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Encyclopedia of Persian Percussion Instruments

Peyman Nasehpour © 2002


Akhlakandu: A very ancient percussion instrument. It was made of skull that it includes gravel stones in it. Today its name is Jeghjeghe that literally means rattle. It was played by shaking the instrument.

Ajlakandu: Another name of Akhlakandu.

Alvah: It is a set of wooden or metallic plates that is played by being struck with sticks.

Arabaneh: A kind of frame drum, maybe with jingles.

Arkal: A kind of drum, maybe frame drum.

Ayine-pil: A big metallic ancient drum that was banded on elephant and it was played with sticks. Its French name is Gong.

Batare: A kind of frame drum, maybe the same as Daf. It should be mentioned that Bateri is the same as the English word Battery (sound of drum and also a kind of percussion instrument).

Bendayer: A kind of frame drum, maybe the same as Bendir. Please refer to Bendir.

Bendir: A kind of frame drum with bells. Today the Bendir is a typical frame drum. Similar instruments are common in the whole Near East from Morocco to Iraq and also in Northern Africa. The special feature of this Instrument lies in the snare strings that run inside the instruments body near the drum skin.

Boshghabak: Small cymbal to be used by dancers.

Chaghabeh: Another name of Chaghaneh.

Chaghaneh: A kind of percussion instrument that is made of small dried gourd, which includes gravel stones. Dancers sound it during their dance performance.

Chalab: A kind of cymbal that is played in mourning ceremonies. Its smaller size is played in festive ceremonies. Another names of Chalab are Chalap, Senj, Zang, and Tal.

Chambar: It literally means frame. It has also been interpreted as a Persian tambourine.

Charkh: Any kind of frame drum. It literally means wheel.

Chini: A kind of percussion instrument to be played in army. Its body is made of clay that it is hung some little bells from its body. Shaking it sounds it.

Chumlak-dombolak: A kind of Turkish-Egyptian Dombak with clay body.

Dabal: Big drum. Dabalzan means Dabal player.

Dabdab: Drum, maybe kettledrum.

Daf: Daf is one of the most ancient frame drums in Asia and North Africa. As a Persian instrument, in 20th century, it is considered as a Sufi instrument to be played in Khaghan-s for Zikr music but now this percussion instrument has recently become very popular and it has been integrated into Persian art music successfully.

Daf-e-chahar-gush: A kind of squared Daf. This percussion-skinned instrument is played in Egypt and Syria.

Dafif: Another name of Daf.

Damameh: A kind of drum. It is a big bowl covered with skin. Also it is a kind of cylindrical drum.

Damam: Another name of Damameh.

Damaru: It has been interpreted as a very ancient Persian long-necked lute. But in India and it is a small hourglass drum traditionally ascribed to Shiva. Two small beads are attached to a string that winds around the middle of the instrument. Held in the right hand and rolled from side to side. It is played in Nepal also.

Damz: A kind of frame drum.

Daneh: A kind of drum that one side is covered with skin and the other side is left open. Maybe the same as the Indian drum Danka.

Dap: A kind of frame drum. Some believe that Dap or Dup is a Hebraic word, which means stroke or beat and Daf is arabicized of Dap. In Uyghuristan (Xinjiang of China) there are two kinds of frame drums. One is Dap and other that is smaller is Kichik Dap (Kichik literally means small). In Malaysia Dup is a double-headed drum and is cylindrical in shape. Dup is usually used in the Ghazal and 'Gambuh' performance. Goat hide is used to produce sound and it is hit using the hand or hitting equipment, which is wrapped with soft cloth. Dup is famous among the Malay community in Johor. The word "Dup" originated from the onomatopoeic system.

Dara: Dara-y. Please refer to Jaras.

Dara-y: Dara, Jaras. Please refer to Jaras.

Dara-ye-Hindi: A kind of Dara.

Dareh: A kind of Persian frame drums same as Dayereh. It is played in folk music of Dezful city in Khuzestan province of Iran. There is a proverb that is: Dara seda nadara, which means Dareh, has not sound! Dara is a dialect of Dareh and Dareh in Dezful is called Dara. In Dezful Dar means coarse sieve.

