What to do with the rest of the goat? Find your beat in West Africa (w/ poll)

Want to get up and dance? Shake a little soul onto the dance floor? Come, let’s find the beat, West African-style… with the Djembe, the drum of choice.

Use it or lose it:

The top of the drum is spread tightly with goat skin. Loads of goat meat is consumed in West Africa, often wrapped in banana leaves [recipe] or stewed, so making a djembe with the skin is a fantastic way to use the whole animal, not just the meat. As my mom always said, “waste not, want not.”

Say what?

The goats in West Africa live a tough, tough existence which, in turn, makes their skin tougher…. which, in turn, makes the drum sound different than djembes in other regions.


I like to scour the net for people who have traveled, who can give me a picture of the foreign lands I can only dream about. Today I’d like to share with you two descriptions of dance in Guinea and Guinea Bissau… descriptions that I found inspirational. That made me want to move. Shake. And shimmy.

Words about Guinea

I will miss dance…the dancing is full on, jaw dropping, magnificently strong and powerful, hot and fierce, full of passion and emotion like nothing I’ve ever seen…I find myself desperately missing the freedom of dancing, the way you lose yourself in the rhythm of the djembe, and the tenacity displayed by our talented teachers…

(via Erin Jane’s travel blog)

Words about Guinea-Bissau

It was really lively dance, not even closely resembling anything I’ve seen in life or in National Geographic. Amazing, they had a fire at first but then they were dancing so wildly through and around the fire that the stamped it out with their bare feet.

(via Alexander’s travel blog)

Photos: Jos van Zetten, ZSM


  1. I love street dancing and tango. I had the time of my life in Spain, a fiesta on the street with people of all ages every other night. And in Paris, la fete de la musique, the streets packed full and people dancing all night. Bliss! I don’t like ‘formal’ dancing, or rather, like to watch it but not for me, thanks, I don’t like being watched on a stage. I was a bit disappointed when I signed up for a class of African dances at the Uni and it turned out to be a modern dance class with a few ‘African’ (?) elements. Sigh. I should find someone from Guinea and teach my teacher a few things.

    • I got my BA at Wesleyan University in CT and there was a West African drumming class and they would perform out on the lawn with the corresponding dance class. It was so exciting and beautiful – I was always so “drawn in” to the music… that is one class I wish I had had the time to take.

  2. Jessica Bennett says

    I went to the Baltimore School for the Arts for high school and was a dance major. A few times a year, we took African class. I was so not good at it (my body just doesn’t move that way), but I absolutely loved the music and the rhythms and watching the people who were good at it. One time we learned a song that went with the dance we learned. It was a welcoming song/dance- that was a lot of fun.

    • I love how different dances have different meanings – it’s not just an expression of the body, but a message too. So lovely.

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