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On Africans, Americans and Non-Africans Playing Djembe

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compiled by Morwen Two Feathers - January 1997

The following compilation is drawn from "Djembe-L", an e-mail list with approximately 700 members from all over the world who are interested in hand drumming, and particularly the djembe, a drum originating in West Africa. Subscribe to djembe-l by sending a blank message to

Unsubscribe by sending blank email to   or
access Volume 1 on
Djembe-L FAQ .

These messages, along with everything ever posted to the djembe-list, are all contained in an archive on the Internet.

Messages on Djembe-L range from information on how to make a drum, notations of rhythms, info on drumming events, teachers, and drum makers, and more. Members of the list also get involved in discussions about drumming, why they (we) do it, tradition vs. innovation, how to organize and facilitate drum circles, culture, racism, and a host of other topics relevant to drumming and drummers. This compilation represents a small slice of these latter discussions.

The purpose of this compilation is to stimulate further discussion of the issues touched upon herein, and to show that drummers all over the world are currently engaged in this discourse, which is shaping the creation of a social movement.

This compilation was originally put together as reading material for a course at the Tufts University Experimental College entitled "Universal Heartbeat: World Culture and Community Drumming". It is my hope that the compilation will be distributed, read, and discussed widely.

For more information about the course "Universal Heartbeat", please see

Earth Drum Council web site

Some information about how this compilation was created:

I have grouped messages into threads, and in order to preserve a sense of the conversation, the messages are not all in strict chronological order. Some of the threads overlap. All the messages include the date and the subject line, which is the information necessary to locate them in the archives.

I have not included every single message or response to any particular thread included here. This is by necessity a selection, and I make no claims to a comprehensive representation of the discussions or of the opinions and points of view of the list's members. I have tried to include a variety of points of view and to give a sense of the scope of the discussion. Beginning and ending points of some of the threads may be somewhat arbitrary. I encourage readers to go to the archives for more complete context.

All of the participants on the list were given the opportunity to choose not to have their messages and/or email addresses included in this compilation. Please note that the email addresses of some individuals may have changed since their messages were posted, and thus might not be currently correct.

When a message quotes another message, the quoted message is surrounded by brackets >like so>. Messages quoted within quotes have double brackets: >> like so>>. Whenever possible I have tried to identify the person quoted within another person's message. The quoted message is not always itself included in this compilation. In some cases I have deleted or edited the quotes, because the message to which the person is responding is immediately preceeding.

I have edited for typos and misspellings, unless it appears the misspelling is deliberate. In a few cases, I have used only a portion of the entire message as originally posted. Where I have cut portions of messages or quotes, I have indicated that with [snip/MTF]. In other places where it says "snip", those cuts have been made by the authors of the messages in which it appears.

If anyone has feedback or information that will improve the accuracy or quality of this compilation, please email Morwen with your comments. Thank you.

On Africans, Americans, and non-Africans playing djembe

Inside Looking Out:
On Tradition and Culture
On Drumming, Dance, and Locating Rhythms in the Body
On Race, Culture, and "Drum Culture"
On Race in the American Drumming "Community"
On "American Rhythmaculture"

The reparations movement cannot be easily dismissed or discredited (06/01)

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