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What makes a Djembefola or Doundoufola a Master Drummer

Transferred from an older blog: Original post date by Alpha (Administrator) on 03/30/12


Djembefolas and Doundounfolas are musicians from the Mandingue musical heritage, who dedicate their whole lives playing and studying the traditional music on their drums (on the Djembe and the Doundoun, respectively).


There are quite a few Djembefolas and Doundoufolas all over the world, most of them are still in Guinea, Mali, and neighboring counties from the old Mandingue Empire. Some of these musicians specializes only in Djembe, others only in Doundoun, while others have been trained in multiple traditional percussive instruments not limited to Djembe and Doundoumba.


Many people in North America and Europe, have proclaimed themselves to be Master Drummers, especially in the field of the Djembe drum. The Master Drummer title has been abused. Hence, legitimate Master Drummers have problems getting recognition outside of their country of origin.


You need to be a Djembefola or Doundounfola before you could become a Mandingue master drummer. But on what basis do we give someone the title of master drummer of their instrument(s), and who gives that title? In order to answer these questions, you have to consider the cultural context surrounding the music that is being played. In the case of Djembefolas and Doundounfolas, the Mandingue musical heritage is what comes into play. Being a Mandingue master drummer is not only related to a specific percussive instrument(s), but is also culture specific. Djembefolas and Doundoufolas know very well how rich and extensive the Mandingue musical repertoire is, with its hundreds of musical pieces (rhythms), each of which has a historical context behind them, and multiple songs and dance choreography. There are no men that can claim to know it all, including Master drummers themselves.


However, some exceptional musicians in the Mandingue have dedicated their lives playing their percussive instrument(s), and got to a level of knowledge and expertise so much greater than all other musicians, that the other musicians start calling them Master Drummers of that specific instrument(s).


Master drummers Fadouba Oularé, Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita,


That is how one becomes a Master drummer, when your peers, known experts themselves in the same percussive instrument(s), start calling you Master drummer. This can indeed never be a self proclaimed process, and sometimes take a lifetime.