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This article is about the Mande bass drum. For the West African talking drum, see Dundun.

A Dunun (also known as dundun, doundoun, or djun-djun) is the generic name for a family of West African Bass drums that developed alongside the Djembe in the Mande drum ensemble. It is not to be confused with the Yoruba name of the West African Dundun, also called dundun, but a completely different instrument. More specifically, there are three named the kenkeni (smallest), sangban (medium) and doundounba (largest). The kenkeni has the highest pitch and usually holds the rhythm together with a simple pattern. The sangban typically has a more complex part which defines the rhythm. The doundounba often serves to add depth with deep, widely spaced notes. These drums provide a rhythmic and melodic base for the djembe ensemble.


Doundounba from The Gambia


The dunun is a double headed, cylindrical drum typically made of a wood shell (although metal and fiberglass shells exist) and cowhide heads (although, some have goat-skin heads). The heads are held on with rope and often steel rings.


The dunun is claimed by the various Mande groups to have originated in the 9th Century Mali along with the Djembe, among the Mandinka peoples. Both are instruments primarily of the region that includes Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, which all have significant Mandé populations.


There are two primary playing styles for dununs. The traditional style has each player using a single drum resting on its side, either on the floor or on a stand, and striking the head with one stick and a bell mounted on top with the other. A melody is created across the interplay of the three dununs. For the other style, known as ballet style as it is used in the National Ballets, one player has command of the three dununs standing on the floor. Playing like this allows a more complex arrangement for the dance.

There are wide variations on how the dunun is played throughout West Africa. In Mali the

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y are sometimes played with just one dunun and a bell that is held in the hand. In some regions of Guinea the dunun is played with no bells, or only two dunun are played. In Hamanah all three dunun with bells are played. The influence of Mamady Keïta, Famoudou Konaté, Mohamed Diaby, Bolokada Conde, and others from Guinea have contributed to the spreading of the three dunun style of playing.

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