Just bought a djembe for the first time? Got one for Christmas? If so here are some things to remember during these cold months: There is one thing djembe drums hate - humidity. Humidity is a djembe's number one enemy in the same way as slugs are to your average garden cabbage. It's a simple reason. The head is made from a goat skin which has been dried in the hot African sun and then pulled really tightly. As the skin dries it becomes extremely tough and this allows it to cope with the enormous pressure and strains it bears as it is fastened to the drum head. As soon as it absorbs moisture in the air, the skin will soften slightly and hence become weaker. If it becomes too weak, the skin will break. There's no need to panic yet. Your djembe skin will stretch and strain throughout its lifetime depending on the level of humidity in the air. It is remarkable what they are able to tolerate. However, during the winter time, with the combination of cold and humidity, care must be taken, so here are a couple of tips to prevent a catastrophe like you can see in the photo:
1. Leave it in a place which you know won't be heated much such as a shed or garage.
2. Tune it really tight. Each year Djembes always need a couple of extra tuning knots to keep their tension, but try not to get too carried away. If the sound is good and you get a 'ka ku ka' when you play, be content with this. Avoid the temptation to get an even sharper slap and tone sound - unless you're willing to re-skin the drum if you go too far.
1. Keep your djembe in a warm and dry place in your house.
2. Purchase a djembe bag which gives it some protection from the elements, particularly in transit. Make sure the bag has a damp proof inner lining. Try djembe bags made by 'Kambala' and 'Protection Racket'.
3. Check for any signs of dampness on the skin. If the drum feels sticky or clammy, you can dry it out by getting a dry piece of cloth or kitchen roll and rubbing moisture off the skin. This will not only remove moisture, but will also take off any dirt which has collected on the skin.
4. Give it lots of love and affection! Djembes always seems to break when they're left and forgotten about. If you know you won't be using it for a while, undo the the tuning knots to relax the skin. There's no point in straining the skin for no reason.
Use these tips and your djembe will get through the winter and be ready for the Womad festival in the Summer - which of course will be gorgeously sunny as it is every year!