“…The daff is especially popular in Sufi music (where often it is the only instrument used…..” 

Forat Fadil

Daff is a generic word for a frame drum in Arabic, and local varieties may have different names like Mazhar in Syria/Egypt or Bendir in North Africa.

The daff has a circular wooden frame ranging from 12 inches in diameter for smaller instruments to 24 inches and more on larger instruments. The frame can be about 4 inches deep for small diameters, and 2-3 inches deep for larger diameters. The skin is traditionally goat, deer, or another natural skin, and is permanently glued to the frame, while modern daff-s have plastic skin, and are tunable.

The daff is especially popular in Sufi music (where often it is the only instrument used to accompany singing) and is also used in classical, folk, and pop genres to achieve a bigger rhythm section.

The Middle East frame drum is one of the oldest musical instruments dated more than 3000 years (Doubleday 105). The oldest existing writing one of the most valid references is Psalms of the Prophet David, which stated that praise him (God) with daff and dancing (970-1010 BC) (daff). Moreover, there are many epigraphs around the world demonstrating the pictures of women playing frame drums more than men. The frame drum has an interesting history covering three thousand years. It was used by nomads for making different sounds in order to hunt animals.

 About the history of frame drums Doubleday stated, ”Artifacts from Mesopotamia (Iraq) from c.3000 B.C.E. show both men and women playing the drums … Babylonian statuettes from c.2000 B.C.E. show men and women playing “small frame drums”, and the carved fragment of a bowl dated c.2100 B.C.E. shows a male drummer beating an extremely large frame drum … frame drums were (also) featured in religious ceremonies and parades.“. According to her, “The Middle East frame drum is portable, played with the bare hands, and features in a wide variety of musical settings.

 As a generic type, it is single-headed. Its frame is of variable size, usually round, and sometimes modified with percussive additions (bells, rings, chains, cymbals, metal discs). Its skin may be painted (Eve and sheep`s skins make the best sound),” she also stated,” the most common names are duff (principally applied in Arabia and Western regions), daff/def (Turkey, Iran and further east), daireh/daira/doria (Middle East and Central Asia), and tar (Arabia). Other terms might be tof (Hebrew), mazhar, riqq and ghirbal (arabic), and bendir (North Africa).”(101-102). The Iranian frame drum (daff) comes from Kurdistan which is separated from Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Daff can be made in various sizes with different weights to ease carrying it for women and men. Depending on whether the player is right-handed or left-handed, daff is played on the left or the right side of his/her body respectively, and it should not be in front of their face. Not only holding daff in a proper position, but also proper sitting posture, correct counting, and playing with euphoric and pleasant sounds are important. These are the basic four rules of playing it.

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