“‘Imagined Balkans’ meets ‘imagined Africa’: the contemporary practice of jembe drumming in Serbia” by Iva Nenić

“‘Imagined Balkans’ meets ‘imagined Africa’: the contemporary practice of jembe drumming in Serbia” by Iva Nenić (2022) provides a fascinating examination of the djembe’s role in fostering cross-cultural connections, focusing on its reception and integration into Serbian music culture. Nenić explores how the djembe, a West African drum, has transcended geographical and cultural boundaries to become a symbol of universality and spirituality, connecting seemingly disparate musical traditions and ideologies.

Cross-Cultural Musical Fusion:

Nenić outlines how Serbian musicians and enthusiasts have embraced the djembe, integrating its rhythmic patterns into the local music scene. This integration reflects a broader trend of global musical fusion, where instruments and styles from different cultures are blended to create new, hybrid forms of musical expression. The djembe, with its rich tonal palette and versatility, has found a place in a variety of settings, from traditional Serbian music ensembles to contemporary bands and community drum circles.

Djembe as a Symbol of Universalism:

The study delves into the narratives surrounding the djembe in Serbia, highlighting how players and audiences often associate the instrument with universal values of unity, spirituality, and the shared human experience. This perception is partly fueled by the romanticized notion of Africa as the cradle of humanity and rhythm, a place where music connects people to their primal roots and to each other. Through the lens of the djembe, Nenić illustrates how music transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, serving as a universal language that fosters mutual understanding and respect.

Nostalgia and Cultural Identity:

Nenić also touches on the aspect of nostalgia in the Serbian context, where the djembe‘s rhythms evoke a longing for a simpler, more communal way of life. This nostalgia is intertwined with a search for cultural identity in the face of globalization and the homogenization of cultural expressions. The djembe becomes a conduit for exploring and affirming Serbian and Balkan identities, connecting them to broader global narratives while celebrating the uniqueness of local traditions.

Educational and Social Implications:

The paper discusses the educational value of the djembe in Serbia, emphasizing its role in promoting cultural diversity and inclusivity. Through workshops, performances, and community events centered around the djembe, participants gain insights into African music and culture, challenging stereotypes and fostering a deeper appreciation for the richness of the world’s musical heritage. These activities also highlight the potential of music as a tool for social cohesion, bringing together people from different backgrounds to share in the joy of making music.


“Iva Nenić’s ‘Imagined Balkans’ meets ‘imagined Africa’: the contemporary practice of jembe drumming in Serbia” (2022) underscores the powerful role of the djembe drum in bridging cultures and fostering cross-cultural dialogue. Through the prism of djembe drumming practices in Serbia, the study showcases the drum’s ability to transcend its African origins, becoming a global symbol of unity, spirituality, and the universal appeal of rhythm. Nenić’s work contributes to the growing body of literature on global musical exchanges and the importance of preserving and promoting cultural diversity through the arts.

This exploration into the cross-cultural dynamics of djembe drumming not only enriches our understanding of music’s role in shaping cultural identities but also serves as a reminder of the connective power of the arts in an increasingly fragmented world. The djembe’s journey from West Africa to the Balkans exemplifies the transformative potential of music to foster global solidarity and mutual appreciation among diverse cultures.