The Daf the Dayereh And Related Frame Drums

Peyman Nasehpour on the Ghaval

The Daf the Dayereh and Related Frame Drums

by Peyman Nasehpour

Abstract. The main purpose of this article is to discuss the role of daf, dayereh, and related frame drums in different regions of Iran.

Introduction. Frame drums are the musicologist's term for a class of percussion instruments constructed of a shallow cylindrical frame over which a skin is stretched and may or may not have jingles. In Iran, there are mainly two kinds of frame drums. The medium-sized frame drums have the general name "dayereh دایره" and a couple of other names, some of which are related to the name dayereh. By medium-sized, we mean that the diameter is 25-40 centimeters if the shape of the frame is circular. The dayereh is more popular in folk music and it is often played on festive occasions. It is rarely used in Persian classical music. Though in the past, wedding ceremonies lasted between 3 to 7 days and nights, today they are shorter due to the economic situation.

The large-sized frame drums have the general name "daf دف". By large-sized, we mean the diameter is 48-70 centimeters. The other names, sometimes similar and sometimes completely different, are applied to indicate all these drums. Though the daf is played in different regions of Iran as a folk instrument, and also, in Sufi music, in recent decades, the daf is performed in Persian classical music ensembles extensively. In this article, first, we investigate the status of frame drums in Iran, then we proceed to explain the presence of daf and dayereh and related drums in other countries.

Azerbaijan. As Keivan Pahlevan reports in his voluminous book on the frame drums "daf and dayereh", in some areas of Azerbaijan the dayereh has been called "naghara ناقارا"! Why am I surprised? Because though the name naghara, which is a dialect of "naghareh نقاره", is a general name for kettledrums, in modern Azerbaijani mugam ensembles, a kind of cylindrical drum is played that is also called naghara! (for more, see Naghara Azerbaijani Cylindrical Drum). From all I explained, I understand that in Azerbaijan naghara is a general name for most drums and this is justifiable because the Arabic word "naghareh نقاره" is derived from the Arabic verb "naghr نقر", which means to beat and tap.

The main name for frame drums in Azerbaijan is ghaval (and sometimes, daf) which is always in the hands of the vocalist who has the main role in traditional Azerbaijani music ensembles. In old times, the name "dep دِپ" was popular in Aran اران (today Republic of Azerbaijan), which is the pre-Islamic Persian name of the frame drum daf. Note that the word "daf" is an Arabicized of the word "dap" since, in the Arabic language, there is no letter for "p پ". The word daf has seldom been used for the ghaval. It is interesting to note that, in Turkey, there is a kind of frame drum called the "tef" related to its Hebrew version "tof". Finally, let me add that in the Hungarian language, the name "dob" (plural, dobok) is a general name for the drum.

Bushehr. In Bushehr city, dayereh is called "deyreh دِیرِه", and also, "dariyeh داریه". The names "dayr دَیر" and "tar طار" are used for the dayereh in "Kangan کنگان" city in Bushehr province. It is interesting to note that in Kharg Island, the name "somir سُمیر" is used for frame drums. Frame drums are performed to accompany "neyanban نی‌انبان" (the Persian bagpipe), which is the typical instrument of Bushehr.

Chahar-Mahal and Bakhtiari. The Bakhtiari nomads don't play frame drums and in their ceremonies naghareh and/or dohol are performed to accompany the sorna and the karna. For more, see Persian Kettledrums. However, those Bakhtiari people who are not nomads, and live in the cities and villages, use a kind of frame drum called dayereh. If dayereh is not available, they may use "tasht تشت" (a kind of traditional pan) to warm up their festive occasions. Note that the tradition of playing happy rhythm cycles on the tasht (played by women) is popular in different regions of Iran.

Fars. Fars province is one of the most important centers of Persian classical and folk music. In most cities of Fars province, the dayereh has an important role in accompanying Persian songs performed on festive occasions. A general term for a Persian song is "taraneh ترانه". In Shiraz and many other cities of Fars province, a special kind of taraneh, called "vasunak واسونک" is sung by women. Usually, the main singer is also the dayereh player and others clap hands.

