The jembe (pronounced 'jem-beh') is the goblet shaped drum used by the Maninke people of western Africa since around 1300.
It emerged out of the greatness of the Malian Empire, King Sunjata, and the Mandingo people, who by the 14th century controlled most of the western bulge of Africa.
The blacksmiths (the numu) first made it; playing it only during the smelting of iron ore. The drum has endured and evolved and is now a large part of daily life in present day Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
Social occasions each have their own songs and dances, sung by the griot, or storyteller, accompanied by drummers, singers and dancers. Songs tell of great leaders, like the powerful king Sunjata, or praise certain professions, like the cobblers or hunters.
The jembe is primarily the instrument of dance used at marriages, baptisms, funerals, circumcisions and excisions. Songs are also played during the ploughing, sowing and the harvest, used for courtship rituals and even to settle disputes among the men of the village.
In a typical ensemble, two jembes and a dunun player accompany the griot, or traditional storyteller. Women sing and clap hands, while moving in and out of the circle, showing off their skill as dancers. The jembe master or soloist, given the title of jembefola, leads the pace of the dance, increasing the tempo when good dancers enter the circle. A single song is played for most occasions, usually lasting a few hours. ......source: afodrumming.com