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

Map of Guinea

​​​b. 1940 ​Guinea

​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 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.

Famoudou Konate - master djembe player

Famoudou Konate - master djembe player


2. Ladji Camara

Map of Guinea

​​b. 1923​ Guinea

​"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.

Ladji Camara

​Ladji Camara - ​African Music Encyclopedia/Andy Wasserman


3. Mamady Keïta

Map of Guinea

​b. 19​50​ Guinea

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.

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

 

Djembe Master Mamady Keita

​Mamady Keïta - photo: Doug Manuel


4. Adama Dramé

Map of Burkina Faso

​​b. 1954, Burkino Faso

​​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 album we have chosen is Dakan. It is more modern in style and shows Adama's versatility. Great singing and balafon too.

B01F43E4YU
Adama Dramé

​​Adama Dramé - photo Wiki: Alex6ft3


5. Abdoulaye Diakite

Map of Senegal

​​b. 1950, Senegal

​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.

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

Abdoulaye Diakite

​Photo courtesy ​of DrumSkull Drums


6. Babatunde Olatunji

Map of Nigeria

​b. 1927 d.2003 Nigeria

Babatunde was not strictly a djembe player, but ​we have included him because ​he did 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 feature 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.

Babatunde Olatunji

​Babatunde Olatunji - Photo​ - Wiki: Calypso13

Babatunde Olatunji

7. Soungalo Coulibaly

Map of Mali

​b. 1955 d. 2004 Mali

​Soungalo's father was the head of a village in Southern Mali. As a young boy, Soungalo 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.

The album below 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.

Soungalo Coulibaly

​8. Bolokada Conde

Map of Guinea

​​Bolokada was 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 favourite:


Bolokada Conde

​Photo: www.bolokadaconde.com

​That's it for our selection of the best djembe music out there. I'm 100% sure people will say 'What about so-and-so?'

​Here's your chance to give your fav djembe player a plug, ​add them in the comments and share.


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