How To Play Djembe ~ Book Review

 


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Key words: non-fiction, music, youth, adult, self-help, group drumming, picture, illustrated, interactive, drum, hand drum, djembe, West African, rhythm

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How To Play Djembe ~ Book Review

As well as being an exceptional writing team, Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby are also husband and wife. To date, they have worked on eight books together. How To Play Djembe, a 96-page how-to book consisting of nine chapters, is printed on acid free paper using soy inks - you can consider this one of the environmentally conscious books on your reference shelf.

Equipped with a play-along CD in its own self-adhesive envelope, which is handy to stick to the back cover – simply peal off the paper. Readers can look forward to learning seven traditional West African rhythms: Kuku, Djole, Kassa, Madan, Suku, Sunguru Bani, and Tiriba.

The rhythm’s individual parts are found on either the left or right speaker channel, making it easy to isolate one rhythm or the other while learning. Each track lasts for 5-6 minutes with a soloist joining in for the last couple of minutes. All the drumming on the CD is performed by Master drummer, dancer, and choreographer from Mali, Sidi Mohamed “Joh” Camara.

Front cover art by Toni Pawlowsky is absolutely vibrant with color and eye-catching tribal and tropical imagery. It depicts a drummer sitting on the king of the jungle, a lion. Illustrations by Jay Kendell, and contributing illustrator Robert Jackson, are pencil sketched in a black and white format.

‘How to use the book’ is followed by detailed instructions on attaining different sounds out of the djembe drum including where to focus the weight on the hand – which is important when aiming for particular sounds. This book is a good guide for basic counting and playing techniques. It also gives tips on practicing, the space used to drum in, how to play comfortably and ergonomically correct, hearing protection, hand protection and what to do when players experience hand pain and more.

Intermediate to novice drummers will all enjoy the way in which the authors teach. Through gradual increments, they build up each part of the rhythm systematically. Phrasing and starting points are also discussed and clearly displayed on the charts. Some of the parts are also equipped with word games to help with proper phrasing.

The book introduces swing feels and ghost notes as well as breaks in four time. Flams, counting in six time, polyrhythmic playing, breaks in six time and the use of sixteenth notes are also explained in concise terms. In the ‘Tuning your djembe’ chapter visual drawings have made a once complicated task very easy to understand.

How To Play Djembe concludes with a glossary of terms and a list of study sources with websites, books, videos, CD’s and articles. The book includes blank charts for drummers to photocopy and use for charting their own rhythms.

This book has been well received in the drumming world, and has passed through the hands of drumming icons Mickey Hart and Arthur Hull, who have had good things to say about How to Play Djembe.

This book deserves the highest of ratings. My husband and I will certainly recommend this book to all our drum students and drummers we do repairs for in the future. Without a doubt we have learned quite a lot already and expect to enjoy the book for some time.

I would recommend How To Play Djembe to anyone trying to develop technique and discover new rhythms. The best aspect of this book is the multiple parts for each rhythm - allowing readers to get together with other drummers, even if they are of varying playing skills. Drummers will likely find that it will take some time and effort to really master each rhythm, expect to spend a couple of weeks for each one. Fortunately, the CD can always be referenced to ensure the players are keeping the feel and timing accurate. The book is comfortably teachable; group workshop facilitators would find this book especially useful.

Author: Alan Dworsky & Betsy Sansby
Publisher: Dancing Hands Music
ISBN: 0-9638801-4-4
Cover Art: Toni Pawlowsky
Illustrator: Jay Kendell & contributing illustrator, Robert Jackson
CD Performance: Sidi Mohamed “Joh” Camara

~ Book Reviewer: Lillian Brummet - Co-author of the book Trash Talk, a guide for anyone concerned about his or her impact on the environment – Author of Towards Understanding, a collection of poetry. (http://www.sunshinecable.com/~drumit ) *Special thanks to Dave Brummet for his valuable input as a drum instructor.

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