Weedie Braimah leads this lesson on djembe drumming traditions at Preservation Hall. In this lesson, students will be introduced to the djembe drum, oral traditions, and the ways in which the djembe is used in West African cultural celebrations and ceremonies.

Djembe Traditions

GRADE: 3-5, 6-8
GENRE: African Drumming
TOPIC: Djembe
DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson, students will be introduced to the djembe drum, oral traditions, and the ways in which the djembe is used in West African cultural celebrations and ceremonies.



  • Visually identify a djembe as a West African drum. 
  • Name celebrations and ceremonies that utilize djembe music in Africa.
  • Discuss and relate their own experiences with oral traditions and musical traditions through an art form.



National Core Arts Standards

Music Anchor Standard 11 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding. 

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.



Teachers should familiarize themselves with djembe traditions by previewing the videos and lesson plan prior to instruction. 





  1. Tell students they are going to watch a Djembe Drum Demonstration by Weedie Braimah. In the video, Mr. Braimah is shown demonstrating a rhythm on the djembe drum inside of Preservation Hall in New Orleans. 


  1. Have a follow-up discussion with students. Ask: What emotions do you feel when listening to the song? What emotions do you imagine Mr. Braimah might be feeling? Replay the video if necessary. 


  1. Show students a map of West Africa, the birthplace of the djembe drum. Mr. Braimah is going to share the history and origins of the drum in the video, About the Djembe.


  1. Tell students that Mr. Braimah has talked about the importance of djembe music in celebrating traditions from naming ceremonies to rites of passage. Ask students to discuss ways their families and friends use music as a part of celebrations, from playing special holiday songs, to having a live band or DJ for events.



  1. Tell students they will be watching a video, How are Djembe Traditions Passed Along?, in which Mr. Braimah will talk about djembe traditions and oral traditions in general.


  1. Tell students that this is an example of oral traditions and that they have already learned songs through oral tradition. Have the class recall songs like the “ABCs,” “Happy Birthday,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or any other common song as a group to show them that they have learned in this same manner of oral traditions.



  1. Have students relate and express a personal tradition through one of the following choices:
    • Create a comic strip timeline representing your family passing down a tradition from generation to generation.
    • Create a family reunion flier.
    • Photograph three generations of family and write an artist statement (2-3 sentences describing the people in the photos and their relationship to one another).
    • Choreograph a traditional dance with classmates.
    • Host an “Oral Traditions Campfire.” Have students write a short story about a family tradition. Encourage a few students to share their stories around the “campfire” using expression and voice.
    • Sing or play a traditional song from your family or culture.


  1. Have students share their family tradition work with the class. Take a moment to have them reflect on what Mr. Braimah taught them about djembe traditions. Ask: Why are oral traditions and music traditions important to family and culture? How is the djembe drum used in cultural celebrations and ceremonies?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Weedie Braimah, African Drumming Teaching Artist
Produced by Preservation Hall Foundation



Animated GIFs