The bendir (also known as erbeni or arbani) is a simple traditional frame drum used throughout northern Africa. Frame drums are the oldest and most common kind of drum and the bendir has been around since prehistoric times with strong evidence of its use in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It typically has a two or three strand snare (usually made of fine gut and seen faintly in the image on the right) stretched across the inside of its head which, when the drum is struck with the fingers or palm, gives the tone a unique buzzing quality.
The bendir has a wooden frame, which is usually between 36 to 41 cm (14 to 16 inches) in diameter, with a membrane that is glued and/or tacked to the frame. Traditionally the bendir is played vertically by inserting the thumb of one hand into a special hole in the frame. It is then played using the fingers of the that hand and with the other hand moving freely across the face of the drum. Other methods of playing are on the lap and face up wedged between the knees. The bendir is used in the special ceremonies of Sufism which has a strong tradition of using music, rhythm, and dance to reach particular states of consciousness. A sample of the bendir being played can be viewed here.
The bodhran is an Irish frame drum that ranges in size from 25 to 65 cm (10" to 26") in diameter. Bodhrans generally have a goatskin head attached to one side of the frame. Synthetic heads or other animal skins are sometimes used. The other side of the frame is left open and the players free hand is placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre. As seen in examples to the right, bodhrans often have one or two crossbars inside the frame, but the use of crossbars seems to be declining in modern instruments. Some modern bodhrans integrate mechanical tuning systems (see middle image) that allow the bodhran heads to be tightened or loosened to compensate for atmospheric conditions.
The bodhran is generally played on the lap of the seated player and a wooden beater, known as a tipper or cipin (see bottom image), is used to strike the drum in a technique that often uses both ends of the tipper and requires a great deal of wrist work. As with all Irish music, styles of play can vary from county to county.
It is believed that the bodhran dates back several centuries and there is evidence that it was used as a battle drum back as far as the 17th century. The drum provided a cadence for the pipers and warriors to keep to, as well as to announce the arrival of the army. This leads some to think that the bodhran was derived from an old Celtic war drum. Sean Ó Riada declared the bodhran to be the native drum of the Celts, with a musical history that predated Christianity. The bodhran is very similar to the ancient frame drums of African origin.
These days the bodhran is solely synonymous with traditional Irish music and, whilst it is not necessarily the backbone of Irish music, a skilled and sensitive bodhran player can certainly add a wonderful percussive element to an Irish music session. A good example of bodhran playing can be viewed here.
Bodhrans and Tippers
Gandharva Loka offers a range of quality standard and tunable bodhrans. We also stock locally made and imported tippers.
Bodhran Books, DVDs and Bags
Gandharva Loka stocks bodhran tuition books and DVDs including "Your Essential Guide to the Bodhran" – an instructional 'how to play the bodhran' DVD produced by Christchurch bodhran player / teacher Argène Montgomery-Hönger. We also stock good quality protective carry bags for bodhrans and frame drums – see: Drum Bags.
Congas (also known as tumbadora) are tall, narrow, single-headed drums from Cuba. Typically made from wood (fiberglass is also used) with screw-tensioned drumheads, congas are staved like barrels and classified into three types: quinto (lead drum, highest), tres dos or tres golpes (middle), and tumba or salidor (lowest). Congas are traditionally used in Afro-Cuban genres such as conga and rumba, although they are now very common in many other forms of Latin music, including descarga, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, songo, merengue and Latin rock.
Gandharva Loka stocks Rhythm Tech congas which are constructed from select Asian Oak to exact specifications and come with a robust stand (see image right). They feature 10" (25.6 cm) and 11" (28 cm) heads and offer superb quality at an affordable price.
The bongos are a Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a pair of single-headed open-ended drums that are attached to each other. Each drum is a different size: the larger drum is called in Spanish the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male). Bongos are usually played by hand.
Bongos originated in Africa and, as is the case with many instruments, it was the slave trade that brought the forerunner to the bongos to Cuba. Bongos are typically played on or between the knees but are also free standing with rubber feet so that they can be played on a table or bench. They can also be adapted to stands so that they can be played in the standing position. Gandharva Loka offers pairs of bongos and bongo stands that are sold separately. The bongos are a very suitable instrument for children and young adults who wish to develop rhythm and drumming capacities.
