What makes the djembe stand out is a) its uniquely wide range of tones and timbres, and b) its lore. That’s right — djembes are steeped in lore and tradition. Djembe players are even given a special name, called a djembefola, while a solo is called a djembekan. Nobody is quite certain where the name djembe came from, but the instrument is thought to be between 400 and 800 years old and the Bamana people of Mali hold that its name comes from their saying, “Anke dje, anke be” — which translates to “everyone gather together in peace”.
Much of what’s popular today — from Mark Ronson to Kendrick Lamar to Anderson .Paak to Bruno Mars to Cardi B — seems to owe much of its funky swagger to James Brown’s crowd-pleasing, smile-inducing live recordings. Brown would go on to record several other live performances at the Apollo for decades to come. The appreciation for a well-orchestrated show with a god-like frontman singing songs that they themself wrote was increased tenfold by this album, leading to the success of other songwriter-performers such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Nirvana.