If you have ever heard of a “riq drum“, you might be rather curious as to what it actually is. Well, luckily for you, we’re going to take a deep dive into exactly that and unearth some interesting riq instrument facts.

Shall we get straight into the nitty-gritty details?

What Is The Riq?

The riq is an Arabic instrument. It’s basically a type of tambourine that has been played and loved by those living in Arabic-speaking countries and other places like Greece and Italy. If you’re familiar with this instrument, then you may well know that it is typically used in conjunction with the Darbukah (a type of middle eastern hand drum).

Traditionally, goat or fish skin is used as the membrane and a plank of light wood is used for the body, with 5 double bell pairs embedded in the frame. However, in modern times, it’s gradually moved onto being crafted from synthetic materials. But we’ll talk more about this in the next section where we discuss the history of this fun, classic-sounding instrument.

um-kalthoum | Ethnic Musical
The legendary Ibrahim Afifi, Umm Kulthum’s riq player.

The History of Riq Instrument

The riq is the descendent of the daf. What’s the daf, we hear you ask? It’s a type of frame drum that is popular in Iran and the Levant. While it was happy to be named the same thing to begin with, the riq gradually took on its own form in Egypt so needed a distinction.

As you may have gathered, the riq originates in Egypt. It is played in Takht ensembles and eventually went on to be played in chalghi ensembles too. The daf, which we mentioned earlier, was mainly responsible for producing simple rhythms. However, the riq surpassed this by offering a wider range of sounds and playing techniques.

Iranian daf player
Iranian daf player

Those playing this Arabic instrument can tap the jingles, shake it backward and forward, shake it in a twisting way, slap it, and use their fingers. There are so many ways to make this instrument produce its characteristic sounds.

For a long time, this instrument was solely played in Egypt. It seemed that they had monopolized the riq-playing world. However, eventually, that came to an end.

Variations began to spread throughout the Middle East and while different regions came up with unique names for the instrument, they are all a variation of the original riq.

Once it had seemingly finished gaining popularity in the Middle East, it spread to the rest of the world. Whether people were in Ireland, Italy, or Iran, everyone began to love the riq and other frame drums. Now, it wasn’t just the name that was changing but the actual features of the instrument itself.

So, let’s take a look at the riq variations in different countries, shall we?

The Riq Throughout the World

Egypt — The Riq

We’ve already talked a lot about the original riq. Don’t worry, we won’t go over everything again! We just had to include it since this was the birthplace of the instrument.

India — The Daf

To tell you the truth, there are lots of different frame drums in India. One of them thought, is indeed the daf. it’s played with drumsticks instead of your hands and fingers. Plus, it’s rather large when compared to the small, plate-sized original riq drum.

Usually, it is used in folk music and you’ll be lucky if you hear it played in any other music styles in this country.

Syria — Daf and Mazhar

Again, there are various frame drum types in Turkey. One of them is the daf (the one we just discussed) and the other is the mazhar.

The latter is a percussion instrument that people made by placing animal skin over a medium-sized wooden hoop. Similar to the riq, it is played with your fingers. However, it’s mainly used for simple beats since it does not have any jingles.

Turkey – Tef

The tef is what we know today as the modern Riq. It is a light weighted frame that has 5 sets of cymbals. Players from around the world are falling in love for the Turkish riqs. It is the design, the weight and the fine work that made them so popular.

Interestingly, in Turkey, the best tef players are gypsies coming from Bulgaria or from mainland Turkey.

Italy — The Tamburello

This Italian frame drum is incredibly similar to the tambourine that most people have heard about. However, this instrument dates back to the original Italic tribes and can still be heard in the country’s folk music.

The Bottom Jingle

You can pretty much call yourself a riq historian now! Get out there and educate your loved ones on this historically-rich Arabic instrument!

P.S. We sell riqs

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