The cajon (pronounced kah-hon) is a percussion instrument that has its origins in Peru and is considered to be the most popular percussion instrument in Latin America. In colonial times slaves were not permitted to use their traditional instruments so they improvised and started using wooden shipping crates as drums and this gave birth of the cajon.
Today's cajon makers use either guitar strings or snare wires inside the drum to give the instrument a great crisp sound. Of all forms of hand percussion they perhaps more than any other give us a real drum set sound. With a nice warm punchy bass and crisp snare sound this instrument has unlimited potentiality. A demonstration of the cajon can be viewed here. Gandharva Loka stocks a locally made and imported cajons including self-assemble kitset models and cajons and 'cajonitos' (compact laptop cajons) made by Schlagwerk.
Cajon Instruction / Tuition Books
- The Big Instruction Book for the Cajon – by Conny Sommer. (Includes a CD.)
- Cajon Styles for Drummers – by Martin Rottger. (Includes a CD with over 50 audio examples and play-alongs.)
The daf is a large frame drum used to accompany both popular and classical music in many regions of the Middle East and is commonly used in Khangah (temple of dervishes) during the zekr (spiritual chanting) rituals. Its Pahlavi (pre-Islamic Persian language) name is dap and daf is the arabic word for dap. Many Persian poets have alluded to the daf in their works including the renowned theologian and seer-poet Jalaludin Rumi.
The daf frame is traditionally made from a thin circular band of hardwood and covered with goatskin on one side. It can also have small metal rings (often in chains) or small cymbals attached to the inside of the rim which creates a jangling effect when the drum is played. This makes the daf a type of tambourine and quite similar to the bendir. Tones of various depth and colour are obtained by hitting different spots on the skin with the fingers and generally daf have a beautiful low, soft tone with the rings being low pitched as well. In modern times the daf has risen to great popularity and is now integrated into many styles of Middle Eastern music. It is also becoming popular on a global level. A very good demonstration of the daf being played can be viewed here.
The damroo (also known as the 'monkey talking drum') is a two sided Indian percussion instrument that is shaped like an hour glass. Gandharva Loka generally stocks three sizes the smallest if which is 8cm high by 9cm in diameter (a good size for children) and the largest being 15cm high by 10cm in diameter. Cords control the tautness of the drum skin (usually goat skin) which allows the drum to be tuned. The player holds the damroo in one hand and, by twisting the wrist back and forth, causes the two knotted strings to swing and beat a rhythm on the heads of the drum. The steady rhythm of the damroo provides an ideal accompaniment to ballads or to catch the attention of passersby.
Damroo are often brightly painted and decorated with motifs and ornaments such as bells and shells. The damroo is the drum of Lord Shiva and is considered to be the first instrument to be given to humanity. In India many sadhus (holy men) carry the damroo as do madaris (the peddlers who exhibit bears and monkeys) and pavement vendors. The prayer drum is in the same family of drums as the Damroo.
The darbuka (also known as dahola, doumbek and chalice or goblet drums) is a goblet shaped hand drum of ancient origin that is mostly used in Middle Eastern styles of music. Its thin, responsive drumhead and resonance help it produce a distinctively crisp tone.
Darbuka are played with a much lighter touch and with different strokes than hand drums such as the djembe of Africa. Traditionally darbuka are made of clay, metal or wood but modern versions are also being made of synthetic materials such as fiberglass, aluminum (either cast, spun or from sheet) and copper. Traditional drum heads are animal skin, commonly goat and also fish, but modern drum heads are also being made synthetic materials including mylar and fiberglass. There are two main types of darbuka – the Egyptian style (top image) which has rounded edges around the head and the Turkish style which exposes the edge of the head.
The exposed edge allows closer access to the head so finger-snapping techniques can be used, but the hard edge discourages the rapid rolls possible with the Egyptian style. There are two main sounds produced by the darbuka. The first is the 'doum' – the deeper bass sound produced by striking the head near the center with the length of the fingers and palm. The second is 'tek' – the higher-pitched sound produced by hitting near the edge of the head with the fingertips.