Dariye: Another dialect of Dayereh.

Davat: A kind of drum to be stroke by Ghazib (drum stick).

Dayereh: It literally means circle. It is a kind of Persian frame drum, though apparently Dayereh is an Arabic word. Some believe that Dayereh is the same as the Persian word Dareh.

Dayereh-zangi: Tambourine.

Desarkutan: A kind of drum to be played in Mazandaran province of Iran. Please refer to Naghghareh-ye-Shomal.

Dizeh: In Bojnord city of Khorasan province of Iran, Dareh is called Dizeh.

Dobol: A dialect of Dohol in Shushtar city of Khuzestan province of Iran.

Dofuf: Arabic pl. of Daf.

Dohol: A big cylindrical two-faced drum to be played by two special drumsticks. One is wooden thick stick that is bowed at the end and its name is Changal (or Kajaki). The other is thin wooden twig and its name is Deyrak. (In Hormozgan province of Iran, Dohol is played by two hands.) Dohol is the main accompaniment of Sorna (Persian Oboe, Turkish Zurna, Indian Shehnay and Chinese Suona).

Dohol-e-baz: Small brazen Dohol to be played in the time of hunting in order to encourage the prey hawk (falcon) for hunting.

Doholak: A kind of Dohol to be played in Baluchestan by two hands. Its name in Pakistan is Nal. In Mahashtra of India its name is Dholki. Dholak in India is crude folk drum characterized by a cylindrical wooden shell covered with skin on both sides.

Dombak: Another name of Tonbak. It is derived from the Pahlavi (Persian ancient language) word, Dombalak.

Dombalak: Pahlavi name of Tonbak.

Dombalak-e-ayyubi: Dombalak attributed to Ayyub. It is interesting to say that Ayyub is a Middle Eastern rhythm to be played in belly dance.

Donbak: Another name of Tonbak.

Donbalak-e-Moghren: An ancient drum that was a pair of Tombaks.

Doplak: Small drum. Please refer to Tablak.

Dora: A kind of small frame drum (Not to be confused with Japanese Dora that is a kind of Gong). It should be another dialect of Dara. Please refer to Dareh. In Tajikistan and Afghanistan Dareh is called Doira.

Dorokkor: A kind of Baluchestani cylindrical drum, similar to Indian Khol. Please refer to Tombak.

Dulab: Sarcastic or ironical name of drum.

Dulak: Dohol of Pakistan and Afghanistan. A kind of cylindrical drum.

Gapdohol: A kind of Dohol to be played in Hormozgan province of Iran.

Gavorga(ke) : Kus (Kettledrum).

Ghashoghak: Castanets.

Ghaval: Azerbaijani frame drum with or without rings. Ghavalchi means Ghaval player.

Ghodum: A kind of drum to be played in Turkish Sufi music. Another name in Turkey is Kudum.

Ghopuz: Jew's harp of Turkmen Sahra of Iran. Please refer to Zanburak.

Gong: Metal disk with a turned rim giving a resonant note when struck with a stick. Gong apparently is of Chinese origin.

Gushdarideh: Tablak (Small drum).

Jalajel: pl. of Joljol. It literally means bells.

Jam-Danbolak: A kind of drum similar to Tonbak. It should be mentioned that Jam literally means cup.

Jaras: A kind of metallic percussion instrument. This is an Arabic word that its meaning in Persian is Dara-y. It is sounded by sledge. Its Chinese name is Chak.

Jeghjeghe: Persian rattle. Today in Iran it is considered as an instrument for entertaining children.

Jure: A kind of cylindrical drums same as Dohol to be used in folk music of Hormozgan province of Iran for accompanying Sorna (Persian Oboe, Turkish Zurna, Indian Shehnay and Chinese Suona) in wedding ceremonies or any other festive occasions.

Kabar: Drum, Tabl.

Kafeh: A kind of Daf (frame drum) to be played by the palm of the hand. Kaffeh means circular thing.

