Sam Topalidis 2014
‘Musical instruments are not just objects of
historical interest or tools for music making:
they are windows into society, history, and
This work describes the
history of the
drum, how it is played, how it is constructed
and its past distribution in Turkey.
Reference is also
made of its importance in Pontic music
from the Black Sea coastal area of
northeastern Turkey (the Pontos).
is a double-headed suspended cylindrical drum
played with two beaters (Figure 1) in Greece,
Turkey (where it is called
and in other countries.
is also called:
turki (Arab countries).9
(See note 1.)
Rural Greeks owe much of
their sense of traditional music to those who
play instruments for open-air village fair
zourna (note 2).
players continue the Greek musical traditions,
as the dwindling number of their successors
continue to do today.
This is the
tradition not only of the performer, but of
the maker of the popular folk instruments of
Greece who often play instruments they have
In most of Turkey, the
is the primary ‘dance drum’.
stringed instruments in the Aegean
zeybek-s, it accompanies one or more
in central, eastern and southeastern Turkish
and it is part of the heterogeneous ensemble
that is used to perform
karshilama (partner dance) and other
wedding dances in Turkish Thracian
villages (note 3).
The one exception:
it is only used for
in the Trabzon city area, as most
(line dances from the Black Sea coastal
region of northeastern Turkey) do not
(See note 4.)
In relation to Pontic
dance music, in the Turkish northeastern Black
Sea area the
kemenche (Pontic lyra)
is the basic musical instrument (see
daouli are only used when it was
impossible to hear the
kemenche (i.e. outside in a large crowd).
was not usually played with the
kemenche; the bagpipe (tulum)
was preferred as a second instrument (note 5).5
is a wooden cylinder, covered at both parallel
ends with skin held taut by rope and is
principally a rhythmic instrument.
It is played by
striking the drum-head with two specially made
wooden drumsticks, held one in each hand.
right-handed drummer, the drum-beater held in
the left hand is very thin and light.
In contrast, the
drum-beater held in the right hand is much
thicker, heavier and can resemble a club.1
that follow assume the player is right handed.
players grasp the drumsticks with the opposite
and beaters: diameter 38 cm, cylindrical frame
20 cm high.1
is made in various sizes: the diameter of each
skin surface (drum-head) varies from around 25
to 100 cm, and its height (the distance
between the two skin surfaces) ranges from
around 20 to 60 cm.
The size of the
is influenced by tradition (depending on the
region) and the physical dimensions of the
drum player, who makes the drum to suit his or
her height, girth, strength and the length of
In the years since
World War II, progressively smaller
have been made in Greece.1
For the presence of
type drums either among the Western Turks in
general or in Middle Eastern or European
countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, no
unambiguous iconographical or textural
evidence earlier than the 14th century
has been found.
iconographic evidence, however, that the main
constructional features of this drum were
fully developed a millennium and a half
evidence from South Asia, the use of direct
strap-bracing (without the intervention of
a lapped hoop) is shown in reliefs at Bharhut
(central India), completed between 100 and
75 BC in which, on a barrel drum, a central
girdle serves as anchor for a simple W-bracing
running from head to girdle.6
A contrary view is, the
was known as early as Byzantine times (9th century),
when it originally appears to have had smaller
dimensions and was long and narrow in shape.
It was used
extensively from then on is evidenced by
Byzantine and post Byzantine miniatures and
In all of these,
from such early examples as the miniature
depicted in the 9th century
illuminated manuscript from the
Pantocrator Monastery, Mount Athos, to the
more recent miniatures and wall-paintings
dating from the 14th to the 18th century
one can discern basic morphological
characteristics, as well as methods of playing
daouli of the present day – the form, the
manner in which the bracing is tied and the
instrument is slung over the shoulder, the use
of the drumsticks for beating the instrument.1
As an instrument intended
to provide rhythm, the
is never played solo, but is always heard in
combination with at least one melodic
Together with the
daouli makes up the
the traditional instrumental group of mainland
Greece in particular, the group with which so
many generations have enjoyed their folk
songs; at festivities, marriage and baptism
celebrations or village fair.
instruments are well suited for open-air
performances with their strong penetrating
is suspended over the left shoulder by a
shoulder-strap, with its centre of gravity
below the waist, (or slung from a leather
harness, circling the chest and passing over
the left shoulder).6
The proximal end of the
handle of the larger beater is held gripped by
all the fingers of the right hand.
On the upstroke,
the inertia of the beater-head tends to open
the grip of the fingers, while during the
strike, flexing of the fingers adds speed to
the movement of the head – an important
determinant of tone quality.6
The drummer strikes the
centre of the beater-head, or slightly
off-centre or can be struck relatively closer
to the edge.
The striking of
the head at or near the centre will tend to
suppress all overtones with a node at the
centre and, in general, to reduce the
intensity of higher overtones in favour of
The breadth of the
beater-head in many of the types of larger
beater will still further reduce the higher,
inharmonious overtones characteristic of drums
with heads of uniform thickness.