Darbuka may be played while held under one arm (usually the non-dominant arm) or by placing the drum sideways upon the lap (with the head towards the player's knees) while seated. Some drums are also made with strap mounts so the drum may be slung over the shoulder, to facilitate playing while standing or dancing. A similar type of drum is the zarb.
The dhol is a drum widely used throughout India but is especially popular in the Punjab region and particularly so among the Sikhs of East Punjab. It was used in war by the Sikhs and later to celebrate successful harvests. The dhol is most commonly associated with Punjabi music and dance and has remained very popular in modern Punjabi music.
The dhol dates back to the 15th century and was probably introduced to the Indian subcontinent as the Persian dohol (duhul) which is described as being used in the orchestra of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The Indo-Aryan word 'dhol' appears in print in the early nineteenth. From northern India the dhol spread to other parts of the Indian subcontinent. A demonstration of the dhol can be viewed here.
The dholak is a very popular folk drum of northern India that is also found in Pakistan and Nepal. It is barrel shaped with a degree of tapering at each end. It has a simple membrane on the right end and a single membrane with a special application (a mixture of tar, clay and sand known as dholak masala) on the inner surface of the left end which lowers the pitch and provides a well defined tone.
There are two ways of tightening the drum heads of the dholak. Some models are laced with rope and a series of metal rings are used to adjust the instrument. On other versions metal turnbuckles allow the same effect. The dholak is either played on the player's lap or, while standing, slung from the shoulder or waist or pressed down with one knee while sitting on the floor.
A djembe (pronounced 'jem-bay') is a drum of African origin. The exact beginning of the djembe history and tradition is unclear, but the drum was certainly present in the 13th century when the great Mali Empire was formed. Similar to the Middle Eastern darbuka, the djembe is shaped like a goblet and is played with the bare hands. The instrument takes its name from a saying of the Bamana people in Mali: 'Anke dje, anke be', which means, 'everyone gather together'.
Due to the variations in the material used to construct djembe, there is a broad range of tones that can be produced by the instrument and the design of the body gives the djembe a deep and powerful bass note. The primary notes are generally referred to as 'bass' (low and deep), 'tone' (round and full) and 'slap' (high and sharp) although a variety of other tones can also be produced by advanced players.
Gandharva Loka offers a wide range of types and sizes of djembe as well as padded bags (some have shoulder straps that allow the drum to be carried as a backpack) or colourful cloth bags imported from Africa – see: Drum Accessories and Drum Bags. We also stock instructional CDs and DVDs and are able to put our customers in touch with a dynamic drumming circle and excellent drum teachers here in Christchurch.
The djun-djun (pronounced 'joon-joon' and also known as Djoundjoun, Dun-Dun and Dunun) is the general name for a family of three bass drums that evolved in West Africa. Along with the djembe, the djun-djun originated in the Mali Empire.
The three drums that make up a djun-djun set are the dundoumba (literally meaning 'big djun-djun'), which has the lowest tone and is the largest of the three. Next is the mid-tone, medium-sized sangban and the third and smallest high-toned kenkeni. Djun-djun provide the rhythmic foundation for the djembe and are often mounted with bells that are played in conjunction with the drum. Each djun-djun is constructed from the hollowed out base of a tree and then covered on both ends with cow or goat skin that is held in place and tensioned by rope. There are wide variations on how the djun-djun is played throughout West Africa. An example of how the djun-djun and the djembe are played together in a traditional West African drum ensemble can be viewed here.
Drum Beaters And Strikers
Gandharva Loka offers a wide range of drum beaters and strikers. We do not stock western style drum sticks but do have sticks that are used for drums such as the Japanese taiko and the African talking drum. We also stock a broad variety of beaters and mallets for gongs.
These adjustable drum harnesses are designed to allow the musician to drum in a standing position. The straps have extra padding in the upper back area for comfort and support and the harness simply clips to the drums rim.
Drum Shoulder Straps
These strong and durable drum shoulder straps allow the musician to stand and move about while drumming. They are 4.5 metres long and are made from 50 mm webbing. There is no buckle – the strap simply threads through the ropes of the djembe and is knotted.
