The Glossary Of World Percussion Instruments

Ghungroo: an anklet of small metallic bells tied to the feet of classical and folk dancers.

Jaltarang: a semicircular group of porcelain cups that are struck with thin bamboo sticks. Each cup is tuned by filling it with various levels of water.

Kanjira: a hand-held South Indian frame drum approximately 7" in diameter, mounted with a jingle, and traditionally covered with the skin of an endangered lizard (fortunately, alternatives to the lizard skin are now available).

Khartal: a pair of wooden blocks, sheets, or metal finger cymbals used to accompany devotional music.


Mrdangam: a double-headed South Indian cylindrical drum made from jackfruit wood (originally made from clay) often played by hand to accompany Carnatic music, and tuned with a wooden block and a stone. It is featured in the “Tani Avartanam,” a solo section of a classical piece of music.


Morsing: a jaw harp used in South Indian Carnatic music.

Pakhawaj: a double-headed hand-played North Indian cylindrical wooden drum traditionally used for accompanying the dhrupad style of ancient vocal music.

Pat Waing: a set of 21 small Burmese drums comprising a musical scale and played by hand. The musician sits in a horseshoe-shaped shell.

Tabla: a pair of single-headed hand-played bowl-shaped drums typically found in North India, as well as throughout the northern part of the region, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The dayan (right-hand drum, 5"–6" diameter) is made of wood and tuned to a specific pitch with a tuning hammer. The bayan (left drum, 9"–9.5" diameter) is made of metal and provides the bass tone that can be modulated. The goatskin heads that are applied to both drums contain concentric black circles.

Thammattama: a Sri Lankan set of two drums constructed of kos, kohomba, or milla tree containing heads made from cow or buffalo skin and played with sticks or mallets.

Latin America & Caribbean

The African diasporic culture has shaped Latin American and Caribbean percussion. For example, the kinka bell patterns in Africa serve similar timekeeping functions to the son and rumba claves of Afro Cuban music.

Cuba and Puerto Rico contain an array of musical styles and dances, such as mambo, guajira, son, bomba, plena, and cha-cha. Great band leaders like Tito Puente and Israel “Chachao” Lopez have paved the way for these styles to eventually become integrated into salsa music.

The three types of Afro Cuban rumba rhythyms are yambu, guaguanco, and columbia. Additionally, the spiritual Bembe music is played in Cuba by the Lucumi people, descendents of the Yoruba people of Africa. Although much of the focus in this section is on Afro Cuban and Puerto Rican instruments, the region boasts music as diverse as Colombian and Panamanian cumbia, Trinidadian soca and chutney, and Jamaican reggae.

Acheré: a single dried gourd with seeds or pebbles inside that is used to keep time and accompany Cuban batá and rumba rhythms. The stem of the gourd functions as the handle.

Batá: sacred Afro Cuban hourglass, double-headed drums originating from the Yoruba culture that are played by hand. These three drums, okónkolo, itótele, and iyá, perform specific parts and are used in Santería ceremonies in Cuba.

Bomba: a Puerto Rican barrel drum covered with goatskin and played by hand. There are two sizes, the larger buleador and the smaller subidor.

Bongos: a joined set of two drums often used in salsa music (diameters: macho: 7", hembra: 8.5"). Traditionally, the instrument is played held between the knees by hand while seated.

Catá: a 2'-long, hollowed-out wooden log or bamboo that is played with sticks and used to accompany Afro Cuban rhythms.

Cencerro/Campana: a bell commonly used by the bongo player in the chorus of a salsa song.


Claves: a pair of short, thick dowels made from rosewood, bamboo, or fiberglass, used to play the repetitive clave pattern that forms the underlying rhythic structure of types of Afro Cuban music. They are played by striking one against the other.

Page 3 of 5
Get the How To Tune Drums Minibook when you subscribe to our newsletter

More Hand Drum