The Glossary Of World Percussion Instruments


Bendir: a hand-played frame drum, 10"–16" in diameter, from Morocco and Tunisia that is fitted with a head containing tightly strung leather or string snares underneath.

Daf: a hand-played frame drum from Iran/Kurdistan with the skin pinned to the shell and interlinked rings on the inside of the drum.

Darbuka/Dumbek: a goblet drum played in Arabaic music, such as in Egypt and Turkey. It is made from ceramic or thin metal with the head made of fish or goatskin or plastic. This is played in the musician’s lap and held under the non-dominant arm while being played by both hands. The Persian dumbek is also called tonbak, tombak, or zarb.

Riq: a hand-played frame drum, 8"–10" in diameter, containing five sets of jingles and played in Arabic music.

Tar: a hand-played frame drum, 12"– 16" in diameter, found in Arabic music traditions across North Africa.

Zills: a pair of round and slightly bell-shaped metallic finger cymbals commonly used in bellydancing.

South America

Like the music of Latin America and the Caribbean, much South American music is derived from African traditions. The samba music of Brazil originated in the state of Bahia, but due to its popularity, has become a symbol of national identity. Other forms of Brazilian music are baião, maracatu, bossa nova, as well as forro and batucada.

Additionally, it is important to be aware of other styles, such as the Argentian tango, the Colombian curullao, and the indigenous music of Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. The wide spectrum of music in South America reflects the Portuguese and European colonial influences upon the African and indigenous people.


Agogo: a double or triple cone-shaped bell played with a metal or wooden stick. It is based on Yoruba bells and is played in samba baterias.

Atabaque: a tall, wooden, Afro Brazilian drum made from jacaranda wood and played by hand. Ropes with wedges fasten the calfskin head to the shell. It is commonly used in capoeira music and in the Candomblé religion.


Berimbau: a hand-played single-string Brazilian instrument made of a bow (verga) and hollow fruit (cabaça) that is played in capoeira music.

Bombo: a large processional wooden drum played with sticks in music of the Andean region of Peru. It is hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and usually covered in sheep or llama hide on one end and cowhide on the other end.

Caixa: a double-headed drum containing wire strands on the top head of the drum, aka the Brazilian snare. This drum is suspended by a strap and can be played with both hands at navel level or held with one arm at head height.


Cajon: an Afro Peruvian box drum with a striking surface constructed of a thin sheet of plywood. The musician plays sitting on top of the instrument and plays the sides by hand. A hole is cut opposite the striking surface.


Cuíca: a single-headed Brazilian friction drum that produces sound by rubbing its short, thin, carved bamboo cane attached to the membrane inside the instrument. The pitch is altered by pressing the thumb against the skin near the node where the cane is tied.

Pandeiro: a Brazilian frame drum (approx. 10" head diameter) with pairs of loosely cupped jingles called platinelas that are arranged in pairs around the sides of the instrument. It can be struck by hand or shaken, and is often played in samba and choro music.


Reco Reco: a ridged gourd or bamboo cane that is scraped with a piece of wood or metal and used in samba music.

Repenique: a Brazilian drum used as the lead in some samba schools, like Portela. The slightly long metallic body has 8" or 10" nylon heads.

Repique: a high-pitched Brazilian drum played with sticks and used as the lead in some samba schools, like Vila Isabel. It is played with one stick and a bare hand or two plastic sticks and is made of metal with nylon heads.

Surdo: a large double-headed drum that is the heartbeat of the samba bateria. It is played with a large padded beater or baqueta with the dominant hand, while the non-dominant hand muffles the sound and provides a rhythmic guide for the player.

Tambourim: a high-pitched drum, 6"–8" in diameter, played in samba baterias. It is held in one hand and played with either a wood stick or a plastic stick called baqueta.

Tarol: a 12" piccolo drum played with sticks that is used in some baterias and contains snares on top of the upper drumhead.

Timba: usually played with two hands and is designed for parading. lt can also be played by using the low tone to mark double time with one hand on the head and the other playing counterpoint on the shell. It is used mostly in the samba reggae playing bloco people of the northeast.

Zabumba: a flat, double-headed bass drum played with a mallet in one hand and a stick in the other hand, each striking the opposite head of the drum. It is a primary instrument of the baião music of the northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

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