gypsybelly dance museumgalleryshopmusicbelly dance infoalmeh

home | museum | shop | music | info

 Music instruments: middle eastern percussion


Name: tabla, darabukka, derboukka, derbake, dumbek, doumbek, zarb, kalouze, tarabuka in the Balkan countries
Classification: membranophones
Origin: North Africa, central Asia

taridzja-tn (12K)The name of this percussion instrument - the derbukka - comes from the arab root verb "derb" which means "to beat". Hence the persian name of the instrument "zarb" as the z is pronounced somewhere between the z and the d. The player of a darabukka is called derebki.
The goblet shaped body use to be made of clay, sometimes wood and nowadays mostly of aluminium. As for the membrane it used to be fish skin or goat skin. Now fibre skin is replacing the traditional natural membranes. Giving it a crispier sound but it lost also on warmth. An advantage of using fibre skin is that temperature and humidity don't affect the sound anymore. Fibre skin added to the stability of the notes. And indeed the derboukka-players follows the melody pattern with a variety of notes of itself.

It's origins go back to the Stone Age where clay drums were found in Germany with the shape of the modern derboukka. These drums disappeared in Northern Europe after the Stone Age. The Neolitical dumbeks had mytical figures on the body. Small clay drums were found intact in graves where they were buried together with the deceased. These were not used for making music but as a ritual tool.

Derboukkas or dumbeks come in different sizes, a sombati is slightly lareger and a doholla is the biggerst derboukka. In Turkey you even have derbukkas the size of a conga, but made in copper.

As the rhythm is the heart of the music, the tabla plays an important role in Arabic music, the rhythm follows the melody and vice versa. Rhytms come in cycles or wasm of patterns in arabic iqaat.

derbukkaThe bass sound is called "dum" and the sharp sound "tek". The frequently used counter-time "nabr" replaces often the 2nd count on the beat in a wasm or rhythmic cycle. A rhytmic pattern or iqaat can exist of different dabr or rhytmical figures. Fingers are used as well as slaps and rolls. The upper part of the hand produces the bass sound and turkish musicians use even left hand finger knips to get the high sound. IN Europe the Ottomans introduced the tarambuka which became a common instrument in Bulgaria.

Zarb or dumbek

The persian version of the derbukka is a bit different shaped. More rectangular than round. Widely used in classical persian music as the main rhythm instrument. It's also called a dumbek but the shape is slightly different. It has a larger membrane.


A less known version of the darabucca is the khalouze, here pictured in the hands of a female musician. It's slightly different from shape and inside it has two strings attached just under the membrane so the sound a light buzz. This kind of drum is/was widely used by the chickates or North-african dancers/musicians.
A smaller version is used in Arabo-Andalu orchestra's and is played with one hand, with the other hand holding the tube. Modern versions are made of chromed copper.
Listen to some derbukka music and rhythms