Gandharva Loka offers quality padded and waterproof drum hats that provide optimal protection for drum heads. We stock a variety of sizes with elastic bindings that ensure a secure fit.
Drum Waist Straps
These adjustable djembe waist strap have a clip at each end allows the musician to hold djembes and other drums in a secure position while seated. The strong and durable 75 mm webbing can be adjusted to be used with one or two drums.
Drum Tuition CDs And DVDs
Gandharva Loka also stocks instructional CDs and DVDs and we are able to put our customers in touch with a dynamic drumming circle and excellent drum teachers here in Christchurch.
Rope pullers (also known as cord pullers) are used to tighten the ropes that tension the heads on African drums such as djembes and djun djuns. Gandharva Loka offers two sizes of aluminium Power Grip rope pullers as follows.
- One-handed rope puller – 10cm wide (left in image)
- Two-handed rope puller – 20cm wide (right in image)
High quality water proof padded bodhran / frame drum bags with side pocket, hand straps and shoulder strap. These frame drum gig bags come in three sizes.
- 35.5 cm (14 in)
- 40.5 cm (16 in)
- 45.5 cm (18 in)
Small Frame Drum Bags
These quality padded drum bags are for small frame drums such as riq or kanjira. They are made of a washable, water-repellent nylon fabric with a zipper, a shoulder strap and a front pocket for accessories.
These are similar to the djembe bags but smaller in size to fit Darbukas.
High quality, waterproof, heavy duty, padded bags with shoulder and support straps, and zippered side pockets.
High quality water proof, heavy duty, padded djembe bags with shoulder and support straps, and zippered side pockets.
Made-To-Order Drum Bags
Gandharva Loka can have drum bags made to order. Simply bring in your drum or send us the measurements and we can order a custom made bag for you.
Gandharva Loka has drum heads available for tabla, naal, dholak and djembe. We also offer a repair service for almost every type of drum. If you require a quote on a drum repair or head replacement, kindly bring your drum into Gandharva Loka (this is preferred) or contact us. We can also organise harmonium tuning and repairs.
The ghatam is a percussion instrument of South India – an earthenware pot that is played using the fingers, thumbs, palms and heels of the hand to strike the outer surface of the ghatam. It has a huge variety of sounds. An airy low-pitch bass sound, called gumki, is created by hitting the mouth of the pot with an open hand. Musicians sometimes press the mouth of the pot against their bare stomachs which deepens the tone of the bass stroke and is another way to produce the 'gumki' sound. Different tones can be produced by hitting different areas of the pot with different parts of the hands. In Indian classical music, the ghatam usually accompanies the mridanga.
Although the ghatam looks very similar to a Indian domestic clay pot, it is made specifically to be played as an instrument. The walls are made to an even thickness to produce even tone. Some types of ghatam are made with tiny shards of brass mixed into the clay as this produces a sharp metallic ringing sound favored by some musicians. The ghatam is a wonderfully expressive instrument and a lot of fun!
A gong drum (also known as 'gong bass drum') is a percussion instrument that has a large single or double sided drumhead in order to create a powerful, resonant sound when struck. The head can be tuned as loose as possible to avoid any sense of pitch in the sound, or tensioned more tightly to produce tympani-like tones. Gong drums vary in size from about 50 cm (20 inches) to enormous sizes.
First produced in the late 1970s, gong drums have since been used by a wide variety of musicians and recording artists and also in movie sound tracks. Gong drums are typically suspended in frames made from various materials such as wood, metal and aluminium which sometimes have casters for ease of movement in situations such as stages or recording studios.
Gandharva Loka currently has an 85 cm (33.5 inch) double sided cow hide gong drum that is mounted in a wooden frame similar to the one featured in the image above.
The kanjira (also known as a ganjira) is a South Indian frame drum – a percussion instrument of the tambourine family. It is used primarily in concerts of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) as a supporting instrument for the mridanga. Having been used for less than a century, the kanjira is considered to be a comparatively recent innovation. It has been used in Indian classical concerts since the 1930s.
