Tambacounda is a crossroads in West Africa. It is a major train stop between Dakar, Senegal and Bamako, Mali. The city of Tambacounda has a population of approximately 100,000 and is an ethnic mix of Bambara/Bamana and Pulaar, with a significant Wolof population. The region of Tambacounda, formerly known as Senegal Orientale, used to be part of the Mali Empire before the borders were created to separate Mali from Senegal. Tambacounda is physically the largest of Senegal's 11 regions, but is sparsely populated and its economy lags behind the rest of the country.
Tambacounda is famous for its rich djembe and dance culture and heritage. Some of the greatest djembe masters from Segu, Mali came to Tambacounda in the mid 1900's, bringing with them their history, knowledge, and secrets of the djembe. It is believed by many Bamana people that the diaspora of the djembe began here after being brought out of secrecy. The diaspora of the djembe also took place because there were too many djembe masters in Tambacounda at that time, pressuring some to move on to different towns or countries.
In light of its rich cultural heritage and location, Tambacounda is today known as djembe "proving ground", since one never knows who might be passing through town. This has had the effect of keeping the local djembe players on their toes, by playing exactly as tradition dictates. Even in the face of globalization, the djembe playing has remained remarkably traditional in Tambacounda.