Kas: Please refer to Kus.

Kasat: It is a set of china bowls that are filled with water. Each bowl is struck with a light wooden mallet to cause it to ring. Its Indian version is called Jal-Tarang. Jal-Tarang can be translated to water-bowl chimes.

Kaseh: Literally means bowl. But in music it is considered as kettledrum. Kasehzan and Kasehgar both mean Kaseh player.

Kaseh-pil: A kind of drum that was banded on elephant. Please refer to Ayine-pil.

Kastan: It is two bowls that dancers struck them to each other during their performance. It should be the same as Castanets.

Keser: A kind of Dohol to be played in Hormozgan province.

Khanjari: A kind of small drum played in Qawwal music of Pakistan. Maybe there is a relation between Khanjari and Indian Kanjira.

Khar-mohre: A kind of Gong.

Khom: Kettledrum.

Khombak: Another name for Tonbak. Khomak: Khom-e-ruyin. It literally means small barrel. There is a kind of cylindrical drum in Bengal and its name is Khomok. The khomok of the Baul people of Bengal is also known as a khamak, anandalahari, and gubgubi. It looks like a small drum with a wooden body and a skinhead. The head is pierced with a string attached to a small piece of wood or metal to prevent it from passing all the way through the skin. The other end of the string travels through the instrument to come out the bottom opening and is attached to a small brass handle. The khomok is played by placing the drum body under the arm and pulling on the handle thus pulling the string and placing tension on the drum skin. The string is plucked while the tension on the string is varied, producing a surprising vocal-like sound. Some khomok have two strings that are played at the same time increasing both the volume and complexity of the sound.

Khom-e-ruyin: A kind of Khom with brazen body.

Khonb: Khom. Please refer to Khonbak.

Khonbak: Some believe that Khonbak was a small Kettledrum with metallic body. Then it was made of clay and now it is made of wood and it is same as today Tonbak.

Koli: A kind of Persian frame drum.

Kube: In Arabic, Al-kube. A kind of hourglass drum. Kube comes from the Persian verb Kubidan (to strike).

Kurka(e): A Turkish word. Please refer to Gavorga.

Kus: Persian Kettledrum.

Kus-e-Ashkebus: Kus attributed to Ashkebus, famous commander of King Afrasiyab mentioned in masterpiece Shahnameh of the famous poet of Persia, Ferdosi.

Kus-e-dolat: Kettledrum to be played during the victories.

Kus-e-id: Kettledrum to be played during id (festival).

Kus-e-Iskandar: Kus attributed to Iskandar.

Kus-e-jang: Kettledrum used in wars in order to embolden and encourage the soldiers.

Kus-e-khaghani: Kettledrum for Khaghan (title of Chinese emperors).

Kus-e-Mahmudi: Kettledrum attributed to King Mahmud Ghaznavi.

Kus-e-rehlat: Kettledrum to be played during the decamping.

Kus-e-ruyin: Kettledrum with brazen body.

Kust: Another name of Kus mentioned in Shahnameh of Ferdosi.

Mandal: Apparently a kind of Indian drum. Mandalnavaz means Mandal player.

Mohre: A kind of drum to be used in wars.

Naghghareh: It is a pair of drums to be played with sticks. They are kettledrums of old Nobat (traditional ensemble of nine instruments). Today it is used to accompany Sorna. Naghgharechi means Naghghareh player. We have a same instrument in India that its name is Nagada or Nagara to be used usually accompanying the Shehnay (Indian Oboe). Some believe that the root of Indian Tabla should be Persian Naghghareh.

Naghghareh-ye-Fars: A kind of Naghghareh to be played in Fars province of Iran.

Naghghareh-ye-Sanandaj: A kind of Naghghareh to be played in Sanandaj city of Kurdistan province of Iran.

Naghghareh-ye-Shomal: A kind of Naghghareh to be played in North of Iran. Its name in Mazandaran province of Iran is Desarkutan. Desarkutan is the combination of the words De, Sar and Kutan that they respectively mean two, head and to beat.

Naghus: Gong.

