Tribal drums, or djembe, have a few significant advantages – they’re compact, easy enough to play, and can relieve stress. If you wish to own this traditional African percussion instrument but aren’t sure which one to choose, we’re here to help.
This guide will review the 5 best tribal drums on the market – low and mid-range. Read on to find out the features of each one and the core distinctions between them.
Additionally, we will provide tips on how to choose a perfect djembe to fit your needs.
Best Tribal Drums Reviews
Lotmusic Djembe Drum
The first tribal drum in our selection lies in the lower price range. The maker, Lotmusic, manufactures various musical instruments, from tribal drums to electric pianos. Let’s take a look at the specs of this djembe.
There are three size options for this handcrafted instrument – 8, 9, and 10 inches in diameter – but we will review the smallest version. The color variations differ, too – blue and red for the 8 and 9-inch options and green for the larger pieces.
The drum is highly portable – it weighs under 1kg and is 11 inches high. The body of the djembe is made of resin and covered with cotton featuring tribal ornaments. The djembe’s head is made of genuine, cream-colored goatskin.
It’s smooth, rugged, and has few hair follicles. The sound differs depending on where the drum is hit but is a bit flat in this case. Perhaps, the issue lies with the resin body, which produces a sharper tone with less resonance.
Overall, the sound is decent for a drum of this price range. Plus, a high-quality climbing rope ensures precise tuning. There’s no information on warranty and nothing in the set apart from the drum itself.
The best thing about this drum is the balance between affordability and quality. Of course, for $50, no one expects a mahogany body. However, the drum features a genuine goatskin head, and the craftsmanship is excellent.
Moreover, the design is striking, with bright color combinations and exotic patterns. The varied color selection is a nice bonus, but the most important thing is the sound, of course – and this drum does the job, with the help of a four-button rope lock for stable tuning.
Furthermore, this djembe is exceptionally light and compact – about twice as light compared to most other wooden pieces. In terms of portability, the rope handle makes this drum easy to carry around. It’s an excellent option for beginners and children.
All cons of this tribal drum come from the resin body if they are minor. The sound is slightly flatter than that of wooden djembes and doesn’t last for as long. Resin isn’t as durable as wood – which could become an issue after a while as this djembe lacks a warranty.
- Genuine goatskin head
- Lightweight and compact
- No warranty
- The sound is a bit flat
Jive Wooden Tribal Drum
The second tribal drum on our list is slightly pricier than its competitor from Lotmusic. But they do have a diverse target audience. Read on to find out what makes this djembe special.
This handcrafted tribal drum is manufactured by the Jive brand. That’s a well-trusted US company that produces various traditional African musical instruments. The drum is available in two sizes – 12 and 16 inches in height, 5 and 8 inches in diameter, respectively.
We included the larger option in this selection, as most users find the 5-inch version too small and uncomfortable to play. There are two design options – the first is red with a bright painted dot pattern in Rasta colors.
The second isn’t as bold but undoubtedly stylish – it features natural wood with carved African ornaments. Note that the manufacturer warns that patterns may vary. The drum’s body is made of wood, the head of genuine goatskin.
Heavy-duty nylon cords ensure stable tuning. There is also a rope for added portability. This djembe sounds excellent; the bass is deep with a great resonance due to the body’s genuine wood. A keychain with a tiny tribal drum is included in the set, which is a nice touch. But there’s no long-term warranty.
We admire the design of this drum. It isn’t covered with textile that may muffle the sound – instead, it enhances the mahogany’s natural beauty. Both design options are tasteful, and the hand-carved motifs deserve a special mention.
Despite the wooden body, this drum isn’t heavy – it weighs under 1.5kg. It’s also portable due to the nylon rope handle. This djembe has excellent bass. A leather keychain indicates that this instrument has been well thought through. This tribal drum will make a great gift and is suitable for more experienced drummers.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this tribal drum. The listing, however, is slightly misleading, as it states the drum’s height rather than diameter. The 5-inch size is tiny and best suited to children or those with small hands, but that’s a subjective drawback.
There’s no warranty, either, but the materials used in crafting this drum are highly durable, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
- Wooden body
- A keychain included
- Good resonation
- Beautiful design options
- The listing states drum’s height rather than diameter
- No warranty
Djembe Drum – African Percussion Drum
This tribal drum is the most compact piece in our selection – at only 7 inches in height. Let’s take a look at whether it matches up to the competition.
This tribal drum is available in five sizes – 6, 7, 9, 12, and 14.5 inches in height. We included the 7-inch version in our selection for those who are looking for a portable instrument. The diameter of this model is only 4.5 inches, and its weight is below 0.5kg.
The drum’s body is made of mahogany and the head of genuine goatskin. It isn’t covered in textile or painted; it features a colorful yet delicate ornament on the base instead. The pattern may vary, and there’s no way of selecting before purchasing.
