Friction

A friction drum is a musical instrument found in various forms throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. In Europe it emerged in the 16th century and was associated with specific religious and ceremonial occasions.

In Europe the rommelpot friction drum is called [in Belgian: Rommelpot, in German: Brummtopf or Rummelpott, in Danish: rummelpot or rumlepot]. The rommelpot or foekepot whose alternate second name foekepot is probably meant to me onomatopoeic. 

The Rommelpot is featured in several paintings by Dutch painters, including “Two Boys and a Girl Making Music by Jan Miense Molenaer 1629, held at the National Gallery in London and the Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel in 1559, held in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.

This tradition is found in Northern Germany, Netherlands on the island of IJsselmonde where up until the 1950s it was tradition to perform from house to house singing, New Year’s Eve songs to the rhythmic accompaniment of the rommelpot. This tradition is still present in North Holland, on the feast of St. Martin. In Brabant. 

In France [Tambour à friction and local names including brau, bramadèra, brama-topin, petador, pinhaton in the south]: In Hungary the rommelpot is called a köcsögduda [jughorn or jugpipe]. In Portugal: Sarronca.

In Romania [buhai; meaning “ox”]: it is made from a wooden tub or bucket at both ends with animal skin tightened over the top and pierced in the middle for a horsehair “oxtail”. This instrument is traditionally played in a New Year’s ritual called plugușorul [“the little plough”]. The instrument is rubbed with a wet hand producing a sound of oxen mooing when pulling the ploughing.

In Russia [Гусачок or гусёк gusachyok or gusyok]: The rommelpot is a constant staple of homemade musical instruments that are played by children on New Year’s Eve. 

In Slovenia [Lončeni bas lit. pottery bass] it is also called gudalo or vugaš. The instrument is a clay pot, generally between 20 cm and 40 cm tall, covered with skin or parchment and with a resin-coated hardwood stick of similar length tied in the center.

In Spain: [in Spanish: zambomba]: This friction drum can be made from a variety of materials and rubbed either with a rod or with rope. It is particularly associated with Christmas, when it used to accompany the singing of carols.

In Malta [ir-rabbaba or iz-zafzafa]: The instrument consists of a tin, wood or clay body with a stretched membrane of cat, goat or rabbit skin which has a stick tied in the centre. The stick is rubbed with a wet sponge.

In Ukraine: [in Ukrainian: бугай lit. buhay] it is also known as bugai, buhai, berebenytsia, bika, buga, bochka. This instrument was traditionally used as part of New Year’s and Christmas rituals. It is included in Ukrainian folk orchestras. Local variants can also be found in Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Lithuania.

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