Similar to the western tambourine, the kanjira consists of a circular frame made of the wood of the jackfruit tree, between 18 and 23 cm in width and between 5 to 10 cm in depth. The frame is covered on one side with a drum head made of monitor lizard skin while the other side is left open. The frame has a single slit which contain two to three small metal discs that jingle when the kanjira is played. It is normally played with the palm and fingers of the right hand, while the left hand supports the drum. The fingertips of the left hand can be used to bend the pitch by applying pressure near the outer rim. Generally the kanjira has a very high pitched sound and, unlike the mridanga or the ghatam, is not tuned to any particular pitch. To get a good bass sound, the performer reduces the tension of the drumhead by sprinkling water on the inside of the instrument.
The khol is actually a clay mridanga – a two-sided drum used in northern and eastern India as accompaniment to devotional, folk and Indian semi-classical music. The khols origins are considered to be in the West Bengal region of India. One end of the khol is much smaller than the other and both ends are traditionally covered with cow or goat skin. The heads are tensioned with leather straps and the instrument is played with the palms and fingers of both hands. As the popularity of the khol grew in the West, many variations resulted using non-traditional materials for the body, such as metal and fibreglass, and synthetic skins for the drum heads.
The mridanga is a percussion instrument from India. Of ancient origin, it is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in the Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) ensembles and is often accompanied by the ghatam, kanjira, and the mouth harp. The word mridanga is derived from the two Sanskrit words 'Mrid' (clay or earth) and 'Ang' (body). Early mridangas were indeed made of hardened clay and, known as the khol, are still available in that form.
Over the years the mridanga evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability. In modern times mechanical devices have been added to adjust the tension of the drum heads. It is widely believed that the tabla, the mridangas North Indian musical counterpart, was first constructed by splitting a mridanga in half.
The naal has a barrel shaped body and the left side resembles the bayan (the large metal drum of the tabla) except that it uses dholak masala (an oil based application) on the inner surface instead of a syahi (permanent black spot). The right head is unique in its construction. Goat-skin is stitched onto an iron ring and in the centre of this skin is a syahi, similar to tabla except much thinner. Traditional naal are laced with rope and sticks are used to tension the drum heads but today it is more common that naal are made with metal turnbuckles that allow more precise tuning. There is often some confusion concerning the term 'dholki' which literally means 'small dholak'. Dholki is often used for smaller dholak that, structurally speaking, are quite different to the naal. A demonstration of the naal (dholki) can be viewed here.
The ocean drum really allows you to bring the sound of the sea into your music. Using small metal beads inside a double sided frame drum, the ocean drum allows you to create wonderful ocean wave effects as you tilt the drum from one side to the other.
The ocean drum can also be used as an effective drum using either the fingers or a beater. This is a wonderful instrument to use with children, in any sort of music therapy, or simply to create a wonderfully peaceful ocean atmosphere for your next performance.
The pakhawaj (also known as Mardal, Pakhavaj, Pakuaj, Pakhvaj, Pakavaj or Mardala) is an Indian barrel-shaped two-headed drum. The North Indian equivalent to the Southern mridanga, it also has many similarities to the dholak. It is the standard percussion instrument in the dhrupad style and is widely used as an accompaniment for various forms of Indian music and dance. The pakhawaj has a low and mellow tone that is rich in harmonics. Laid horizontally on a cushion in front of the drummer's crossed legs, the larger bass-skin is played with the left hand and the treble skin by the right hand.
Like the tambourine, the pandeiro is held in one hand and struck on the head with the other to produce sound. Typical pandeiro patterns are played by alternating the thumb, fingertips, heel, and palm of the hand. A pandeiro can also be shaken to make sound, or one can run a finger along the head to create a rasping sound.
Pandeiro are used in a number of Brazilian music forms such as Samba, Choro, Coco, and Capoeira and the instrument derives from the pandeireta or pandereta of Spain and Portugal. Its ancient origin is considered to be in the Arabian region. Traditionally pandeiro are constructed with wooden frames, animal skin heads and metal cymbals but in modern times they are also produced using synthetic frames and heads.
The riq (also spelt riqq or rik) is a type of tambourine that is common to Arabic music and is an important percussion instrument in both folk and classical music. Traditionally the riq has a wooden frame, metal jingles (small cymbals), and a thin head made of fish or goat skin. These days riq frames are also made from metal or synthetic materials and the heads are also often synthetic.
