: 109 cm
Arab and Mediterranean Center Tunisia
I have known this instrument since I was very young when I saw
it played by a black man who was passing near our home. I have
never attended a concert where this instrument was used but I
have seen shows on television with groups called stambali that
frightened me a lot.
The low tone
of this instrument (that slightly resembles the sound of a bass
viol) made my heart quiver. Among the members of the group there
was a tall masked man dressed in animal skins (rabbit, fox, sheep,
wolf, etc…). This man called "Bousaadia" danced, holding chkacheks
between his fingers (a metal percussion instrument like castanets).
I also saw a cloud of smoke (incense) from a canoun* that covered
the exit in these performances.
was surrounded by people who danced intensely to the same rhythm
until they fell into a trance. I was told that they danced that
way to rid themselves of the evil spirits that plagued them. The
first time I saw the gombri up close was when I visited the Museum
of the Arab and Mediterranean Music Centre, "Ennejma Ezzahra",
in Sidi Bousaïd. Since then, I have been curious and wanted to
learn more about this instrument and its origins. After doing
some research, I discovered that the gombri belongs to the family
of chordophones and comes from the black sub-Saharan African community.
has a total length of 109 cm. It has a wooden neck and soundbox.
The soundbox has a cylindrical shape and is covered with goat
skin decorated with henna and harkou (tattoo motifs). The goat
skin is from an old goat that has preferably been previously used
on a tabl (percussion instrument played with two beaters). This
allows the goat skin to be stretched very tightly on the body.
The skin is not heated, in contrast to the darbuka and the bendir.
The wood bridge is called the rakez. The three gut strings that
play the melody, are stretched by leather thongs that are attached
to the body. Behind the bridge is a metal plate with rings that
amplify the rhythm. They are called chanchana.
is still played although not very often and only in those areas
where belief in evil spirits still exists.
* A pottery
vessel in which coal is placed. It can be used for cooking or
heating or burning incenses.