The tonbak or zarb ('or ') is a goblet drum from Persia (ancient Iran). It is considered the principal percussion instrument of Persian music.
The tonbak has five parts:
The skin is usually glued to the body. Sheepskin or goatskin are the most popular choices for the drumhead ("skin"). The shell (wide or main part of the drum's body) of a tonbak is made of mulberry wood, which imparts some of its distinctive sound to the drum, and may be decorated with carved furrow or other design. The throat is nearly cylindrical and connects the top (body) cavity to the hollow base . The throat and the small opening together form somewhat of a trumpet shape as its edge is flared similarly to the sound opening of most brasswind instruments. The much larger of its two openings is at the top and is covered by the drumhead membrane (either sheepskin or goatskin). The tonbak player holds the drum diagonally across the lap with the wider section usually over the player's right side and plays it with one or more fingers and one or both palms of the hands.
Goblet-shaped drums are played in different regions of Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. Although similarities exist among all goblet drums, the techniques for playing the tonbak are different from most other goblet drums. The modern tonbak described in this page is most-closely associated with the music of Iran.
The most common time signatures associated with the tombak are 6/8, 2/4, 4/4, 5/8, 7/8, and 16/8 times, respectively . Today the rhythmic ictus (beat or pulse) of the drum does not merely work as a metronome, but is usually woven into the main fabric of the music as if it were any other (melodic) instrument. Until fairly recently, the tonbak was not considered a virtuoso solo instrument until the pioneering work of Ostad Hossein Tehrani in the 1950s, as well as innovations of Ostad Nasser Farhangfar and others. Modern tonbak players are exponentially expanding the techniques used in playing the instrument. One popular modern tonbak exponent is the Iranian artist Madjid Khaladj [*].
CD by Navid Afghah: Temple of wooden figures
CD by Navid Afghah: Genesis
CD by Mohammad Esmaili: Tombak Course Mahoor Inst.
CD by Daryush Zargari: "Saz-e Tanha" Mahoor Inst.
MADJID KHALADJ: Anthology of Iranian Rhythms - volume 1 / The basic works of Master Hossein Tehrani [*]
MADJID KHALADJ: Anthology of Iranian rhythms - volume 2 / daf (mystical drum), dayre & zang-e saringoshti [*]
CD by Madjid Khaladj: Infinite Breath - Nafas [*]
Teachings of Iranian Tonbak virtuoso Hamid Mottaghinejad (as told to percussionist F. Elliott), Los Angeles, California USA [2006-2008]
DVD OF TOMBAK / Madjid Khaladj All Regions | Coproduction : Le Salon de Musique & Ecole de Tombak | Langues : francais, anglais, espagnol | Duration : 172 minutes | book 80 pages (French / English.)| EDV 937 CV 054 | Read More : [*]
The Tonbak or 'Zarb' is the principal percussion instrument used in Iranian art music. It is a single-headed goblet-shaped drum with a wood shell and a sheepskin or goatskin top (drumhead). It is carved from a single block of mulberry wood for an atttactive visual as well as aural impression! Although at 'bottom' the shell is somewhat thicker than at the top for strength (since the drumhead adds to the strength at the top), it is fairly widely open to permit a full bass tone as well as various treble tones (see below), as required. A sheepskin or goatskin membrane is stretched and (under tension) secured with glue, tacks, or both. While adjustable tuning mechanism tonbaks have been produced experimentally, the head tension is normally fixed prior to performance by careful attention to the temperature and humidity to which the dormant tonbak is exposed. Or the player may heat or cool or dampen or dry the membrane to reach a desired fundamental pitch. The pitch can be raised somewhat during a performance by applying finger pressure against the membrane using a less-busy hand, but it is more common to hear a tonbak player "riffing" and making use of a variety of tapping and clicking timbres than to focus on the drum's pitch, which is indefinite anyway, using the rich rhythmic vocabulary that may bear ancestral relationship to the complex rhythms of India and certainly does bear relationship to traditional rhythms of North Africa and elsewhere . The timbre of the tonbak could be vaguely compared to that of a clay pot used as a drum (see Water Drum (Africa)).
The average tonbak or zarb is about 43 cm in height with a 28 cm dia. top membrane (drumhead) covering the entire wider top cavity. The bottom part is much narrower, hence the tonbak has a well-defined goblet shape (although few goblet-shaped drums have goblet-thin necks, since they are usually made of wood and well-hollowed for good air flow and rich tone. The shell's wall thickness is approximately 2 cm, and its exterior may include an artfully-carved design or geometic pattern . The tonbak is normally positioned diagonally across the player's torso while the player uses one or more fingers and/or the palm(s) of the hand(s) on the drumhead, often (for a ringing timbre) near the drumhead's edge. Sometimes tonbak players wear metal finger rings for an extra-percussive "click" effecton the drum's shell (usually on one hand only) producing rapid rhythms and characteristically-Persian drum sounds. Typically, two or three clearly contrasting timbres (through varying finger placement or clacking of a ring against the drum shell) are played in an antiphonal style, similar to African drumming or Indian tabla playing (drumming), which gives the aural impression of more than one percussionist, or the sole percussionist engaging in some sort of extended musical soliloquy. Many tonbak virtuosi perform extended-length solos for ten minutes or more, and like the (often-neglected or minimized) tambourine, when played in a highly skillful way, the musical results are very impressive.
Famous Tonbak Players
Amir Nasser Eftetah
Music of Iran
[*] The official website of Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
[*] Madjid Khaladj
[*] Faramarz Amiri's Official Website