The riq, which descended from the Persian daf, typically measures between 20 and 25 cm in diameter. Riq frames are often decorated on both sides with inlay such as mother-of-pearl, ivory or decorative woods. Generally a riq has ten small cymbals (about 4 cm in diameter), mounted in five pairs. The skin head is glued on and tightened over the frame which is about 6 cm deep. The riq is played in music ensembles throughout the Arabic-speaking world where it has a particularly clearcut role that goes beyond the simple rhythmic requirements of the daf, tar, or mazhar. In Sudan and upper Egypt the riq is also related to worship.
Shaman drums are a type of frame drum which, in general terms, are one of the most ancient types of musical instruments. They have a simple structure and a strong association with spiritual rituals such as in the Shamanism. Frame drums come in a variety of sizes. They are usually round and are traditionally made of wood with an animal skin head and sometimes metal rings or plates incorporated into the frame to provide a jingle effect. Some models are now being constructed from synthetic materials and some have mechanical tuning. On many the drumhead is stretched and tacked in place.
Frame drums are the earliest skin drum known to have existed. Although examples are found in many places and cultures, it is thought that frame drums originated in the ancient Middle East, India, and Rome, and reached medieval Europe through Islamic culture. The similarity of the names of frame drums in these regions shows the common history of these drums. Gandharva Loka currently stocks a line of quality Remo Buffalo Shaman Drums (pictured above).
Sound Shapes are high-quality, affordable percussion instruments that are perfect for the home, classroom or daycare center – children love them! They come in a variety of geometric shapes and cool sounds that are as vibrant as their colors. They range in size, colour, and shape but all have a great sound.
Sound shapes can be set up as a mini drum kit using some of the special stands that are available, or can be split up and be used by a group. They are super strong, extremely portable and really easy to use, so they work well with children as well as adults who might need a light-weight, highly portable, practice drum kit.
The tabla is a popular Indian percussion instrument used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting yet complimentary sizes and timbres. The term tabla is derived from an Arabic word tabl which simply means drum. Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of sounds and rhythms. The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed as the sound diminishes.
The history of the tabla has been the subject of sometimes heated debate. It is most likely that the tabla is a hybrid resulting from the experiments with existing drums such as pakhawaj, dholak and naqqara. A common legend credits the 13th century Indian poet Amir Khusrau as the inventor when he split a mridanga into two parts.
The tabla is central to Indian music and is used in a variety of genres including the classical music of North India as well as Indian contemporary, pop, folk and film music – and has become very popular in the West as well. Tabla tones are beautiful and playing tabla combines rhythm, melody and harmony to create music that is soulful and meditative. Two very good examples of tabla playing can be viewed here and here.
Tabla Instruction / Tuition Books
- Learn To Play On Tabla 1 & 2 – from the Pankaj Learn Yourself Music Series.
Gandharva Loka offers Radel Taalmala Digi-60 Dx electronic digital tabla. These are a state-of-the-art stereo digital musical instruments that have been designed by pioneers in the field of Indian electronic musical instruments who use the latest sampler technology to produce natural tabla sounds along with sophisticated features unmatched by any other model of electronic tabla. Crystal clear stereo sound provides for the natural sounding separation of the tabla (right hand) and the dagga (left hand). There are 60 thekas available in various taals that can be played at any tempo. Power cable and a strapped carry bag are provided. This instrument can also be powered using batteries.
Japanese taiko drums (taiko in modern times is a general term for 'drum' but historically taiko meant 'great' or 'wide drum' in Japanese) have been developed into a wide range of percussion instruments that are used in both Japanese folk and classical musical traditions. Taiko drumming has been part of Japanese culture for many centuries and taiko drums can be found in the numerous temples and shrines throughout Japan where they are played in religious festivals and ceremonies. Taiko were also used in warfare to bolster the spirits of the warriors and to demoralise the enemy.
