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Jeremy Montagu

[khishba, khshba]

Hourglass drum of southern Iraq. It is narrow, 30 to 35 cm long, made of lemon, apricot, or similar wood (or for economy nowadays often of pottery), the upper part of the body cylindrical with a slightly reduced upper section where the sheepskin head, 6 to 11 cm in diameter, is glued in place. There is a slight waist, sometimes with an integral handle projecting at the side, and a slightly flared base. It is struck by the fingers, sometimes held upright in one hand and played by the other, sometimes held under one arm and played by both hands. It is found mainly among the Tziganes but owing to television it is now known also in Baghdad....



Mireille Helffer

revised by Gert-Matthias Wegner and Simonne Bailey

(1) Generic term for ‘drum’ in Newari, used compositely in the names of many drums, for example koṃcākhīṃ, kоṃkhīṃсā (small drum); dāpā khīт mākhīṃ (for dāpā music); desīkhīṃ (drum from the des area, i.e. India); dyokhīṃ (drum used in the cult of Nasadiyo); magakhūṇ, mādal (barrel drum); payṃtakhīṃ (drum used with the payṃtāḥ trumpet); nāykhīṃ (drum used by butchers); and yakakhīṃ (drum with buffalo horns).

(2) [lālākhĩ, dāphākhĩ]. Barrel drum of Nepal, with a wooden body up to 59 cm long and cowhide heads 24 and 29 cm in diameter, tuned with paste. It is played with elaborate finger techniques by the Newar of the Kathmandu Valley to accompany dance and singing groups. The khĩ is always accompanied by pairs of tāḥ and jhyāli cymbals and sometimes by pairs of trumpets (pvaṅgā). The latter practice is vanishing.

See also Jhyāli; Pvaṅgā.

S. Wiehler-Schneider and H. Wiehler: ‘A Classification of the Traditional Musical Instruments of the Nevars’, ...



Alastair Dick

revised by Eben Graves

Double-headed barrel drum of eastern India and Bangladesh (Bengal, Orissa, and Assam). Its asymmetric clay body, about 54 cm long, is turned in two parts on a potter’s wheel (the almost identical pung of neighbouring Manipur is of wood). After the parts are joined, the body is fired in a kiln. After it cools, the maker winds cotton string around the body before covering it in a mixture of paint and rice paste. Unlike the related Indian drums pakhāvaj and mṛdaṅgam, the khol has a treble head (dahine) one-half the diameter of the bass head (bahine). This 1:2 ratio contributes to the exaggerated asymmetry of the body.

As on all Indian classical drums (of which this is the eastern representative), the heads are composite. Each head begins as two layers of cowhide laced onto a hoop (chākā) made of plaited strands of cowhide. About three-quarters of the upper skin on each face is cut away in the centre, leaving a lip around the circumference. Several layers of semi-permanent tuning compounds (...



David Morton

In Thailand, the generic name for drum. Several major types are used in modern Thai classical and folk music. The klawng khaek is a long double-headed cylindrical drum made of hardwood. The two goatskin or calfskin heads are laced together with leather thongs. The drum is played with the hands and used in pairs, the two drums in a pair differing in pitch. The klawng khaek is played in percussion and string ensembles for informal occasions, the taphon (barrel drum) being substituted for specific formal functions. It is also played with pi chawa (oboe) to accompany Thai fencing and boxing. The klawng khaek ensemble formerly consisted of two klawng khaek drums, the pi chawa and a khawng meng (gong); it was probably used for sombre ceremonies, such as funerals. The klawng khaek is sometimes known as klawng chawa (‘Javanese drum’).

The klawng malayu (‘Malaysian drum’) is a cylindrical drum similar to the ...



Jack Percival Baker Dobbs

revised by Patricia Matusky


Frame drum of Peninsular Malaysia. Its diameter ranges from about 20 to 33 cm or smaller (suitable for a child’s hands). The slightly basin-shaped frame is about 7 cm deep and made of cengal, pulai, or leban wood. The head, made of skin from a female goat, is nailed to the edge of the frame, and a narrow strip of copper covers the nails. A strip of red cloth surrounds the copper, and finally all layers are secured to the body with brass tacks. The head is tautened by inserting a rattan hoop (sedak) inside the frame under the skin where it passes over the rim. The player holds the drum in the curve of the left arm with the left hand gripping the rim, and beats the head with the fingers of the right hand in precise locations to produce varied timbres.

Kompang are played in large or small groups with essentially three musical parts that interlock to produce a resultant rhythm. In very small ensembles of about ten drums, a fourth part makes the texture even denser with the addition of ...


