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Mali Kan

Music and culture from Mali, West Africa.

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Drums from Mali


The most popular drum from Africa, the djembe is now known world wide. This drums finds its origins in the border regions between Mali and Guinea and is commonly played by the Maninka, Bambara, and Maraka ethnic groups throughout lower and western Mali. The traditional djembe ensemble was typically one konkoni accompaniment and one djembe soloist. Today most djembe ensembles play with two or three dununs, djembe accompaniment, and djembe lead.


This drumming tradition is most common with the Bambara, Somono, and Bozo people. Originally a drumming style from the Maraka, the Bambara are now well known for their parties including life-size marionettes, animal costumes, and traditional masks. Unlike the exclusive, athletic style of djembe dance, the Bonkolo dance style is done in a large communal circle around the drummers.


This hourglass shaped tension drum is present throughout west Africa and is commonly played among the Jeli (griot), a group of musician, historian, singer, orators.


The family of dunun drums are characterized by a cylindrical shell, covered on each end with a goat or cow skin, and often struck with a curved mallet. This is the most common drum construction style across the entire continent. In Mali the djembe ensemble often consists of one dununi (konkoni), and one dununba with bell.

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