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Blog / West Africa

Silver Jewelry with Meaning - The Tuaregs of Agadez

Among the nomadic Tuareg people of northern Africa, jewelry has meaning. After all, a nomadic people have little incentive to cart loads of trendy, meaningless paraphernalia. Livestock and vehicles traversing untamed, inhospitable terrain of the Sahara desert require thoughtful consideration before adding to the loads they bear. Therefore, the items the Tuareg often serve multiple purposes--and that includes jewelry.
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The Increasing Popularity of Drumfests Around the World

Drums have been around since the dawn of time. They are deeply rooted in history, spirituality, tribal ceremonies, and, of course, music. Every culture has a unique drumming history. Many primitive cultures used drums to celebrate battle victories and for rituals. Others used drums for worship as well as for music. The drum permeates the history of many cultures.

In recent years, we have experienced a resurgence in the use of drums in popular music. Unique drums from around the world create new and collaborative music that mesh modern music with the drum beats of the past. The popularity of drums has led to the rise in growth in the number of drum festivals and ceremonies held around the world each year.

African Drum Culture: About the Djembe Drum

One of the many popular types of drums is the Wassoulou percussion Djembe drum. With West African roots, these drums are made from dried and very dense heartwood from Mali – giving the drum its unique sound quality. The name “Djembe” (meaning “everyone gathers together in peace”) is symbolic of how the drum was used in African culture. The Djembe drum is able to create a number of sounds, making it a popular instrument for modern day musicians looking to add new dimensions to their music. Its goblet style look also makes it very collectible as it can easily double as a décor item in any room of your home or office.

Drum Festivals Around the World

Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of drum festivals held globally, many of which occur in Canada. Drum festivals attract thousands of people from all walks of life, bring together many different cultures, and offer the unique experience of being able to see people of all cultures drumming and dancing to an inspirational beat. Some of the styles of music you will experience at a drum festival include:
  • Ivory Coast
  • Afro-Cuban
  • Afro-Brazilian
  • West African
  • Calypso
  • Chinese Waist Drumming
  • Brazilian Samba Reggae
  • Jamaican Reggae

What's the Drum Festival experience?

Fun - lots of fun. Great music, too! Drum festivals attract people of all ages. They celebrate international music and the art of drumming and its role in history. The goal is to bring together multiple cultures and create a common sense of community. Here is what you can expect:
  • Learning circles and educational workshops about drumming and dancing
  • Music demonstrations from musicians around the world
  • Interactive performances and the opportunity to try out these unique instruments
  • Exhibitors and artists displaying unique cultural items
  • Drum-offs and performances from world renowned drummers and musicians

Popular Drumfests Around the World

You are in luck if you are interested in checking out a drum festival. Popular drums fests held in Canada include: There are also many other smaller community drum festivals that are held each year, so be sure to keep an eye on your community events calendar. International drum festivals include:
  • The London Drum Show
  • MEINL Drum Festival
  • Seoul Drum Festival

Ready to experience the history of the drum? Want to experience wonderful cultural music from around the world? Check out a Drum Fest and get moving to the beat of your own drum.

The Holiday Gift Giving season is fast upon us!

For unique and interesting gift ideas for all your friends and family. Use our interactive map tool to shop all five regions of the African continent

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The Mandingo of Sub-Saharan Africa

Referred to as Mandingo, Mandinka or Malinke, the Mandingo represent one of the largest ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Based primarily in West Africa, the population of Mandingo peoples is about 11 million. Spread across Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Cost, Chad and Niger, the Mandingo are thought to have links with the ancient Central Saharan lineage. Mandingo is a branch of the Mandé, which also includes ethno-lingual groups such as the Bozo, Bambara, Kpelle and Ligbi. 

The Mandingo people are purported to be descendants of the Mali Empire (1230 A.D. to 1600 A.D.) Some scholars think the Mandingo's roots go back even further - to the legendary ancient city of Djenné-Djenno (3rd century B.C.) The Mali Empire was established in the Senegambia region, deep in the heartland of West Africa. It is believed that they migrated there in the search for better agricultural lands and to expand their territory. More than half of the tribal group converted to Islam (from their indigenous pantheist belief structure) after reaching West Africa. Sadly, although the Mandingo people existed very nicely with the other settlers in the region, in the 15th century, Westerners arrived looking for human labour. The desire for farmland and the Industrial Revolution contributed to a period of slavery for the Mandingo.
Unfortunately, many Mandingo merchants were themselves involved in the transatlantic slave trade. It is difficult to understand, but many Mandingo were sold as slaves by their own people! As a result of the despicable slave trade, more than a third of the Mandingo population was sent to the Americas. This is why a large number of African-American people residing in the United States today are descendents of the Mandingo. The Mandingo culture is both spiritual and musical. Griots are well-known for their "praise singing" in which they tell stories, sing songs and proverbs. They are the keepers of oral tradition spanning centuries. Take a look at the video we've included below. This is a fascinating recounting by Imiuswi Aborigine ~ Prince Diabata - a griot musician from West Africa - of the history of the griot legacy and their long traditional of oral history.


Music also includes drumming and playing a unique instrument, called the "Kora", which has 21 strings and is made by hollowing out half of a large gourd and covering it with cow or goat skin. It looks pretty complex to us!

Clan society is patriarchal with many people living in family compounds in rural areas. The Mandingo have a natural bent for seeking autonomy and self-rule, incorporating leadership by a chief and a group of village elders. Their homes are largely centered along trade routes built by merchants known as "Dyulas", who supervise the overland, coastal and inland trading. Trading in rice, groundnuts (peanuts), corn and millet along with animals, the economy is labor-intensive.

Traditionally, marriages are arranged, particularly in rural areas. The family of the potential groom sends a gift of kola nuts to the male elders of the family of the potential bride. If the gift is accepted by the family of the bride, the courtship is then allowed to begin. Since their pre-Islamic days, the Mandingo have practiced polygamy, allowing a man to have up to four wives - only if he is able to care for each wife equally. The first wife has authority over subsequent wives and wives are expected to live communally, sharing responsibilities like cooking, laundry and house-keeping. The Mandingo people have an interesting history that can be traced back many centuries. Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary General is of Mandingo ancestry. Don't miss any of our articles, blogs, updates or recipes! Sign up for email updates.

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