Imported African Drum Safety

Thank you for your interest and concern about recent and past reports of Anthrax linked to African drums or African animal skins. Like you, we are interested in the health of our community and our customers, so we are committed to a transparent dialogue to educate and inform. At we take measures to ensure that our customers are never in danger of contracting any illness as a result of purchasing or playing our drums.

First, the facts...

Click here to read facts about Anthrax from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The disease is carried in infected animals around the world (including Africa and the United States), and can only be transmitted to humans through consumption of infected meat or coming into direct contract with infected animal products, such as hides. So while it is conceivable in theory that a goat or cow skin used in building the African drums we import from five African countries could have anthrax, it is extremely unlikely.

We who handle the drums on a daily basis are not concerned. Here is why:

  • Anthrax in humans isn't very common in the West African countries where our drums are made. Human infection is almost always a localized result of eating the carcass of an infected animal that died suddenly.
  • Infection of domesticated animals raised for the purpose of human consumption is extremely rare, including cows and goats, which provide the skins used on our drums. We never use hides from wild animals.
  • We deal with hide dealers who know the sources of their skins, who are aware of the need for infection-free hides for the drum market, and who use good practice in selecting their skin suppliers.
  • There is a multi-layer handling progression before the drum ever gets to us or our customers. If at any point along this progression somebody falls ill from handling a skin, the people next in the progression would know about it, and would not be exposed to the infected skins. In other words, there is no way you could get a drum from us that is infected, because of all of these other hands that have handled your drum before you:
    • Animal owners/handlers who have close contact with the live animals
    • Animal harvesters who prepare animals for the meat or products market
    • Hide workers who preapare fresh hides by fleshing, cleaning, and drying
    • Hide dealers who sell prepared hides to various buyers, including drum builders
    • Drum builders who clean with disinfectants, shave, and install hides on drums (see photos below)
    • Drum exporters who handle drum in preparation for export to drum markets world wide
    • Drum importers ( who handle drums in preparation for sale to consumers, including unpacking, tuning, playing, and repacking
    • And finally... drum players who buy drums to improve their quality of life by playing them however they want!
  • All of our drums from Ghana are laboratory tested for Anthrax before being exported to the United States (see samples below). Every shipment is delivered to the inspector who takes samples from the skins, and provides a certificate showing the skins are clean and ready for export. Other countries also have measures in place to prevent the export of any contaminated products.

Additional Anthrax Testing

If you wish to pay to have your drum tested for Anthrax by a laboratory in your area, we would recommend contacting your state health department, and reading the following article by the CDC regarding Anthrax testing.

As always, we welcome your feedback and inquiries. Feel free to Contact us anytime. We hope the above information is helpful to you, and that you feel confident that...

You can continue to purchase and play your African drums from without fear of contracting Anthrax or any other disease!

Happy Drumming!

The Djembe Direct Team


Below is a sample of the Anthrax inspection certificates from two of our recent shipments, imported direct from Africa:

Photos of some of our friends in Africa who handle African drums and skins every day: