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Matthew Clark
Matthew Clark

Darbuka: The Goblet-Shaped Drum of the Middle East and North Africa


Darbuka: A Fascinating Percussion Instrument from the Middle East




If you are looking for a new musical instrument to learn, you might want to consider the darbuka, a goblet-shaped drum that is widely played in Islamic classical and folk music throughout North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The darbuka is a versatile instrument that can be used in a variety of musical genres, from traditional folk music to contemporary pop and rock. Learning to play the darbuka can be an inspiring experience because it allows you to connect with a rich cultural heritage and history, develop a deep sense of rhythm and musicality, improve your hand-eye coordination and motor skills, engage in a meditative and therapeutic practice, and connect with a community of musicians and performers.




darbuka


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In this article, we will explore the many aspects of the darbuka, such as its history, types, playing techniques, and benefits. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about this amazing instrument. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what makes the darbuka so special and how you can start learning it today.


History of Darbuka




The darbuka is an ancient drum that has been played for thousands of years in various cultures around the world. The name "darbuka" most likely came from the word daraba, which means "to strike" in Arabic.[^1] Goblet drums have been around for thousands of years and were used in Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian cultures. They were also seen in Babylonia and Sumer from as early as 1100 BCE.[^2] On Sulawesi, large goblet drums are used as temple instruments and placed on the floor when played, which may reflect ancient use of the drum.[^3]


The geographical origin of the modern darbuka is Egypt, Turkey, and Armenia, although it became very popular throughout the oriental music market in many different countries. According to academic circles, its origins trace back to three percussion instruments played in the Arab world during the Middle Ages: Darij, Kuba, and Kabar. Many iconographic elements testify to the existence of these instruments in ancient Egypt, from the Middle Kingdom, as well as Babylon.[^4] The Mesopotamian, Anatolian, and central Asian civilizations also played similar instruments. Drums with its current goblet shape have also been found in Spain, a legacy of the Al Andalus period.[^5]


Traditionally, the body of the darbuka was made from materials like clay or wood and the head was made from fish skin or goat skin stretched over the top rim. Modern darbukas are made with metal bodies (typically from cast iron or aluminium) and plastic (synthetic) heads.[^6] The darbuka was popularized as part of the world music genre after its first appearance in western music in the mid 20th century. French composer Hector Berlioz was the first to feature a goblet drum within a western music composition, in his opera Les Troyen.[^7] Later on, the darbuka was used alongside a string orchestra by Halim El-Dabh in his Symphonic Suite (1932). Types of Darbuka




There are different types of darbuka that vary in shape, size, material, and sound. Some of the common types include the Egyptian darbuka, the Turkish darbuka, the Oriental darbuka, and the Arabian darbuka. One needs to be sure of the kind of darbuka they want. Picking the correct one is as important as playing it.[^1]


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The Egyptian darbuka is also known as tabla and is very popular. It has rounded edges around the head, which makes it easier to play fast rolls and finger snaps. The body is usually made of cast iron or aluminium and the head is made of synthetic material. The sound is deep and warm, with a clear distinction between the doum and the tek.[^2]


The Turkish darbuka is also known as dumbek and has a more elongated shape than the Egyptian one. It exposes the edge of the head, which allows for closer access to the head and more variations in sound. The body is usually made of copper, brass, or aluminium and the head is made of fish skin or synthetic material. The sound is bright and crisp, with a high-pitched tek and a sharp slap.[^2]


The Oriental darbuka is a hybrid between the Egyptian and the Turkish ones. It has a slightly exposed edge around the head, which gives it more flexibility in sound. The body is usually made of aluminium or ceramic and the head is made of synthetic material. The sound is balanced and rich, with a powerful doum and a clear tek.[^2]


The Arabian darbuka is also known as zarb or tumbak and has a wider shape than the other types. It has no edge around the head, which makes it more comfortable to play. The body is usually made of clay or wood and the head is made of goat skin or synthetic material. The sound is warm and mellow, with a low-pitched doum and a soft tek.[^2]


The following table summarizes some of the main differences between these types of darbuka:


Type Shape Edge Body Head Sound --- --- --- --- --- --- Egyptian Rounded Rounded Cast iron or aluminium Synthetic Deep and warm Turkish Elongated Exposed Copper, brass, or aluminium Fish skin or synthetic Bright and crisp Oriental Intermediate Slightly exposed Aluminium or ceramic Synthetic Balanced and rich Arabian Wide None Clay or wood Goat skin or synthetic Warm and mellow Playing Techniques of Darbuka




To play the darbuka, you need to learn how to hold and position the drum, how to produce different sounds with your hands, and how to read drumming tabs and play common rhythms.


First, you need to hold and position the drum correctly. There are different ways to do this, depending on your preference and comfort. One common way is to hold the drum under your non-dominant arm (for example, if you are right-handed, hold it under your left arm) and rest it on your leg while sitting. You can also place it sideways on your lap while sitting, with the head towards your knees. Make sure that the drum is stable and that you can reach all parts of the head with your hands.[^4]


Next, you need to learn how to produce different sounds with your hands. There are four basic strokes that you can use: doum, tek, ka, and slap.[^4] [^5]


  • Doum is the low-pitched sound that you make by hitting the center of the head with your dominant hand (for example, if you are right-handed, use your right hand). You can use your palm or your fingers to make this sound.



  • Tek is the high-pitched sound that you make by hitting the edge of the head with your dominant hand. You can use your index finger or your middle finger to make this sound.



  • Ka is similar to tek but you use your non-dominant hand (for example, if you are right-handed, use your left hand). You can also hit slightly closer to the center than tek.



  • Slap is a loud and sharp sound that you make by hitting the edge of the head with your dominant hand while keeping your fingers together and slightly bent. You can use your whole hand or just your fingers to make this sound.



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