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Drums and history

Frame drum (known also as shaman drum), as the name suggests, consists of a frame and a rawhide stretched over it. It is one of the earliest musical instruments, probably used ever since it was discovered that a stretched animal hide acts as a perfect sound producing membrane.

Usually frame drums are round shaped; in some cultures also hexagonal or sextagonal versions are used. The wooden frame can be covered with the hide of basically any animal, as long as its thickness is suitable for producing the desired sound. Sometimes metal plates or rings are attached to the frame to add sharp metallic resonance or jingle.

One of the unique features of a frame drum lies in its shape, as the width of the drumhead is always greater than its depth. Generally only one side of the instrument is covered with a hide, leaving the other open. Shells are constructed of bent wood jointed together; most commonly oak, rosewood, pine, spruce etc.

The oldest and most widespread methods of attaching the hide to the frame are by sewing or just tying it around the back side. It is also possible to incorporate a tuning system of a metal ring and screws.

Despite simple structure, the shaman drum has been appreciated through the ages for its spiritual and entertaining value. The sound of a shaman drum is considered to be relaxing and inspiring. In cultures where frame drums were widely used, men usually played larger versions and women medium sized ones. Frame drums originated in Middle East and India, and reached medieval Europe through Islamic culture.


The most common names in various cultures are:

Adufe (Portugal)
Bendir (North Africa)
Bodhran (Ireland)
Buben (Russia)
Daf (Iran, Kurdistan, Asherbadshan, Turkey, Central - East)
Daffu (India)
Ghaval (Aserbadsan)
Kanjira (South India)
Mazhar (Egypt)
Pandeiro (Brasilia)
Rig (Arabia)
Tambourine (Europe, USA)
Tar (North Africa)