By contrast, the
much lighter, thin beater struck with the left
hand, making brief
with the lower head, and at times along a
radius, almost from hoop to centre, will
generate a sound rich in upper partials.
Hitting the upper
hoop or the shell itself will also have this
When a snare is present,
the damping of the head is accelerated, and
the sound has a dry, rattling or buzzing
quality, due to ‘chatter’ of the stretched
snare on the vibrating skin.
The presence of
the rare ‘air-hole’ should tend to uncouple
the two heads, so that the energy of vibration
is less readily transmitted between them.6
In general, the larger
beater marks the strong beat (or beats) in
each measure, while the small beater fills in
the weak beats, in part or completely.
The absolute and
relative pitches of the two heads differ.6
When playing at a festive
gathering, the drum-player may remark, ‘I’m
playing the way he dances’, at the same moment
the leading dancer is saying, ‘I’m dancing the
way he beats on his drum’.
It is to this
intercommunication, the rapport established
between the leading dancer and the musicians
that the character of each folk song is due.1
One of the markers of
daouli players is the extraordinarily fast
speed of their articulated stick rhythms.2
It appears that
the Pontic Greek diaspora who live in Greece,
other European countries as well as America
and Australia now play the
more often with their main musical instrument,
How it is constructed
The first step to make a
is to construct a cylindrical frame or
skeleton of the desired size.
wooden surface is then cut to the dimensions
of the framework, and nailed to the latter.1
(See note 6.)
The wooden surface, the
drum-shell, is made of a single piece of
layered wood, traditionally of beech or
In order to
acquire its cylindrical form, the wood is
first soaked in water, or worked into shape by
means of fire.
Two iron rings are
attached to this wooden shell when it is
ready; subsequently, when the instrument has
been completely finished (with skins
attached), a sling is passed through these so
that the drum can be suspended from the
shoulder of the drummer.1
Finally, an ‘air-hole’ is
cut at some point in the surface of the
cylindrical shell so that the air inside the
drum can ‘leak out’ – so that the skins do not
burst as a result of the vibrational movement
of the air inside the drum when it is beaten.
This air-hole also
affects the sound produced by the instrument;
a very small opening makes for a sombre and
dull sound, whereas a very large hole makes
for a hollow sound.
The usual diameter
of the air-hole ranges from around 1 to 2 cm,
according to the size of the drum.
On large drums,
there are occasionally two and sometimes even
three such air-holes.1
To make the two heads of
the drum, goatskin, or more rarely, sheepskin
(which is not as strong as goatskin) is
treated and used.
The hides of the
wolf, the dog (are used only for small drums),
and the donkey are also considered suitable
material, because ‘they are strong and do not
have many pores’.1
There are two main
methods for preparing the hides.
Either the skin
is sun-dried, or it is salted by the addition
of alum, and kept rolled up from three to
five days, after which it is soaked in slaked
lime and water, again from three to five days.
Then it is cleaned
and made as thin as desired with a piece of
grease it with oil so that it will remain soft
when it has dried out.1
produced hides are also used to make
After it has been
tanned, the skin is then stretched and
fastened to two wooden hoops, which are fitted
to the two parallel ends of the cylindrical
shell of the drum.
spaced holes are cut around the circumference
of the skins.
A rope is them
passed through the holes of the two skins,
bracing them together, and is tightened by
being bound in different ways.1
In some regions, where
small drums are commonly used, as in eastern
Crete, two snares of sheep gut are
diametrically stretched over either one or
both of the drum-heads, and are fastened to
the wooden hoop or hoops, as the case may be.
These snares add
sharpness and a distinctive timbre to the
sound of the drum.1
Though goat skins are
commonly used in Gaziantep (in southeastern
Turkey), the two heads are made of skins
differing in thickness.
The thinner skin
comes from a male kid, while the thicker skin
(for use with the heavier beater) is taken
from an older female goat that has not as yet
(See note 7.)
There are two main
classes of large beaters: crook-shaped and
In the former
class, the head of the beater that strikes the
batter head of the drum is a planar hook or
crook (either hollow or solid).
In the latter
class, the head of the beater is a spheroidal,
oval or ellipsoidal solid of revolution,
surmounting a cylindrical staff.
The proximal end
of the handle of many large beaters; and in
particular those associated with
rope-braced drums, is shaped to facilitate use
in tightening the bracing.6
The small beater: is
usually a straight twig of hardwood,
frequently cornel, stripped free from bark and
may be quite plain or provided with a
finger-grip of wool or leather.
Juniper is also
another suitable wood.6
Up to the 1970s (at
was probably endemic in most of the provinces
of Turkey in the sense that some of the
inhabitants of each province (with the
possible exception of the Pontos region)
whatever their precise ethnic status,
themselves made and played the instrument.