As the instrument is handcrafted, every piece is unique, and even sizes may differ slightly. The sound is different depending on where the drum is hit and the bass is deep. However, due to the size, resonation isn’t as great as that of its competitor from Jive.
Be aware that there’s no warranty or additional accessories. The drum has a handle, but it’s so short that it’s of little practical use.
The most significant advantage of this drum is how compact and lightweight it is. It easily fits in a bag and is suitable for a child’s musical education.
Slight differences between every piece prove that the instrument is handcrafted, meaning that every drum is unique. The materials used are traditional and ensure a great bass sound for such a small drum.
This djembe has a couple of flaws. Firstly, a 4.5-inch diameter won’t be convenient for everyone. It will likely be too complicated for beginners to play, as the chance of hitting the wrong spot is higher. This djembe can be played either using a mallet or fingers, but not a whole palm.
Also, it doesn’t have a long enough handle for easy transportation – but this isn’t a serious issue. A significant disadvantage of this djembe is the rope that is meant to ensure long-lasting tuning. The rope isn’t fixed as securely as that of competitors and has fewer loops, resulting in the drum losing its tune sooner.
The lack of a warranty doesn’t help matters. The quality of the paint job varies – some pieces have noticeable scratches.
- Variety of size options
- Compact and lightweight
- Great bass for such a small drum
- Handle too short
- Poor rope quality
Africa Heartwood Project Djembe Drum
This tribal drum lies in the middle price range. It’s slightly pricier than most of the drums in our selection, but let’s look at its features to determine whether this djembe is worth it.
The drum is manufactured by the Africa Heartwood Project, a brand that specializes solely in tribal drums. Every piece is handcrafted in an African village, and the project supports its residents.
The body is made of Mansonia wood, and the drumhead features genuine goatskin. The design of this djembe is plain yet tasteful – it lacks any ornaments or colorful details, as opposed to its competitors.
Instead, it enhances the natural beauty of the wood. However, this drum’s base stands out, as it’s carved in a unique shape. The drumhead features the brand’s logo – three people with a drum.
The diameter of this djembe is 8 inches, height – 16 inches. It’s noticeably heavier than most drums of our selection – over 2kg. The ropes are tight and cover a large part of the surface, meaning that tuning is stable and durable.
The instrument can also be re-tuned if required by tightening the ropes. The sound is crisp, with deep bass and decent resonation.
Even though there’s no information regarding a long-term warranty, the manufacturer states that each piece is inspected after import from Africa. Note that are no additional accessories included.
We have to acknowledge the great design of this drum. It’s simple yet traditional and stylish and carved from a single piece of wood. The drum is large enough for any adult with an average-sized hand to play, but it’s still compact and portable.
The sound is excellent, too – akin to that of professional tribal drums. One of the things that makes this djembe stand out is the quality of the rope. It’s durable, ensures stable tuning, and allows you to adjust the drum’s tone if necessary.
Another significant advantage is the opportunity to support African cultural artisans who deliver superb products for an affordable price.
This drum doesn’t have any significant cons. Some may prefer a lighter instrument, but that’s a subjective point.
The only thing stopping us from calling this drum flawless is the lack of a handle. It’s not the most compact percussion piece, so the ability to hang it on one’s shoulder would be handy for those who want to carry it around.
- The brand supports village residents
- Adjustable tuning
- Great resonation
- Durable materials
- No handle
- A bit heavier than competitors
X8 Tribal Drum Set
The final piece in our selection is a tribal drum set by X8 Drums. The brand specializes solely in percussion instruments and accessories for them. In the main, djembes, but also tambourines. This tribal drum lies in the middle price range, but the brand also produces high-class professional instruments.
This mahogany tribal drum features a natural goatskin drumhead. It’s 15.5 inches tall and has an 8.5-inch diameter – slightly larger than other djembes in our selection. The design is simple – two-tone wood with hand-painted traditional African ornaments.
The ropes are durable and allow tuning the instrument if required. The drum has a handle for easier transportation, but that isn’t strictly necessary. The drum comes with a travel bag, two shaker eggs, and a user’s guide.
The shaker eggs are black with abstract red human depictions. The user’s guide leaflet includes instructions on tuning the djembe, taking care of it, and playing several rhythms. The sound is pleasant, with decent bass and strong resonation.
Overall, it’s a high-quality percussion piece that will be great for anyone – beginners, kids, and more experienced musicians. It’s priced in line with competitors that don’t feature any additional accessories, making this drum a great deal.
We admire the manufacturer’s decision to include additional accessories. A travel bag is useful not only for transporting the drum but also for storing it. It will protect the instrument from dust, scratches, and unfavorable weather conditions.
