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The Goblet Drum Of The Middle East

Sep 12, 2008
Upon entering the term "goblet drum" into my search engine, the first thing that pops up is a picture of a simbati from Egypt. Despite the fact that I know it is a musical instrument, I am immediately struck by its physical beauty more than its musical potential. With a background the color of lapis lazuli and an intricate design of birds and flowers, this chalice-shaped hand drum would not look out of place in an alcove designed for a work of art. Of course, to those who understand it, a chalice drum is something to be played rather than looked at.

The name "goblet drum" is derived from the instrument's shape, which is distinctly chalice-like. This instrument is fairly localized in its traditional origins, which are primarily Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, although Thailand, Laos and West Africa all have their own versions. Examples of this instrument include the "tablah" of Egypt, the "toumberleki" of Greece, the "darbuka" of Israel and the "zairbaghali" of Afghanistan. The goblet drum is especially common in the Islamic world, and the design of the instrument is generally held to be quite old; there are even those who suggest that its invention predates that of the chair. Regardless of that particular detail, the goblet drum can be safely assumed to be one of the ancient instruments of human civilization.

The body of this instrument is usually made of pottery, wood or metal. It has a single thin drum head of either animal skin or a manmade material, and the sound of this head is characteristically crisp. When played by an expert, the goblet drum can be made to produce two different and distinct types of sound. The deeper of the two is called a "doum," and this created by striking the head near its center with the length of the fingers and palm. The higher-pitched sound, produced by hitting the edge of the head with the fingertips, is called a "tek." Other, more complex techniques, including snaps, slaps, pops and rolls, may also be used. In certain areas f Bulgaria, Turkey and Egypt, drummers sometimes use a thin stick in one hand while the other remains empty.

Goblet drums may actually be divided into two categories, those of the Egyptian style and those of the Turkish style. The former is characterized by rounded edges around the head, while the latter exposes these edges. This difference helps explain some of the signatures of the two playing styles. For example, the Egyptian style features rapid rolls, but these are discouraged by the hard edges of Turkish goblet drums. However, such edges also allow for closer access to the head, thereby permitting the snapping techniques associated with Turkish playing.

There are two positions in which to hold the goblet drum: either under one arm or between the knees. There are a variety of rhythms used with this instrument, referred to collectively as "dumbek" rhythms, and they range in application from traditional folk to modern dance. The goblet drum has even been used in some classical European compositions, such as the opera "Les Troyens."
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for drums, goblet drums, sheet music, guitar tabs, and home theater audio.
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