Republic of Lebanon
Sunday 16th - 06 - 2024



[daf, dap, def, defi, diaff, duff]

Hornbostel-Sachs classification: A Membranophone (or occasionally an Idiophone), usually with a resonating cavity, sounded by percussion (more rarely by friction or plucking). It has been made in many varieties and has been known in almost every age and culture.

Around the world

In varying forms it is found in West Asia, the Caucasus, the Iranian plateau, Central Asia and south-eastern Europe. The drum is used in a wide variety of settings: folk music, art music, entertainment and dance music and Sufi religious rituals.

The various onomatopoeic names derive from the sound of the beaten drum. Terms related to duff spread to parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Variant examples appear in Armenia (dap); in Azerbaijan (diaff, deff); among the Uighurs of Central Asia (dap); in Kurdish areas, Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia (def); in Greece, particularly the north (defi); and in East Africa (duff), where it is used by the Swahili and Swahili/Nguja people of Dar es Salaam and Tabora, Tanzania. The instrument probably travelled to South Asia in the 12th century (daph), and to Iberia and Latin America (adufe).

The daff is closely linked with frame drums known by other terms. In Iran, Turkey and Kurdish areas the terms daff/def and daire/dayre are both used without clear distinctions, although daire is generally associated with women and folk music. In Macedonia and Thrace the defi is commonly called daires or daire. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, the terms dahira and ghaval are also used. In Turkey and Syria the term Mazhar distinguishes religious use of a large drum similar to the daff. The Riqq, used in art music, is a virtuoso instrument related to the daff.

Actual usage and players

The daff (or modern riqq) is used in the takht ensemble of Arab art music. Until the 19th century it was used in Persian classical music, when it was replaced by the tombak (goblet drum), but since the early 1980s the daff has gradually been revived.

In Turkey, Gypsy men play it, especially to accompany performances by dancing bears, and Greek Gypsies use it with the street organ (laterna). In south-western Turkey, semi-professional Gypsy women (delbekçi kadınlar) play the delbek (a variant term) at rural weddings.

Types and shapes

The many types vary in shape, size, and method of attaching the skins, which may be pegged, glued or tensioned with a network of cords. Some types are fitted with a handle, notably a group of ritual drums of Central and northern Asia and North America. Others, such as the Irish Bodhrán, the tppumin of the Flathead people, Montana, and the hets of Mongolia, are held by wires, sticks or cords across the open back. Larger frame drums are generally beaten with a stick, usually on the head itself but sometimes on the frame, as among certain Inuit groups. Small drums are usually hand-beaten, principally with the fingers or knuckles: this is particularly true of the single-headed frame drums of the Middle East (like Bendīr; Daff; and Tār). The larger Mazhar is also hand-beaten. The European Tambourine (introduced from the Middle East) and the kaÃjīrā of south India are among the many examples of frame drum to have jingling devices such as metal rings, discs or pellet bells. The Arab Riqq, a small circular frame drum with ten pairs of small cymbals grouped in two small slits, is a virtuoso instrument on which a variety of tone colors is produced by striking and shaking alternately and in combination.


The drum has as much repertoires as shapes and types exist. The most important learning method is that of watching a master and imitating his gesture, posture and way of producing the sounds on the instrument.


Arab percussionists perform iqā‘āt with the placement of dūm(s) and tak(s) on prescribed beats and subdivisions. Iqā‘āt are cyclonic rhythmic modes in the Arab tradition. Iqā‘āt are used to accompany most genres of Arab music. The rhythmic cycles vary in length; while most are ten or less beats, iqā‘āt may be as long as forty-eight beats or more. With the riqq, iqā‘āt are performed with exceptional dynamic contrast, accomplished by performing unique ornamentations. Consequently, the instrument is a mainstay in the takht, firqah, and Firqat āl-Mūsīqā al-‘Arabīyyah ensembles, as well as a number of other traditional ensembles.

The Arab world is proud with masters of Ḍabt al-’īqā‘, (ضبط الإيقاع), like Mohamed El 'Arabi, 'Adel Shams Eddine, Hossam Ramzi, Michel Merhej Baklouk, Ibrahim Afifi, Samir Khalil, Hassan Anwar, Mohamed Al Arabi and others.

Kindly check some famous performers’ videos on the following links:


Reference (with liberty): New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, (editors), 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

"Daff" Teachers:

  • Ahmad Kaakati
  • Ali Al Khatib
  • David Estfan
  • Elias Al Damouni
  • Walid Naser

Page created at: 13-02-2015

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