History of Darbuka

The Darbuka is also known as a doumbek, table, derbeke, dumberleki, dumbelek, derbocka, darabukka, derbake, tablah,  darbuka, deblek,  dümbelek arambuka, tarabuka, darabuka, darabuke, derbuga, derbukka, hoqa derbake

Musicians have been playing this percussion instrument for over ten centuries in a vast geographical region that covers Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The word "darbouka" probably comes from daraba , which means "to strike" in Arabic. But many iconographic elements testify to the existence of ancestors of this instrument in ancient Egypt, from the Middle Kingdom (II th  millennium), as well as Babylon - with "drums to drink", around 1100 BC - and even in Sumerian cultures. The Anatolian, Mesopotamian and Central Asian civilizations used instruments from the same family. 

According to Professor Philippe Vigreux, the most recognized French specialist in the darabukka, as the instrument is known in academic circles, its origins trace back to three percussion instruments played in the Arab World during the Middle Ages: kabar, dirrij and kuba.

Drums with its current goblet shape have been found in places like Spain, a legacy of the period of Al Andalus during which the southern region of the country was ruled by Muslims from 711 to 1492.

Throughout time, it has been made of different materials, such as clay, wood and metal, with fish or calf skin for the parchment. Gradually, synthetic materials started being used for the drum's membrane.   The instrument continues to be manufactured by artisans throughout the Middle East as well as by professional workshops in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and even Russia and USA. 

Music bands that play in Middle Eastern countries include at least two such drums, or their slightly larger versions known as sumbati and dohola. With its dum and tak, as the two basic sounds produced by the instrument are known, the drum reached the folk music of non-Arab countries such as Greece and Yugoslavia through the influence of Turkey.

Even though for some decades it was considered an instrument more suitable for folk music, in the early 20th century it started to be adopted by classical music. The darbuka appears in many of the photos of the ensembles taken during the Arab Music Congress held in 1932 at the National Music Academy in Cairo, Egypt.

Further north, Hasan Tahsin Parsadan, a musician born in Kars, Turkey was the one who introduced darbuka to Ottoman classical music at the beginning of the 20th century, according to professor Nicholas Ragheb, whose Masters Degree dissertation explored the instrument's history in the Anatolian peninsula.

Western musicians like Hector Berlioz  (1855-58)  included the darbuka in his opera Les Troyens,while Darius Milhaud used it in a Symphonic Suite composed in 1932. In the 60 and 70's of the last century, the darbuka started to position itself as the lead percussion instrument in Middle Eastern music, a place long-held by the riq, a type of tambourine, and the bendir, a frame drum, more commonly seen in stone carvings in archaeological sites of the region.

There is ample photographic evidence of women playing darbukas from the late 18th century and early 19th century. Female entertainers that played for female-only audiences were common in Egypt, Algeria and Morocco because of the gender segregation brought by Islam in the region, known for its ancestral musical tradition that originally had spiritual purposes.

This drum in the modern world is associated with parties -  weddings and social gatherings, night clubs with belly dancers, etc.  Belly dance shows offered in restaurants, night clubs and 5-star hotels in countries such as Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey always include a drum solo  duet by the darbuka player and the dancer. 

Saiid El Artist from Egypt is the drummer who created the modern Arabic table sound.  He is also responsible for elevating this drum from the streets and night clubs into the great opera houses.  He created a table orchestra and performs in the great halls of Egypt.

Misirli Ahmet from Turkey invented a new style called Split Hand 20 years ago, using the individual fingers to attain unprecedented dexterity and speed.  This prompted a “darbuka revolution” in Turkey, and nowadays there are incredible virtuosic players in Turkey, Misirli Ahmet, Bünyamin Olguncan, and Suat Borozan.