Naker: Naghghareh. Nakers were made of wood, metal, or clay and were sometimes equipped with snares. They were almost always played in pairs and were struck with hard sticks. They were probably tuned to high and low notes of identifiable pitch.

Nal: Please refer to Doholak.

Ruyin-khom: Kettledrum. Please refer to Khom-e-ruyin.

Samma: A kind of frame drum to be played in Sufi (mystic) music of south of Iran, esp. Sistan-Baluchestan.

Saz-e-fulad: A kind of percussion instrument that is made up of 35 metallic plates with different sizes. Fulad literally means steel. Fulad is arabicized of Pulad. Saz literally means musical instrument.

Saz-e-kubei: Percussion instrument. Kubei means percussion and comes from the verb Kubidan that means to beat, to strike and so on.

Saz-e-zarbi: Percussion instrument. Literally Saz means musical instrument and Zarbi means rhythmic composition.

Saz-e-zarbi-ye-pusti: Percussion skinned instrument. Pust and pusti literally mean skin and skinned.

Shaghf: A kind of frame drum.

Shahin-Tabbal: Shahin literally means royal falcon, but here is a kind of wind instrument. Tabbal means drummer. Shahin-Tabbal is a person who plays Shahin by one hand and Tabl (drum) by the other one.

Senj: Cymbal. Senj should be the same as Indian Jhanj (Large Cymbal?) or Manjira.

Tabang: Another name of Tonbak (Persian goblet drum).

Tabare: A kind of drum. Please refer to Tabire.

Tabire: It literally means drum. In Arabic it means Tabl. In French encyclopedia of Littreé it has been mentioned that the French word Tabur (small drum used in medieval times to accompany folk-dancing) comes from the Persian word Tabire.

Tabl: Drum.

Tabla: Indian drums to be played in Northern Indian music. The invention of Indian Tabla is attributed to Amir Khosro Dehlavi, famous poet-musician.

Tablak: Small drum. Doplak should be another version of Tablak.

Tabl-e-baz: A kind of drum to be used in the time of hunting. Please refer to Dohol-e-baz.

Tabur: A kind of Eastern percussion instrument, which it has immigrated to west and has been called Tambour there. Please refer to Tabire.

Taburak: A kind of frame drum. It comes from Tabire and the diminutive suffix "ak". So it means small Tabire.

Taher: A kind of percussion instrument.

Tal: A kind of percussion instrument that is two small bowls. The bowls are beaten to each other to sound by dancers during their dance performance. This instrument can be found in India also.

Tanbal: Tablak or Dohol.

Tar: A kind of frame drum. This word is arabicized of the word Dareh.

Tas: Two kinds of percussion instrument are called Tas. One is a copper bowl covered with skin. This should be the same as Indian Tasa or Tasha. Tas is a small drum, which is beaten with sticks. Please refer to Tasht. It is interesting to mention that there was a custom that during the lunar eclipses the Tas or Tasht were played in Iran. Tas in ordinary use is a copper bowl used in bathhouses. Tasht literally means tub or basin. The other is a set of copper bowls without skin that its Indian version is called Jal-Tarang.

Tasht: A kind of percussion instrument. Tashtgar means Tasht player. Please refer to Tas.

Tempo: A kind of goblet drum very similar to Turkish-Arabic Dumbek or Darbuka (Not to be confused with the English word tempo).

Ter-yal: A kind of ancient percussion instruments same as Tirpal.

Timbook: A kind of cylindrical drums same as Dohol.

Tirpal: Please refer to Ter-yal.
Tombak: Another name of Tonbak. There is a kind of cylindrical drum in Baluchestan province of Iran. Its name is Tombak but it can be compared with Indian Khol. Khol also called mridang is a folk drum of northeast India. It has a body made of clay, a very small head on the right side (approximately 4 inches), and a larger head on the left side (approximately 10 inches).

