The videos displayed on this site reflect the way we play today in a country, Côte d' Ivoire, and a city, Bouake. In other countries, regions or ethnic groups, the same songs will sometimes be played differently. Therefore, these recordings do not constitute a reference, to be contrasted with another. From one country to another, sometimes from one village to another, the same songs can have a different name and there is no "official version". You can watch a video of traditional jembe by clicking on the image. If you have difficulties playing back and want to take advantage of other video formats, use the Videos module
In traditional celebrations in Africa, it is the women who lead the dance, as they say. They are the ones who organize parties, contact jembefolas, prepare food. Their songs and dances come from their childhood, their village and better than anyone else, these women know how to accompany them to the jembes and dununs. The tapers have to follow them and the soloist present is not there to play breaks or give technical demonstrations. It must fit in with the present situation, which can be very varied. What it will have to play depends on the ethnic groups present at that time. This is a far cry from the preconceived ideas about the jembe in Africa, especially the criteria that make a good soloist.
Economic development and the concentration of jembefolas in the big cities have shaken up certain traditions linked to the jembe. It is not a matter of putting back on the carpet the differences between the supporters of tradition and the modern, eternal debate, nor of taking sides. It is simply true that those who write methods of jembe in Europe or those who teach these methods often sin by ignorance of the African social fabric. Many teachers of the Jembé would have to have a few visas affixed to their passports in order to check for themselves what is happening in the field. Harvest dances, full moon dances, rain dances, initiation dances, these festivities, which still exist in remote villages and make Western tapers dream so much of them, have become rare in the great African cities, even innexistent. Or they are treated in a folkloric way. It is not a question of rejecting some of these traditions, but of placing them in the context of our time.
Despite the abandonment of certain traditional practices and the pressure of modernity, it still persists in the big cities, and it is a joy, many small parties more discreet, without sound system or electric pianos. These feasts are very often related to Thursday's big weddings and take place in the days before or after the wedding. The video opposite is an example of a party without sound system or electric piano. This is the bride's weaving, which usually occurs on the eve of the wedding. It is in these minimalist festivals that we find all the richness of the traditional African jembe game.
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