Fars province is the host for Ghashghayi people who speak the Ghashghayi language which is very close to the Azerbaijani language. The main drum in Ghashghayi music is the naghareh which accompanies the sorna and the karna. The dayereh is not popular among the Ghashghayi people.

Gilan. Gilan province is one of the smallest provinces of Iran. Though Gilan province lies along the Caspian sea, large parts of it are mountainous, green, and forested. Gilan is a host to different ethnicities speaking different languages such as the Talysh, the Gilaki, and the Azerbaijani languages.

The Talysh people, who speak the Talysh language, play the dayereh. Other names for the dayereh are "diyareh دیارِه", "doyeh دُیه", "dap", and "daf". Since the weather in Gilan is often very humid, "tasht تشت" (a kind of traditional pan) can be a good substitute.

The dayereh, often with the local name "diyareh", is played on festive occasions, though naghareh (a pair of kettledrums) which is an accompaniment for the sorna is also quite popular. However, Keivan Pahlevan believes that for two reasons, "tasht" is always an alternative for the dayereh. First of all, because of the high humidity in some regions of Gilan, after a while, the natural skin of the dayereh becomes loose and it loses its natural sound. The other reason can be that the "tasht" is not considered a musical instrument, so it is not a trouble for strict Muslims. Note that some strict Muslims believe that musical instruments are forbidden.

To rescue the sun from a dragon by beating the drums and other things

As Naser Vahdati reports, in the past, people in Gilan believed that during a solar eclipse, a dragon was trying to eat the sun! Since the sun was the epitome of life, people were trying to rescue the sun from the dragon during the solar eclipse. Therefore, they were making strange sounds and beating any loud object such as the "naghareh نقاره" (a pair of kettledrums), the "tasht تشت" (pan), the "diyareh دیاره" (frame drum), the "dig دیگ" (pot), and so on "to be as noisy as possible in order to scare the dragon!"

Golestan. In Golestan province, different ethnicities live and people speak different languages and dialects.

In "Gorgan گرگان" city, which is the capital of Golestan province, people speak Persian in Gorgani dialect which is surprisingly very close to Damghani dialect spoken in "Damghan دامغان" city in Semnan province. On festive occasions such as "engagement parties" and wedding ceremonies, people sing while accompanied by "tasht" (traditional pan) and sometimes by "dayereh". Note that Golestan province is in the eastern part of the Caspian Sea and the weather is usually humid. Therefore, the tasht which is a metal pan can be a good substitute for the traditional natural-skinned dayereh.

In "Kaul کتول" County, people speak Katuli which is a dialect of the "Mazandarani مازندرانی" language. Similar to Gilan and Mazandaran provinces, people play the tasht if the dayereh is not available for any reason. In Katul County, the dayereh is called "das-dayereh" which literally means hand-dayereh (compare to the Turkish expression "al-dafi اَل‌دفی" which literally means "the daf of hand" and is used in northern Khorasan). In Katul County, people also sing folk songs while accompanied by the dohol and sorna. Note that Katuli music is quite rich and different instruments such as the dotar, the Katuli ney (a kind of reed rather similar to the Mazandarani "Lalehva لَلِه‌وا", the three-stringed kamancheh, the sorna, the dohol, and finally, "das-dayereh" are quite popular in the region.

Iranian Turkmen people live in the "Turkmen Sahra ترکمن صحرا" region in the Golestan province and some regions of Khorasan and they speak the Turkmen language which is closely related to the Azerbaijani and Turkish languages. The singer in Turkmen music is called "bakhshi بخشی". Any instrumentalist is called "sazandeh سازنده". The Persian expression "sazandeh" is also used in the Azerbaijani language. The main instrument is the dotar which is usually played by the bakhshi. A traditional ensemble of Turkmen music consists of a bakhshi, who is usually a dotar player, and a kamancheh player. Note that Turkmen kamancheh, with the local name "ghichagh قیچاق", is much smaller than the usual kamancheh which is played in Persian classical music. The other instrument popular in Turkmen music is "tudik تودیک" (a kind of reed) and "ghupuz غوپوز" (a kind of Jew's harp). Note that in the wedding ceremonies (called "toylar تویلار" in the Turkmen language) of Turkmen people no drums are played. In fact, in toylar, Turkmen traditional ensemble music (a bakhshi with the dotar and a kamancheh player) performs Turkmen music.

