Daf is known to be one of the most prevalent percussion instruments in Iran and the Middle East. It has seen several transformations, yet its basic features still remain the same. The instrument has many similarities with other frame drums, but it distinguishes itself with the use of metal rings inside the wooden frame and the use of goat or sheepskin for the membrane.
Over the years, several variations and adaptations to the original Daf have emerged. Depending on the origin, the instrument has different names and aesthetic features.
This is the most traditional and widely used type of Daf percussion. It is known for its large diameter and metallic noise-producing rings. The drum is threaded with a tight skin of a goat or sheep usually treated with water or sugar for optimal resonance. The edges of the frame are usually painted with elaborate and colorful designs. Its rhythmic properties make it suitable for many styles of traditional Persian music.
The Turkish Daf is mostly similar to the Iranian type. However, it typically has a smaller diameter and a less prominent, smoother skinhead that produces a low sound. The skin is formed into a point at one end of the frame. This allows for variations to both percussion and melody.
The Pakistani Daf is similar to the Turkish type, but usually, the construction is more robust, making it a larger and heavier instrument with a unique sound. It also tends to have a decorative light in the middle of the skinhead to give it a distinct appearance.
The Indian Daf is referred to as ‘Dhol’ in Northern India, and ‘Dafli’ in the Southern part of the country. It is usually more rectangular in shape and features a smaller head than the Iranian Daf. The sound of the Indian Daf is quite unique, being quite high-pitched.
The Balkan Daf is similar to the traditional Iranian style, but with thinner skin. The drumhead is typically made using Camel (or goat) skin, while the frame is made from walnut, beech, or other hardwood material. Embellishment or ornamentation is often detailed in the frame and varies from region to region.
The Kurdish Daf is a smaller and lighter variation with a diameter which ranges from 35 cm to 45 cm. This type of Daf is commonly played in many music genres in the Middle East, including Sufi music, wedding ceremonies, and traditional dance. The frame is cut from ebony, beech or wild pear wood.
7. Balkan Tambourine
The Balkan Tambourine, also known as a large frame tambourine, is related to the Daf but with slight differences. The frame of the tambourine is arranged with several jingles near the inside of the membrane. The skinhead of the frame is shaped similarly to the Iranian Daf, with slight variations.
The Daf is a versatile percussion instrument that has a rich history in traditional, folk, and classical music genres all over the world. From its inception in Iran, different versions have developed globally and are played for various activities and musical performances. If you are an enthusiast wanting to learn to play any of these varieties, plenty of resources exist for you to start.