TOMBAK

  • The Tombak (also known as the Tonbak) is a Persian goblet drum and the chief drum of Persian music.

  • There are several variations of the goblet-shaped drum in different regions of Asia, East Europe, and North Africa.

  • While these variations do share some similarities, the techniques for playing the tombak are very different from other goblet drums of the world.

  • There is one goblet drum that shares more similarities with the tombak compared to other goblet shaped drums, which is the Zirbaghali (the Afghan goblet drum). The Zirbaghali has finger patterns and techniques that are quite similar to the tombak.

 

History:

  • The tombak is a pre-Islamic drum of the Persian empire.

  • During the Pre-Islamic ages, the tombak was known as the dombalag. Today, the names that the tombak is known by (tonbak, donbak, dombak) are all derived from the term, dombalag.

  • When it comes to the history of the tombak, much of it is in dispute since a lot of the historical accounts have not survived or were not published.

  • It is known that the tombak is ancient through historical accounts and paintings that date this instrument back to hundreds and hundreds of years ago. For instance, there are 17th century paintings featuring tombak players.

  • Prior to the 20th century, the tombak was an accompaniment instrument that was played by tasnif performers (A tasnif is a form of Persian music similar to a ballad). 

  • It was in the mid 1900s that Ostad Hossein Tehrani really gave the tombak its independent role. He devoted much of his life to promoting the tombak, not only in Iran but also in Europe.

  • Thanks to his efforts, the tombak is not only an accompaniment instrument, but one that can be featured on its own and present its own unique color.

 

Structure:

  • In terms of structure, the tombak is considered to have five parts: skin, body, throat, small opening, and large opening.

  • The large opening is the very top of the tombak where the skin is covering it.

  • The skin of the tombak, normally goatskin, is glued onto the head of the tombak. 

  • The body is made of wood, and it is the body that is the sound box of the tombak. 

  • Looking at the top of the body, one can see that there are furrows carved on the wood.

  • The throat is almost cylindrical and connects the top to the body.

  • The small opening is at the very bottom.

Playing the Tombak:

  • To play the tombak, it requires the use of both hands. One's dominant hand, which for me is my left hand, will be the lower hand. Then the upper hand is one's less dominant hand, which for me is my right hand.

  • The tombak has lots of different strokes and rolls, which require the use of all of the fingers. To see how the tombak is played and how it sounds, please watch the video on your right.