Djembe Sankofa


African Pro Large Djembe Drum - 13" SANKOFA


  • Handcrafted in Ghana, Africa
  • Weight: 13 lbs.
  • Head: 13"
  • Height: 24"
  • Double rings for maximum gripability
  • Professional Sound Quality
  • Premium Goat Skin Head
  • One-piece Mahogany solid shell construction
  • Strong, durable, low stretch braided nylon


LIST PRICE: $299.00

The symbol of the Sankofa represents the importance of learning from the past.
It literally means "return and get it".


I received this imported Djembe drum, made in Ghana, Africa, from Sil Johnson of the African Drum Store in Memphis, TN while Sill was visiting in Nashville. I inquired about reviewing one of his drums, to which Sil agreed, so I picked a drum from the two Djembes he had with him at the time. Here's what I found ...

Construction / Workmanship: The shell's construction is one piece of solid mahogany wood, which makes a real (positive) difference in sound quality of a Djembe. It's not uncommon to find cheap/inexpensive Djembes made from two separate pieces where the bowl and the throat/stem are glued together to form one piece. This drum appears to be carved and well shaped although the drum shell is thick (1"-1.25"), and the interior is irregular and splintered. I was hoping this Djembe would have been finished out more ... giving it a thinner, smooth interior. The actual diameter of the head is actually closer to 12.5" rather than 13" ... but close enough.

The decorative hand carvings, which are more common with tourist instruments, is nice ... but not over done. The mahogany shell was nicely oiled inside and out; an important ingredient to keep the shell from drying out and/or cracking.

The knotting is well-down with double rings, giving the drum a greater potential for staying in tune. The braided nylon cord was in fairly good condition with a few sections of frayed cord. The goat skin drumhead was in good shape and seated well on the drum's bearing edge.

Sound: I was pleased with the sounds I got from this Djembe, even though the drumhead itself wasn't as tight as I might like. A serious traditional player would want the head a lot tighter ... table top tight. But even with this medium, yet firm, tension the bass tones (Ghun/Dhun) were big, deep and full. The open tones (Go/Do) were nice, a bit too much overtone for my liking, but that is easily taken care of by increasing the tension on the head. The slaps (Pa/Ta) were good and crisp, easy to execute. They could have been crisper with less overtone for my liking, but this again can be solved by tuning the drum up higher.

Overall: I'm pleased with this Djembe. It's far better than any tourista or two-piece Djembe drum that I've ever seen or played on before. I wouldn't rank this drum's sound up there with one of Babatunde Olatunji's drums, an Ivory Coast Djembe, which I played on while studying wth him years ago, or my LP Galaxy (bolt-tensioned) Djembe, which is a stave drum. But this African Pro Large Djembe - 13" SANKOFA drum is what it is ... a very nice sounding, well-made, fairly inexpensive instrument. To get a hand-made imported Djembe of higher quality and better sound, be prepared to pay twice as much as this drum's list price ... if not more!

I think this Djembe would make a nice drum for a beginner to intermediate player ... even a professional drummer or percussionist. If you specialize in West African drumming, sure, this drum probably won't meet your standards, but if you are looking for a nice instrument to add to your collection, and you don't want to break the bank ... this just might be the drum for you!

At the time of this review, the African Drum Store is offering this very drum for $239.95 plus free shipping to anywhere in the continental US. That's a savings of about $100 when you figure in the free shipping. These are NOT imported drums from Indonesia or China; these instruments are hand-made in West Africa ... hand picked and selected by Sil Johnson himself (who is definitely very strict with quality control). I personally believe in Sil and his company to the point that I chose to have the Drummer Cafe become an affiliate. Now you can purchase Djembes, Djun Djun, Kpanlogo, Talking Drums and Shekeres from the African Drum Store through the Drummer Cafe ... and support this website in the process!