Taiko are generally stick percussion instruments (although some taiko are played using just the hands) that have heads on both sides of the drum body and a sealed resonating cavity. They are characterised by a high amount of tension on the drums heads with a correspondingly high pitch relative to body size. Since the later part of the twentieth century, Taiko drumming has become a performance art in itself that includes physically demanding and dramatic drumming combined with dance and often humour. A demonstration of taiko in its modern performance role can be viewed here and in its more traditional role here.
Talking drums (known by many names including Dundun, Gangan, Dondo, Odondo, Lunna, Donno, Kalangu, Doodo, Tama, Tamanin and Ekwe) are a member of the hourglass shaped family of pressure drums and are one of the oldest instruments in West Africa. Their history can be traced back to the Ghana Empire. The talking drum is particularly synonymous with the music and culture of the Yoruba people. Various sizes of talking drum exist, with the dimensions of the drum differing between ethnic groups.
One of the special features of the talking drum is its ability to closely imitate the rhythms and intonations of spoken language. A skilled drummer can reproduce the sounds of proverbs or songs through a specialised drumming language and this dialogue can easily be understood by knowledgeable listeners which of course varied between ethic groups. Whether accompanying dances or sending messages, the sound of these instruments can carry for miles. Talking drum players sent messages by drumming the recipient's name, followed by the sender's name and the message.
The drum heads of the talking drum cover both ends of the drum's wooden body and are traditionally made from animal hide, fish-skin or other membranes which are wrapped around a wooden hoop. Leather thongs run the length of the drum and are connected to both hoops. When these cords are squeezed under the arm the drum heads tighten and this changes the pitch of the instrument. The talking drum is struck with a slightly hooked stick and with the fingers of the free hand. A contemporary demonstration of the talking drum can be viewed here and a traditional demonstration can be viewed here.
A tar is a single sided frame drum which originates from North Africa and the Middle East and dates back thousands of years. The tar is generally held with one hand and played with the free hand although both hands are used in the role of playing and holding depending on the skills of the player. The tar has an open tone and is often either played for accompaniment to other instruments or in tar ensembles. Frame drums are common throughout the world – among the frame drum family are the tar, bendir, bodhran, daf and others. Kanjira, pandeiro and riq and tambourines are also types of frame drum that have small metal cymbals attached to them. Many Native American cultures use frame drums (shaman drums) in ceremony and celebration. These drums seem simple but are capable of great nuance and sophistication in the hands of an experienced or imaginative player. Gandharva Loka offers traditional tars with animal skin heads and also modern Remo tars (pictured above) with synthetic heads.
The udu is an African percussion instrument that is generally considered to have originated in Nigeria. Traditionally made of clay, the word udu means 'vessel' in the language of the Igbo people of Nigeria. Being a water jug with an additional hole, it was an instrument often played exclusively by women for ceremonial purposes. Today it is widely used by percussionists in many different music styles.
The udu has a side hole which creates a deep reverberating note when struck with the flat palm of the hand. The entire body of the udu can also be played using the fingers. Several variations of the udu have evolved over the years which includes the Utar, the Kim-Kim and the Zarbang-Udu. The udu is an instrument that can add a unique and melodic aspect to the percussion aspect of any ensemble and is easily adapted to most genre of music. A fantastic demonstration of a variety of udu being played can be viewed here – and a great demonstration of the Udu Utar can be viewed here.
The zarb (also known as tonbak, tombak, donbak or dombak) is a goblet drum that originated during the Persia Empire (ancient Iran). It is considered the principal percussion instrument of Persian music. The Persian frame drum, known as the Daf, was for many centuries the favoured drum of the Persian court while the zarb was played by peasants. It is sometimes referred to as the Persian doumbek due to its origins and chalice shape that is similar to that of the doumbek. The zarb is made with a brass or wooden body and the drum head is typically made from sheep or goats skin.
The zarb is normally positioned diagonally across the lap of the player who uses one or more fingers and/or the palms of the hands on the drumhead. Often (for a ringing timbre) the musician will play near the drumhead's edge and some players wear metal finger rings in order to get an accentuated 'click' on the drum's shell. A lovely example of zarb drumming can be viewed here – traditional Persian classical dastgah music played on ney, kamancheh, santur (aka hammered dulcimer) and zarb.