Iranian Kazaths live in Gorgan city and similar to Turkmen people they play the dotar and the kamancheh and there exist no drums in their musical culture.

Hamedan. In Hamedan province, most people speak Persian in the "Hemedani هِمِدانی" dialect, but in "Razan رَزَن", "Kabudarahang کبودرآهنگ" and Bahar Counties of Hamedan province, the Azerbaijani language in the Hamadani dialect is spoken. Also, note that most people in Malayer and Nahavand speak the Lori language. Finally, some people living in Hamedan province near the borders of Kermanshah and Kurdistan provinces, speak Kurdish.

Persian-speaking people in the Hamedan province play the dayereh in their wedding ceremonies. Azerbaijani-speaking people in Hamedan invite Ashiqs to sing and play the "çögür (chogur) چُئگور" which is a nine-stringed long-necked lute similar to the Azerbaijani qopuz. Recently in wedding ceremonies, the Ashiqs are accompanied by the "balaban بالابان" (a kind of reed) and dayereh players. The word "balaban" is a dialect of the Persian word "ba-laban بالبان" meaning "with two lips". Note that the reed balaban is placed between the lips of the player to be performed.

In Nahavand city, after the "marriage proposal" ceremony, called "Khazemani خوازِمنی" in Nahavand, if the girl says "yes", people celebrate a party called "damad mehmani داماد مهمانی" and play the dayereh. Note that all party expenses are borne by the groom (in Persian, the "damad داماد").

Apparently, in Malayer city, the dayereh is not popular. In "Tuysekan تویسرکان", the dayereh is not popular though on festive occasions, the dohol and sorna are performed.

Hormozgan. In some regions of Hormozgan province, the wedding ceremonies are called "tamasha تماشا". The "tamasha" ceremonies may last 6 days; three days in the bride's house and three days in the bridegroom's house. At the "tamasha" party in the bride's house, a special genre of music called the "samiti سمیطی" is performed, and the main drums in this genre are the dayereh and dohol.

On festive occasions on Qeshm Island, the dohol, the large-sized and small-sized damams, and the dayereh are played together while people are dancing a special kind of dance called "azva' ازوا" dance. Apparently, this kind of dance is borrowed from Arab-speaking countries located on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Note that "damam دَمام" is a cylindrical drum, popular mostly in Bushehr province.

In "Kong کُنگ" port, a group of men sings and dances in the wedding ceremonies called the "razif رزیف". The "razif" is accompanied by the dayereh, the dohol, and the "zang زنگ" (the bell in English).

Ilam. In Ilam province, people speak Kurdish, Lori, and Arabic. Note that Ilam borders the Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Lorestan provinces as well as the Republic of Iraq. It seems frame drums are not popular in Ilam province. However, in some cities like "Darreh Shahr درّه‌شهر", people were inviting gypsy musicians to perform at their wedding ceremonies while playing frame drums. In some cases, people were also playing the "tasht" (a kind of traditional pan). Arab-speaking Iranians, living in Dehloran city, were inviting "luti لوطی" musicians from, for example, Ahvaz who were playing the tempo (a goblet drum similar to the Arabic darbouka) and the dayereh-zangi (a kind of the skinned tambourine). It has been reported that in the regions where people were speaking the "Laki لکی" language, "luti" musicians were playing the dayereh-zangi, the tonbak, and the "dozaleh دوزله" (a kind of double-reed).

Isfahan. The dayereh with the local name "dariyeh داریه" is popular in many cities of the Isfahan province and is performed on festive occasions like wedding ceremonies. Note that there is a kind of dariyeh, similar to the usual dariyeh though it has no jingles. This kind of dariyeh has often been performed in the festive religious ceremonies called "moludikhani مولودی‌خوانی". Note that Armenian people living in the cities of Isfahan province play the drums "dohol, dap, and naghareh" to accompany the "duduk دودوک (typical Armenian reed) and the sorna (oboe)".

