appointed lead soloist of Ballet National du Senegal and remained there for 18 years.

In early 1990 he founded Tambacounda, which hosted some of the first djembe drum camps in the USA.

He also co-founded the drum and dance company CEEDO.

Our favorite album is Mandingo Drumming, a collaboration with the fantastic Leon Mobley. It only has 5 tracks, however each track is over 15 minutes long. The album is a powerhouse and some of the best djembe music out there. Highly recommended and plenty to get your teeth into it.

6. Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji

Our favorite album: 

Babatunde was not strictly a djembe player, but we have included him because he did so much to bring African drumming to an international audience.

He also worked extensively with Ladji Camara, who also appears on this list.

He co-founded Olatunji Center for African Culture in Harlem with John Coltrane.

Olatunji has recorded with Carlos Santana, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder.

The album we recommend is an absolute classic of Baba's. Drums of Passion is the album that started it all.

It should be required listing for every percussionist - not only djembe players. A truly groundbreaking album - just get it.

7. Soungalo Coulibaly

Soungalo Coulibaly

Our favorite album: 

Soungalo's father was the head of a village in Southern Mali. As a young boy, he learnt to play music by accompanying workers in the field.

He was a self taught musician whose strength was his ability to adapt to many musical styles.

Coulibaly gained fame when he moved to Ivory Coast in the late 1970s. He later performed and taught regularly in Europe.

He appeared in two films and released six albums.

Soungalo passed away in 2004 from Cancer. He will be sorely missed.

The album Art of The Djembe is one of his most famous. Released in 1992, it has 13 tracks, over an hour in length and it will change what you thought possible with the djembe.

8. Bolokada Conde

Bolokada Conde

Bolokada is a musical prodigy from Sankaran region who gained fame as a folklorist.

In 1996, he went on to replace the legendary Noumoudy Keïta as lead drummer in Les Percussions de Guinée.

Mamady Keïta has called him "one of the few masters of his instrument."

He currently lives in the US and continues to perform and lecture.

He has released two albums and several videos. Sankaran from 2006 is our favorite.

That's it for our selection of the best djembe music out there. I'm 100% sure people will say 'What about [insert name of your favorite djembe player]?'

So here's your chance to give them a plug - add them in the comments and share.

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