The user’s guide is a valuable bonus for beginners, and the shaker eggs can complement the drum’s sound or make a nice gift for someone else.
There are plenty of loops to preserve the durability of the rope. Adjustable tuning and excellent resonation will be appreciated by those with a good ear for music.
Like its competitor from Africa Heartwood Project, this drum is slightly heavier than most instruments in our selection – about 2kg. This isn’t a serious con, though, as a travel bag is included.
There’s also no information on the warranty. Some sets reportedly lack shaker eggs, but it’s impossible to play them and the drum simultaneously anyway.
- Travel bag and user’s guide included
- Great bass and resonation
- Adjustable tuning
- Heavier than most competitors
- Some sets lack shaker eggs
It’s essential to understand which features define a djembe’s quality before purchasing an instrument. Read on to get tips on choosing the best tribal drum to fit your needs.
Any percussion instrument has to be durable enough to withstand constant use. A traditional djembe is made of solid wood and genuine goatskin. The goatskin shouldn’t be too thin. If it is, the drum may sound flat, too high-pitched, and be less durable. The rope has to be round, 4-5mm in diameter, without fraying – that’s important to ensure stable tuning.
Ideally, the rope should be adjustable so that you can re-tune the drum if needed. The more rope loops around the drumhead, the more durable the tuning – for a large djembe, a good number is anywhere between 22-28 loops.
Some lower-range djembes are made of resin rather than wood. This makes them lightweight and affordable, but such an instrument won’t last as long as a wooden instrument. Hair that may be left on the drumhead doesn’t affect the performance and durability of a djembe.
Diameter is a crucial factor in selecting the perfect tribal drum. Most often, the diameter of tribal drums ranges between 7 and 16 inches. The general rule is – the bigger the drum, the stronger its bass and resonation. 7-8-inch djembes are essentially a mini-version of the real thing yet have a large enough surface to play on.
People with wider palms may find them troublesome, however. Ideal for children, they can easily fit in a backpack. Djembes of this diameter generally are 14-16 inches high. 9-12-inch tribal drums are the most versatile option. They aren’t bulky and are capable of producing the full range of sounds.
They also promote the use of different techniques, unavailable with small drums. The height of these djembes is often over 20 inches. The largest djembe size is 13-16 inches in diameter and up to 26 inches in height.
Such drums will be inconvenient for beginners and people with smaller hands – they are a better fit for adult men. Furthermore, that’s an option for professional musicians, who have developed various playing techniques and know how to use the whole surface. But overall, they may be tiresome and quite heavy.
Naturally, the sound is crucial in any musical instrument. A perfect djembe should have deep bass and strong resonation. This depends on several factors, particularly on the diameter and materials of the instrument. A low-pitched sound is achieved by hitting the center of the drum.
A medium tone is obtained by strongly slapping the edge of the drum with a flat hand. High pitch is the most complicated – just like medium pitch, it’s played by slapping the drum’s edge, but the technique is different.
Djembes of larger diameter help showcase various techniques, therefore producing a richer, more diverse sound.
The shape is an essential factor for any percussion instrument, as proportions define resonation – along with the material, of course. Make sure that an instrument features perfect symmetry, and the height is in proportion to the diameter.
It should also be comfortable to hold between your knees. The base can be shaped differently – some drums have a plain and almost straight base, whilst others feature a carved base of unusual form.
Generally, djembes with a base that narrows down the middle are the most convenient. Apart from that, choose any design you prefer.
The height of the djembe is just as important as the diameter to ensure comfortable use – in fact, these factors are interconnected. The drum must be comfortable to play when it’s placed between your knees.
Your back must be straight – if you have to bend over and look at the ground, you need a higher instrument. 12-inch tribal drums are best for kids or short people. A 16-inch djembe will be comfortable enough for an adult of average height or those with a travel version of the instrument.
Most adults will appreciate the 20-inch size. If you are taller than 5’10, we advise you to look into even larger models – up to 26 inches. You can determine the perfect drum height by measuring the floor’s distance to approximately three inches above your thighs when seated.
Hopefully, our guide has helped you to find the best tribal drum for a reasonable price. Every djembe in this selection has its pros and cons, but two options are nearly flawless – the Africa Heartwood Project drum and the X8 drum set.
We admire the African Heartwood Project’s decision to support the local village, and the drum’s quality is astonishing. This is a highly durable percussion piece made of a solid piece of wood, with plenty of rope loops to ensure long-lasting and precise tuning.
However, its competitor from X8 Drums offers the same excellent quality and additional accessories for the same price. This djembe is highly portable thanks to a rope handle and a travel bag. A user’s guide contains all the necessary information not only for beginners but also experienced musicians. These factors make the X8 Drums djembe set a clear winner on our list.