Patricia Matusky

[kulintangan kayu, krotong]

Gong chime of Sabah, Malaysia. Found throughout Sabah, but especially in the coastal communities, the kulintangan is a set of small, brass, pot-shaped bossed gongs placed horizontally (with boss upward) in a single row in a wooden frame. Along the west coast seven to nine gongs constitute a set, and on the east coast a set can have five to seven or more gongs. Sometimes the gongs are decorated with embossed geometric patterns. The player sits on the floor before the frame and plays the gongs with a pair of wooden beaters. The kulintangan usually appears in a small ensemble along with a drum (tombol, rebana frame drum, gandang barrel drum, single-headed karatung) and two or more hanging bossed gongs (agung and sanang) that beat out rhythmic patterns (sometimes highly syncopated) that complement the pattern of the kulintangan. In Sabah, four basic ensembles that use the ...



Gert-Matthias Wegner and Simonne Bailey

[kvakhĩcā, kvacākhĩ, bagaḥkhĩ]

Kettledrum of Nepal. It is made in the shape of a local alcoholic-beverage pot. The body, 33 to 45 cm deep and 18 to 20 cm in diameter, is made from clay, brass, or copper. The goatskin head is secured with V-lacing of leather, and tuned with paste (khau). A 3-cm hole in the base can be covered by the left hand to mute the sound while the right hand strikes the head with elaborate finger techniques. The kvakhĩ is played by Newar farmers of the Kathmandu Valley in navabājā (‘nine drums’) ensembles in Patan and Bhaktapur, in flute ensembles and in the unique kvakhĩ dāphā singing ensemble in the Bhairavnath temple area of Bhaktapur. It is accompanied by tāḥ and jhyāli cymbals.

G.-M. Wegner: ‘Navadāphā of Bhaktapur—Repertoire and Performance of the Ten Drums’, N. Gutschow and A. Michaels, ed., Nepalica, vol.4/22 (1987), 469–88.

See also...


Laba bu  

Margaret J. Kartomi

revised by Andrew C. McGraw

[labe buu]

Ensemble of two to four end-blown buffalo horns (bu) and two or three single-head drums (laba), of the central Ngada region of Flores, Indonesia. The horns range from 30 to 40 cm long and each produce one note. The drums, called laba bhegu in Ngada, range from 75 to 80 cm long and 15 to 20 cm in diameter and have a horsehide head affixed to a bamboo body with rattan lacing. They are beaten by a standing musician using two wooden sticks. The ensemble, now rare, formerly performed as soldiers went to war or for ceremonies commemorating war. More recently the ensemble accompanies a war dance performed by men and women....


Mary Riemer-Weller

(Cheyenne: ‘bass drum’)

Large double-headed drum of the Cheyenne Indians of the northern Plains of the USA. The ‘big drum’, a common name used to distinguish the bass drum from the smaller handheld frame drum, is found throughout North America. It is generally broad and shallow, about 60 to 80 cm in diameter and 20 to 40 cm deep and traditionally made from a hollowed log. The heads, of untanned hide, are laced together in criss-cross fashion around the body. Although a commercial bass drum is often used nowadays, its calfskin or plastic heads may be replaced with deer hide (as among the Flathead people of Montana) or buffalo skin (as among the Dakota for use in their sun dance). The padded beaters, 35 to 45 cm long, can be of wood or fibreglass, the latter favoured for its flexibility. Drums made by the Ojibwa of the western Great Lakes have painted heads and are elaborately decorated with cloth and beadwork; they are suspended from four stakes driven into the ground....


Alastair Dick, Mireille Helffer, Gert-Matthias Wegner and Simonne Bailey

[mā̃dal, madal, magaḥkhĩ]

Double-headed barrel drum of eastern India and Nepal, known by various regional names. Although primarily a tribal instrument, the mādal is used to accompany secular song and dance by Hindu villagers in border areas, such as in the chau dance of Purulia district, West Bengal, and in the dalkhai and rasarkali songs of Sambalpur, Orissa. The name derives from the medieval Sanskrit ‘mardala’. In Nepal the instrument is of variable size, about 55 cm long with heads 18 and 23 cm in diameter. Tuning paste almost entirely covers the larger head but covers only one-third of the smaller head. The drum is held horizontally and struck with the hands. During a visit to Nepal in the 1980s, Bollywood film music director R.D. Burman discovered a set of tuned māḍals in a Kathmandu restaurant and was inspired to include this ensemble of ‘Māḍal-taraṅg’ in his compositions.

See also Mā̃dar ; Mṛdaṅga ...


Klisala Harrison


Generic term for drums of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other indigenous peoples of the North American Pacific Northwest Coast, including the log drum, box drum, and frame drum. The drumming board is related.

