Darbuka has a history that goes all the way back to the Common Era in Egypt and comes in different shapes and sizes. It is also very common in Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Arabic countries and North Africa. It is widely played in Turkish Folk Music amongst other instruments or solo and has also come to known as an important instrument in the Turkish classical music lately. This joyful instrument has different names in different regions such as “dümbek,” “dümbelek”, “tömbek” but its original name “dümbelek” is actually an Arabic name which originally means “to strike”.
Darbuka is a percussion instrument that has a goblet shape. It narrows in the middle and widens back at the other end. The head of the instrument is wider than the other end. The traditional darbukas have sheep, goat and fish skin for the good quality sound although contemporary ones have chemical skin called “glass skin”. This prevents the darbuka from popping or tearing so that it has a longer life. The body of the traditional darbukas used be made of wrought copper but nowadays, casting technique is used for a better sound. Nacre coating can be used for ornamentation on some types.
Darbuka is played while seated or with straps standing up. It is situated under the players arm with the head of the instrument pointed at the knees. It can also be played standing up in order to allow the player to dance or walk around while playing. The player can play it simply by using his/her hands. Although it has different styles and rhythms to it, it is fairly easy to play it. Thanks to its playful sound, it is widely used at the weddings or for entertainment purposes.
The body of the Turkish darbuka is made of iron or aluminum and synthetic skin is used for the head of the instrument. Multiple screws are situated on the head, around the skin for tuning. It is generally played with finger snaps or by tapping with fingertips. Although it varies in some types, general measurements are 22 cm in length and 29 cm in diameter.
Different from the Turkish styled darbuka, Egyptian darbuka has rounded edges and the tuning screws are not exposed. The body can be engraved or ornamented with nacre.
As it’s evident from its name, the body of this instrument is made of clay. Unlike the other two, instead of using synthetic skin, goat, sheep and fish skin is stretched over the head. Clay and the animal skin gives the instrument more of a natural sound. It is also named solo darbuka since it’s mostly played solo. It is heavier than other types of darbukas because of its material and generally played on the knees.
You can find all types of darbukas in our catalogue and darbuka related items. If you want to learn this instrument, master your craft or widen your percussion family, first place to start looking is our wide range of darbuka choices with fine workmanship.