In the Pontos
region, however, both drummers and
players are likely to be migrants from other
The existence of
differences between drums from different
regions in Turkey argues against the view that
‘gypsies’ of one sort or another, roving
freely through Thrace and Turkey, are the
bearers of the drum tradition (note 8).
Drums may differ:
in size and in the construction of the shell
distribution of these different elements is
mapped, it becomes evident that they undergo
drum is a much loved musical instrument played
over Greece, Turkey and many other countries
including countries where the Greek and
Turkish diaspora now reside.
Opinions seem to
vary in the literature on the occurrence of
playing of the
in Pontic Greek or Pontic Turk music.
We need new
studies written in English to enhance the
significant work of the past1,
6 on the status of playing the
and other folk instruments in Greece and
Turkey and what the future may hold.
May we foster the playing
of folk music as a means of expressing joy, a
reflection of our society, history and a means
for building a mutual bridge of understanding
two main references in this work, from a Greek
and a Turkish perspective, although they were
published in the 1970s, are still valuable
In 1976 Mr Fivos
Anoyanakis first published his landmark book,
popular musical instruments in Greek.
It was first
published in English in 1979.
His second English
edition, published in 1991, contained no
updates to his earlier edition.
Thus his research
is accurate up to 1975.
In 1975, the
Englishman, Dr Laurence Picken, published
detailed research for his ‘magisterial’ book,
musical instruments of Turkey.
is an ‘oboe-like’ woodwind instrument which
uses a double reed and generates a piercing
zourna olmassa ben de gelin olmam’ – ‘If
drum and oboe are not there I don’t want to be
proverb shows how much this
zourna music is revered, that a village
wedding without it seems impossible.3
Until a few
decades prior to 2001, folk instruments in
Turkey were played either solo or in small
From around 2001,
there was a growing tendency for many
instruments to be played together.
In large and
medium-size cities, there was also an
increasing tendency, at the festivals of
wealthier groups, to add European and
All over Turkey,
folk music groups incorporated a variety of
instruments, both Western and traditional, to
create small orchestras; these performed with
amateur and professional singers at festivals.8
(2003) Director of the
Folklore Archives of the Centre of Asia Minor
Studies in Athens, stated the favoured
musical instrument of Pontic Greeks was the
traditional instrument is the
(bagpipe) which is sometimes accompanied by
Alkis Raftis (199?) the President of the
Dora Stratou Dance Theatre and Company
stated in relation to Pontic Greek music, the
kemenche was mainly played solo or
accompanying the singer.
the dance takes place in the open air the
kemenche may be accompanied by a second
kemenche or a
He further adds,
‘It is necessary for a wide dance circle to be
accompanied by a percussion instrument which
produces strong sound and marks the tune.
This instrument is
daouli, which is nowadays replaced by
modern percussion instruments with electronic
In fact, on the
Stratou Greek Dance Theatre produced CD,
Pontic dances and songs, a
is played on
11 of the 20 songs.
played as well!
In the description
in one area in Turkey, strong leather thonging
replaced nails, as iron nails impaired the
sound of the drum – perhaps because of their
tendency to work loose and buzz, or because of
their tendency to corrode.6
The following link
is to a useful video on how to make a
(in Greek with English subtitles):
This link is to an
article updated in 2004 by David Golber on how
In Greece, gypsies
have in the past occupied a special place in
the folk musician’s world.
to Greek popular music due to their passionate
playing and especially in the evolution of an
instrumental style as well as in some
instances the very structure of folk melody.1
1. Anoyanakis, F 1991,
popular musical instruments, 2nd edition,
Melissa Publishing House, Athens.
2. Bates, E 2011,
in Turkey: experiencing music, expressing
culture, Oxford University Press, New
3. Dietrich W 1977,
music of Turkey, booklet provided with the
music CD which was recorded between 1968 and
1976, Topic records, England.
4. Dragoumis MPh 2003,
of Pontos: recordings of 1930, Booklet
provided with the Pontic Greek double CD,
produced by friends of Melpo Merlier Music
Folklore Archive with the cooperation of the
Infognomon Publishing Company, Athens.
5. Kilpatrick, DB 1980,
Function and style in Pontic dance music
(A dissertation submitted
in partial satisfaction for the Doctor of
Philosophy in Music 1975, University of
[Archives of Pontos],
Epitropi Pontiakon Meleton [The Committee for
Pontic Studies] Athens.
6. Picken, L 1975,
musical instruments of Turkey, Oxford
University Press, London.
7. Raftis, A 199?,
Pontic dances and songs, Booklet provided
with Pontic Greek music CD,
Stratou Greek Dance Theatre, Athens.
8. Reinhard, U 2002,
‘Turkey: an overview’,
Garland Encyclopedia of World Music,
vol. 6, The Middle East, pp. 759–77.
New Grove Dictionary of
Music and Musicians,
2001, vol. 7, ‘Davul’,