Dumbek

Name: Dumbek.
Type: Membranophones > Drums > Goblet.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 211.26
Country: Many.
Region: Middle East & North Africa.

Description: The dumbek [or chalice drum, tarabuka, tarabaki, darbuka, derbake, debuka, doumbek, dumbec, dumbeg, dumbelek, tabla, tablah, tableh, toumperleki or zerbaghali]. In Egyptian Arabic: دربوكة‎ / ALA-LC: darbūkah] is a single head membranophone with a goblet shaped body used mostly in Egypt, also in parts of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe. The African djembe-wassalou is also a goblet membranophone.

Etymology: The origin of the Egyptian Arabic term Darbuka probably lies in the Arabic word “daraba” [“to strike”]. They have been around for thousands of years, used in Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian cultures. Goblet drums were seen in Babylonia and Sumer, from as early as 1100 BCE. On the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia there exists, one large form serves as a temple instrument. Set on the floor when performed, which could be a survival of the ancient use of the drum.

There are two main types of goblet drums. The Egyptian style, Darbuka; also known as Tabla and is very popular, it has rounded edges around the head, whereas the Turkish style exposes the edge of the head. The exposed edge allows closer access to the head so finger-snapping techniques can be done, but the hard edge discourages the rapid rolls possible with the Egyptian style.

Playing Techniques: The goblet drum may be played while held under one arm [usually the non-dominant arm] or by placing it sideways upon the lap [with the head towards the player’s knees] while seated. Some drums are also made with strap mounts so the drum may be slung over the shoulder, to facilitate playing while standing or dancing.

It produces a resonant, low-sustain sound while played lightly with the fingertips and palm. Some players move their fists in and out of the bell to alter the tone. Some players also place their hands on the surface of the drum to produce a muted sound. There are a variety of rhythms. that form the basis of the folkloric and modern music and dance styles of the Middle East.

There are three main sounds produced by the goblet drum. The first is called the “doom”. It is the deeper bass sound produced by striking the head near the center with the length of the fingers and palm and taking off the hand for an open sound. The second is called the “tak” and is the higher-pitched sound produced by hitting near the edge of the head with the fingertips.

A ‘tak’ struck with the secondary hand is also known as a “ka”. The third is the closed sound ‘pa’ [also called ‘sak’], resting rapidly the hand on the head to not permit an open sound. Additionally, there are more complex techniques including snaps, slaps, pops and rolls that are used to ornament the basic rhythm. Hand clapping and hitting the sides of the drum can be used in addition to drumhead sounds.

Another technique commonly used in Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Egypt is to tap with the fingers of one hand and with a thin stick in the other. In Turkey the stick is called the çubuk, which means wand, or stick. The Romani of most of the countries associated with the goblet drum use this technique.

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