Article: Gawharet El Fan - Darbuka Types
Gawharet El Fan - Darbuka Types
From the shores of Alexandria to the deepest depths of the Nubian desert. The one instrument that has carried on tradition for thousands of years and have kept it's invitation and leadership throughout the genres of Egyptian music, whether it be folk, roots revival, coptic, saidi (upper Egyptian), Nubian or even Western influenced pop music. The 'darbuka' or as commonly known in Egypt as the 'tabla', is a goblet drum with a thin, responsive and resonance drumhead which produces a distinctively crisp sound. By traditional standards, these drums are made from clay, metal or wood. But since modern technology has introduced itself in the music industry, you will commonly find drums made from synthetic materials, including fiberglass. Modern metal drums are commonly made of aluminum (either cast, spun, or formed from a sheet) or copper. Some aluminum drums may have a mother-of-pearl inlay, which is purely decorative. Traditional drum heads were animal skin, commonly goat and also fish. Modern drums commonly use synthetic materials for drum heads, including mylar and fiberglass.
To explain more about these drums we will discuss three of (what is considered internationally) some of the best darbukas available in the market today. Not surprisingly ALL three of the darbukas are made by the same hand crafting business; Gawharet El Fan. They are one of the oldest if not the current oldest place, conveniently located in Mohamed Ali Street in the heart of Cairo where over the course of the 20th Century, this street became a local center for instrument making, bands, musicians, dancers and singers from all over Cairo and even from villages where the arts were not considered a stable profession.
i. The Sombaty Darbuka
This instrument stands at no more than 18.5 inches, weighs at just under 13 pounds with an outer diameter of 11.5 inches and inner diameter of 9 inches, is the perfect match for vocal accompaniment. This design carries the more traditional outlook on what your typical standard darbuka would have looked like during ancient times. Granted this instrument is made from aluminum and does come with a spare drumming skin made from fiberglass, but it does not hinder the quality compared to more traditionally made drums. This drum is made to last indefinitely and not change its tones and smoothness as it's made from durable material.
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ii. New Generation
If you're looking for a more professional darbuka for studio recording sessions and you require a crispier more tone affectionate drum then the 'New Generation' model is what you're looking for. It is 1 inch in length, diameter and 3 pounds lighter which is what makes it both better in portability and in sound. The size precision here allows professional musicians take their beats to a different level, since they are required to collaborate and fuse themselves in the mixing stage of production. But just because an instrument that has to be at a level of professionalism, does not mean that it cannot have the sensuality and artistry of what it was made for. Again the mother of pearl skin designs are unique and finished to a perfection that while the musician beats on it, his fellow musicians can awe in agreement and gratitude for the delicacy of this beautiful handcrafted masterpiece.
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Don't be fooled by this instrument. Granted it is the smallest of the three weighing at less than 9 pounds, just under 17 inches in height, this piece was designed in mind for the outdoor or concert level musician. Due to it's dimensions, the clarity, cleanliness and crispness of this instrument comes second to none. Most musicians will attest that with this darbuka, it gets more attention at concerts as it forms a bond with the listener. Sometimes this instrument may dominate a song which is why it requires trained ears and hands to play this beauty as it was meant to be.
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