(1) The Kwakwaka’wakw log drum is made from a hollowed red cedar log, with the sides and edges often carved and painted. The drum is a permanent fixture in a Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial house (‘big house’). The big house Wawadit’la (at CDN.VI.rbcm) holds an example carved to represent a killer whale, painted black and red. Log drum designs are usually ‘crest animals’ of the extended family to which a big house belongs.

The log drum spans the width of a big house, leaving space on either side for dancers to enter and exit. The instrument is held off the floor by two wood blocks, one at either end, and is struck by several people using batons of split pinewood. The drum stick typically is held with the arm extended and then moved downwards and forwards. Drummers, typically males, sit on either side of the instrument. Often a bench is built on the side of the drum that is closest to the big house wall while chairs are used for the other side. Log drums are sometimes played concurrently with frame drums and box drums....



Patricia Matusky


Drum of Peninsular Malaysia and Muslim areas of Indonesia. The cylindrical wooden body, about 12 cm deep, has two heads about 16 cm in diameter, attached and tightened with rope or nylon cord. In Sumatra the heads were formerly of monkey skin but nowadays goatskin is normal. The drum is held horizontally in one hand (often by means of a thumb loop) and struck on the upper head with the fingers and palm of the other hand in precise locations to achieve specific timbres. The marwas is played in the ensemble that accompanies the Malay zapin dance; usually four players beat out interlocking rhythmic patterns on four drums. It can also accompany another instrument and a singer. The marwas descends from the Arab mirwās, and Arab men in the Malindi district of Kenya call their bass drum marwas.

P. Matusky and S.B. Tan: The Music of Malaysia: the Classical, Folk, and Syncretic Traditions...


Laurence Libin

Unique drum of the Nyanja/Chewa people of the Kasungu district, Malawi. It is used in rain-making rites. The cylindrical wooden body has geometric designs on the side reminiscent of rock paintings of the BaTwa Pygmies, and it is thought that the drum might originally have belonged to that people. The body contains rattling elements, said to be human teeth, inserted through a hole in the side. The two heads are made from varan lizard skin. The mbiriwiri formerly resided in a hut at a rain shrine at Msinja, resting on two poles and covered with dark cloth. Every year it was oiled. It was removed only to be beaten at the start of the rainmaking ceremony or for repairs. Only a special functionary (tsang’oma, ‘drum beater’) was allowed to handle it. Another functionary provided new skin for the heads when needed. Reportedly, when invaders sacked the shrine in the 1860s the ...




Ferdinand J. de Hen

Tubular mirliton of the Sanga people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is made of the stem of a papaya or other reed and is sung into through a hole cut in the side. One end is left open and the other is covered by a thin buzzing membrane. The Chokwe call it ...


Alastair Dick, Harold S. Powers, Gordon Geekie and Allen Roda

[mṛdaṅgam, mṛdang, mirdang]

Indian name, in use for more than two millennia, for tuned, finger-played, double-headed drums, primarily elongated barrel drums, which give the principal accompaniment to indigenous art-music styles of the Indian high tradition. In the earlier period they were used in theatre music, and since that time they have been employed in concert forms and more elaborate styles of temple and devotional music.

The name occurs from epic and classical times and has long been thought to mean ‘having a body [aṅga] of mud or clay [mṛd]’; this explanation is given by the earliest detailed source, the Nātyaśāstra (early centuries ce, but see below §1 (i)), and comparison has been made with the modern eastern Indian mṛdaṅga, or khol, of clay. Most drums of the mṛdaṅga type, however, are of wood, and Powers has proposed the interesting alternative that the name means ‘having a part of earth’, referring to the tuning paste applied to the skins, long an important characteristic of this type, for which earth or mud is prescribed in early sources. The traditional etymology of Indian lexicographers is very different: ...


Alastair Dick

Old south Indian Tamil name for a clay pot drum with a narrow neck covered with skin and found in texts of the 1st millennium ce. It was sounded as a ceremonial instrument together with the cankam (conch) and kombu (trumpet) and presented as a prize by the king to warriors; it also appeared in the dance orchestra....


Ferdinand J. de Hen


Single-headed drum of the Sanga and Yeke peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The head is nailed to the almost cylindrical body, which is about 40 to 45 cm long including a foot shaped like an upside-down bowl.

O. Boone: Les tambours du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi...



Alastair Dick

Old South Indian Tamil name for a large cylindrical drum of state, sacred to kings, in texts of the 1st millennium ce. It was kept in the palace on its own cot and carried out on an elephant to announce proclamations, battles, and the dawn. Its sound is compared to thunder. The Sanskrit ...


Ferdinand J. de Hen


Single-headed drum of the Luba and Sanga peoples in the Shaba region, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The head of the Sanga drum is coated with a rubbery paste to mute the sound. Also called musenkele, it was adopted from the Sanga by the Yeke, and is used during funeral rites....