What do you know about the history of Daff or the Middle East Frame Drums?

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, 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 to Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Daff can 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 left or 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 euphorical and pleasant sound is important. These are the basic four rules of playing it (Tootoonchian).


persian daf - Hooman Tootoonchian

Daff References: 1.Doubleday, Veronica. "The Frame Drum in the Middle East: Women, Musical Instruments and Power." Ethnomusicology 43.1 (1999): 101-34. JSTOR. Web. 15 Oct. 2014 2. Tootoonchian, Hooman.The Secret of Daf. Tehran: Mahoor, 2012. Print.

Posted On : Thursday 22 December 2016
Author : Hooman Tootoonchian

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