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The making of World Slap Djembes

Written by Tom Wild03/07/24

Following the success of the Percussion Plus first Slap Djembe range, a new generation featuring a fresh, multicultural design is on the way – World Slap Djembes.

While they retain several popular features of the original Carnival range, including the instructive ‘how to play’ printed drumheads together with an impressive range of sizes, a raft of improvements in material and design have been made.

The world-leading djembe factory

The World Slap Djembe range is now manufactured in the world’s foremost djembe-making facility in Bali, Indonesia. Already in partnership with a number of major percussion companies like Toca, Meinl and Pearl, the factory owns a number of global patents relating to djembes, including one for the manufacturing of drums from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC):

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) - the world's third-most widely produced synthetic polymer of plastic. It is known for its durability, versatility, and cost-effectiveness and is widely used in the construction industry for pipes, doors, roofing and more.

Unsurprisingly, drums made from PVC are particularly robust, which is a major attraction for Percussion Plus. With its instructive drumhead design and vibrant, inclusive design, the World Slap Djembe range is very much geared towards education settings.

Therefore, it’s crucial that the drums are sturdy enough to survive a few knocks, and that they remain resonant in the long term to ensure that money spent by schools goes as far as possible. PVC is very lightweight too, making the drums easier to carry around for even the youngest pupils, and they’re also fitted with a rubber ring base to act against slippage.

  • Rope tuned, where the head is pulled for tension using ropes in a skilled hand-crafting process seen in the image below.
  • Pre-tuned, where the heads are stretched and then kept resolutely in place by safe, industrial strength glue

The drum heads are made from synthetic 'Fiberskin', a biodegradable, water resistant material which is optimised against breakage, stretching and changes in humidity. In contrast to natural (animal) skin, the use of synthetic material for drum heads offers clear ethical benefits by avoiding animal harm and providing a more sustainable production process. Additionally, synthetic materials present significant allergenic advantages by being hypoallergenic, easier to maintain, and resistant to allergens in general. These factors make synthetic drum heads a preferable choice for many musicians and ethically conscious consumers, especially given the similarities in feel and sound between the two types.

Bringing the design to life

Djembes originated as community instruments in West Africa and have featured decorative elements for most of their history. Naturally then, it’s important that Percussion Plus’ djembes feature an interesting, vibrant and high-quality finish. The World Slap Djembes are coated with a rayon fabric cloth wrap, painted with the ‘World’ design on the body. Safeguarded with a clear acrylic emulsion coating, the design really pops off the body, with the deep blue oceanic background underscoring a world map with many flags providing extra bursts of colour. The ability to consistently capture the look so intricately and vividly is a testament to the production process.

Rigorous quality control

The World Slap Djembes are subject to intensive quality control. Crucially, they only use materials from reputable, registered suppliers approved by the Indonesian government. This ensures that they are starting from a strong place in terms of quality standards. All processes have been honed by the factory; for more than 25 years of manufacturing drums - for many of the world’s biggest brands - they have evolved to work in an efficient, streamlined manner. Percussion Plus had the opportunity to visit the Bali factory themselves, overseeing the manufacturing of the instruments with great satisfaction. Finally, quality control experts are employed on site to inspect each drum before sign-off, further reducing the chances of not only a bad batch, but any faulty djembes at all!

Sustainable practices

Along with using sustainable manufacturing processes, including disposing of and conserving waste in proper fashion, Percussion Plus work with their partners to ensure that they’re saving on shipping space, fuel usage and reducing their carbon footprint. For example, with the World Slap Djembes, several of the packs are made up in the factories themselves before shipping, improving efficiency to provide a more suitable and sustainable offering for education buyers.

A Percussion Plus spokesperson said of the production process:

“For our new World Slap Djembe range, we have partnered with the world-leading djembe factory. Based in Bali, the airy factory is set against an idyllic rural backdrop where highly skilled specialist craftspeople produce djembes for all the top brands in the business.”

Arriving in the UK in late July 2024, World Slap Djembes are available to pre-order now in pre-tuned and rope tuned styles, both in a variety of sizes. Multi-player packs crafted specifically for different levels of playing are also available, all including the award-winning educational book, Andy Gleadhill’s Slap Djembe.