The Magic of The Darbuka Drum

                The darbuka, also called doumbek or derbeki, is a traditional goblet-drum known for being the foremost percussion instrument in Middle Eastern music. Its single head and goblet shaped body distinguishes it from other similar instruments such as the Indian tabla and pakhawaj and Middle-Eastern frame drums like the tar. Deriving geographically out of Turkey, Armenia and Egypt, the darbuka’s roots are in Oriental Music where distinguished beats and rhythmic resonance are quite common. The darbuka achieves its unique sonic qualities by both the way that it is played as well as how it is constructed.

            Just how each musical instrument has its own language, or bol, which communicates a specific rhythmic pattern. The versatility of darbuka music is understood when it has been practiced for many years. More possibilities of how it can be played are constantly being discovered including not just Eastern beats but Western styles as well. The drum beautiful sound and resonance can be attributed to the goblet-shape of its body, a shape ideal as a resonant chamber for sound across all frequency ranges. Larger drums offer a louder and deeper tone compared to smaller ones that are much softer and quiet but each has its moment and place.

            There are many different kinds of darbukas available in the world, each containing unique notes and sounds. The most typical regional variants of the drum are Egyptian, Turkish, Oriental, and Arabian, each complementing the rich cultural diversity from which it comes. The traditional materials used to make the drum body are clay, wood or occasionally, metal, and the heads are made with goat skin stretched over the top to make the drum head. Modern darbukas are made with metal bodies and synthetic/plastic heads.

Raquy Danziger plays Darbuka and Kral Kemenche Tarhu in this video

             Generally the instrument is played by holding the drum between ones legs or under the left arm and then using the fingers of both hands to strike. In Middle Eastern rhythms, the right hand is used for the heavy down beats while the left focuses on accents and fills. The drum was popularized as being a part of the world music genre after its first appearance in Western Music during the mid-20th century. French composer Hector Berloiz featured a goblet drum, for the first time within a Western music composition, in his opera Les Troyen. It was then later used for alongside a string orchestra in works composed by Halim El-Dabh in the 1950s productionFantasia-Tahmeel. However, the most prominent history that the durbuka holds is its long use accompanying belly-dancing in the Middle East, hence its renown as “the heartbeat of belly dancing.”

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About the Author:

Forrest Neumann spent the greater part of the past four years traveling extensively throughout the world as a full-time LIU Global student. Raised in California, Forrest's greatest interest is in studying indigenous music traditions, spirituality and healing. Recent studies in India and Peru gave Forrest an opportunity to learn with indigenous spiritual teachers to go deeper into the study of sacred traditions. Forrest loves to DJ and bring people together through melodic healing sounds while restoring human connection with the earth.