Tombak-e-zourkhaneh: A kind of Tonbak to be played in zourkhaneh (Traditional Persian Gymnasium). Zourkhaneh literally means house of power.
Tonbak: Persian goblet drums. There are many names for this instrument. Some of them are: 1. Dombar 2. Dombarak 3. Tabang 4. Tabnak 5. Tobnak 6. Tobnok 7. Tobnog 8. Tonbik 9. Tonbook 10. Tontak 11. Khonbak 12. Khombak 13. Khommak 14. Damal 15. Dambal 16. Donbalak 17. Dombalak 18. Khoorazhak 19. Khomchak 20. Tonbak 21. Tombak 22. Donbak 23. Dombak 24. Zarb.

Tonbak-e-bazmi: A kind of Tonbak to be played in parties.

Tonbak-e-razmi: Tonbak-e-zourkhaneh.

Tonbak-e-Ta'lim: A kind of Tonbak for training the athletes in zourkhaneh (Traditional Persian Gymnasium).

Tonbak-e-zourkhaneh: A kind of Tonbak and bigger than ordinary Tonbak that it is played in zourkhaneh (Traditional Persian Gymnasium).

Tonbook: Another name of Tonbak.

Tulomba(e): A kind of percussion instrument.

Zanburak: Persian Jew's harp. It is played in Turkmen Sahra of Iran and its name in there is Ghopuz, Ghobuz and Khabuz. Its Indian name is Murchang.

Zang: Bell. Please refer to Jaras.

Zang-e-sarangoshti: Copper cymbals, played per pairs fixed on the inch and the major one of each hand. Mainly employed to stress the dance, one finds them in particular present in the miniatures Persians on figurines dancers of the beginning of the century, and in the past on low-relieves. Their existence seems to go back to immemorial times.

Zang-e-zourkhaneh: A kind of Zang to be played in zourkhaneh (Traditional Persian Gymnasium).

Zangol: Another name of Zang.

Zangolicheh: Small Zang or Jaras. It comes from Zangol and the diminutive suffix "cheh".

Zanguleh: Small bell.

Zanjir: Literally means chain. Its Pahlavi name is Zanchir. It is made up of some hawk bells to be hanged from somewhere. It sounds by shaking.

Zarb: Another name of Tonbak. Zarbgir is old expression for Tonbak player and it comes from the verb Zarb gereftan that means to play on Zarb.

Zarb-e-zourkhaneh: A kind of Tonbak to be played in zourkhaneh (Traditional Persian Gymnasium). Zourkhaneh literally means house of power.

Zarbuleh: A kind of goblet drum to be played in North Africa and Syria. In Syria it is covered with fish-skin and in North Africa with goatskin.

Zerbaghali: Another name of Zirbaghali.

Zirbaghali: A kind of goblet drum very similar to Persian Tonbak to be played in Afghanistan. Zirbaghali is clay goblet drum and played with a technique somewhat between Persian Tonbak and Indian Tabla, with some Darbuka techniques thrown in for seasoning. Indian Tabla has influenced the Afghans, particularly Kabulis. This word has been spelled Zerbaghali too. It is interesting to say that there is a black spot (siyahi) on the skin of Zirbaghali, which shows the influence of Indian Tabla on Zirbaghali. Zirbaghali can be considered as an Indo-Persian musical instrument.

Zu-jalal: A kind of frame drum with bells.


The author wishes to thank Hormoz Dilmaghani for his technical support.

Abbas Aryanpur and Manoochehr Aryanpur, The Concise Persian-English Dictionary, Amir Kabir Publication Organization, Tehran, 1990.
B. Chaintanya Deva, Indian Music, New Delhi, 1974.
David R. Courtney, Fundamentals of Tabla, Vol.I, Sur Sangeet Services, Houston, 1998.
Michael Kennedy, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford Univ. Press, London, 1980.
Mehran Poor Mandan, The Encyclopedia of Iranian Old Music, Tehran, 2000.
Cemsid Salehpur, Türkçe Farsça Genel Sözlügü, Tehran, 1996.
Mehdi Setayeshgar, Vazhe-Name-ye-Musighi-ye-Iran Zamin, Tehran, Vol. I (1995) & Vol. II (1996).