DAF

  • The second national drum of Iran, the Daf, is a frame drum. 

  • There are many similar frame drums all over the world which even have similar names to the daf. We have the daf in India, the tef in Turkey, and the duf in Arab countries. 

  • However, what makes the daf unique from other frame drums are the ringlets that surround the daf.

History

  • The frame drum in itself is one of the most ancient types of musical instruments. There are artworks that show the daf going back to the time of the Sassanid Empire, which ruled from 224 to 651 AD. There are even been some artifacts found that date the frame drum to the time before the birth of Christ.

  • The daf goes back to pre-islamic ages, and actually was pronounced dap during ancient times in Persia. However, with the introduction of Islam to Iran, the dap was then pronounced as daf, an Arabicized name.

  • The daf for much of its existence was considered to only be a spiritual frame drum, even before the introduction of Islam. It has always had a connection to religious Iran.

  • For instance, the presence of the word “Daf” in many Persian poems shows the spiritual and deep connection to the daf. Poets such as Hafiz and Rumi referenced the daf in their poetry with high value and mentioned the spiritual power of the daf.

  • With the introduction of Islam, the daf was then played in Sufi gatherings at khangahs, the temple of the Sufis. 

  • The frame drum spread around the world due to the efforts of the Moors who introduced the daf and other Middle Eastern instruments like the Barbat to Islamic Spain, which was then introduced throughout Europe.

  • Today, thanks to the efforts of many daf Players, the daf is no associated as just being a religious/spiritual instrument. It is now played in many Persian musical genres and is known to be the second national drum of Iran.

        Structure:

  • The structure of the daf is quite simple with strong spiritual and entertainment effect.

  • The daf is usually round, made of a wooden frame, with animal skin glued on the frame. Goat skin is the most popular type of skin. Now, in places like the United States where the temperature is quite humid, we do not use dafs that have natural skin, but instead synthetic skin. The reason is  that synthetic skin is not so sensitive to humidity changes like animal skin is.

  • Pins are applied to the back of the frame to keep the skin on the frame tightly

  • What makes the daf unique from other frame drums, is that it has metal ringlets incorporated into the drum to provide jingle. There are hooks that are applied in order to hang the rings in the inner part of the frame.

  • Then, there is a leather band around the daf in order to aid the player for long duration performances.

  • It is also important to note that the daf comes in different sizes. The larger dafs are normally played by men while the medium sizes are played by women. Now, women who are daf players, often do play the larger dafs.

       Playing the Daf

       

  • To play the Daf, you normally hold the daf with your less dominant hand at the bottom of the Daf, which for me is my right hand.

  • You then place your dominant hand, which for me is my left, on the side of the Daf. To see how the Daf sounds and how it is played, please watch the videos below.