The djembe

How To Play Djembe

Djembe Rhythms


Want to learn a few beats on your djembe? Here's a simple rhythm to get you started. For a more difficult rhythm, try this.

Rhythm #1 - 'Albongo' and learning the call

This song can be played by one djembe and consists of:

  1. An introduction ('the call'),
  2. The basic rhythm
  3. An ending (or 'call out').

1. Introduction - The Call

The call (also called a break) is a short rhythmical phrase played by either the soloist or the entire group at the beginning of the song. It is a starting signal and is usually a quite expressive, introducing the song and setting the starting tempo.

The same call or a variation is often played as a break in the middle or at the end to 'call' everyone out. There are many variations of the call in djembe drumming.

The call is shown in the chart below. Beginners may find it quite challenging. Persevere and you'll get it!

If you haven't already, you might want to check out how to read djembe notation.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Go Do Go Do Go Do Go Do Go

2. The Rhythm - Albongo

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Gun Go Do Go Do Gun Go Do Go Do Go

3. The Ending Call

The call at the end has one extra note, right at the end, which is actually on the 1 count of the next bar. It is a slap and finishes off the song.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1
Go Do Go Do Go Do Go Do Go Pa

All Together Now

Now play the whole song, starting with the call, then the rhythm (which you can play any number of times) and finally the Ending Call to finish the song.

Your first song! Congratulations!

NEXT: Rhythm 2. Kuku - Intermediate