| THE DARBUKA
Terracotta or metal
Goat skin, ray skin or nylon plastic
Length 42 cm
Top diameter 27 cm
Middle diameter 21 cm
Bottom diameter 19 cm
Andalusian Study and Research Centre
The tar and the darbuka are two percussion instruments with similar
characteristics. First of all, both these drums are played with the hands
throughout a musical piece, marking the time and rhythm. Technically, there is
also some resemblance between the two instruments. The dom (deep and resonant
beat) of the tar, like the beat of the darbuka, is simple and strong. The tek
(light beat) is weaker and is played to fill up the empty space of the rhythm.
But there are some well known dissimilarities as well, particularly with respect
It is difficult to determine precisely the geographical or cultural origin
of these instruments since there are no historical sources. We only know that
they specifically related to Andalusian music in Morocco where they keep the
beat of songs.
- 1) their shape, since the tar is smaller and includes brass jingles around
the edge of its small cylindrical frame while the darbuka is obviously larger;
- 2) their weight, since the tar is very light and easy to play with the hands
while the darbuka is heavier and must be balanced on the musician's knees;
the hand positions, since the tar is held in the right hand and struck with the
free left hand, thus creating a rhythmic balance between the dom and the tek;
- 4) the movement in musical interpretation, because it is strictly prohibited
to play the dom of the tar with the left hand at the same time between one dom
and another. The left hand also plays the tek or weaker beat and there are no
less specific rules about when it should be played. Its role is also to focus
the rhythm. The dom is produced by hitting the centre of the darbuka and the
tek by hitting the edge.
The best darbuka are made of wood; ordinary ones are made in terracotta or
earthenware. The widest end of the drum is covered with a skin that resonates.
The other end is open.
These two percussion instruments are not played nearly as much as stringed
instruments. Music students in conservatories are not very interested in them
and not many want to play them.
Musicians who practice on these instruments can play either of them
instruments fairly well if they keep a steady beat but a virtuoso will have to
know how to find the right position for the darbuka.
Each of these instruments can play solo but they can also harmoniously
complement the rhythm as an integral part of an orchestra.