Kerman. Kerman province, in the sense of folk music, is very important since it has unique and strange percussion instruments. There are at least three kinds of frame drums in Kerman province.

The dayereh is played on festive occasions, especially in wedding ceremonies. In Kerman province, the poems of festive songs are called "avadun آوادون", and while the singers sing the "avadun songs", the dayereh is an accompaniment. In this big province, different names are applied for dayereh. For example, dayereh, in Sirjan city, is called "dariyeh". Note that on festive occasions the dohol and sorna have had important roles.

In some areas of Kerman province which is near Yazd province, there is a kind of frame drum similar to dayereh called "arabuneh اَربونه". For more, on arabuneh, refer to the explanations on frame drums in Yaz province.

The daf (with the local name "dap دَپ") is quite popular among the "Nematullahi Dervishes دراویش نعمت‌اللهی" and this large-sized frame drum is played during the religious ceremonies of the dervishes.

In "Bidkhun-e Marghak بیدخون مَرغک" village, located in "Bam County" in Kerman province, there is a double-headed square drum called "chughru چوغرو". Into the square frame of the "chughru" two small bells and a couple of chains are incorporated as jingles. Goat or sheep skin is stretched on the heads of the drum. This instrument is played to accompany a special kind of local oboe called the "narmashir surnay سورنای نَرماشیر". Narmashir is the name of a county in Kerman province.

In Kerman province, gypsies were used to surfing different regions and were somehow happy, but later, they settled down in the suburb of Kerman city and became isolated and sad. The gypsies have different jobs such as "blacksmithing", "carpentry", "woodturning", and making different drums such as dayereh, dohol, and "tempo تمپو". Note that the "tempo" (not to be confused with the English word tempo which stands for the speed of a musical piece) is a kind of goblet-shaped drum, similar to the darbouka and popular in Persian pop music. For more on goblet drums, see Many names of doumbek.

Kermanshah. In most regions of Kermanshah province, the dohol and sorna are performed in wedding ceremonies. However, in "Sonqor سُنقُر" County, the dayereh is popular. In Sonqor city which is the center of Sonqor County, people speak the "Sonqori dialect" of the Azerbaijani language and the vocalists sing in Azerbaijani, Kurdish, and Persian, and the dayereh is used to accompany the songs. In some villages of Sonqor County, where people speak "Koliyayi کُلیایی" dialect of the Kurdish language, dayereh is played by singers on festive occasions, and singers are usually accompanied by musicians who play the "narmeh nay نرمه نای" (a kind of reed) and/or the "dozaleh دوزله" (a kind of double-reed).

One of the iconic instruments of Kermanshah province is a Persian longed-neck lute called "tanbour تنبور". Note that frame drums are not traditionally used to accompany the tanbour. As Jean During reports, in a few cases, he has seen that some tanbour players have been accompanied by the daf players in "Jamkhaneh جمع‌خانه". Note that Jamkhaneh literally means a "house for gathering" and is the temple for Yarsan people.

Finally, let me add that some modern tanbour players have shown interest to be accompanied by the daf players. In modern tanbour ensembles, I have seen that the ensembles are accompanied by the daf players.

Khorasan. Khorasan was the biggest province of Iran. In 2004, Khorasan was divided into three smaller provinces, but since in this article, we take the Khorasan area into consideration only culturally, we will not discuss its political borders. In Khorasan, different ethnicities live and so, different cultures exist and each culture may have its own music genre and musical instruments. The frame drums, similar to many other regions of Iran play an important role on festive and religious occasions. The dayereh, though with different local names, is performed by women.

In the northern areas of Khorasan, the names "dezireh دزیره" and "dezeh دزه" are applied to the dayereh. In Nishapur (also known as Neyshabur), the name of the dayereh is "davrah دَورَه", and in Birjand, two names "deyreh د‌‌‌‌ِیرِه" and "daryeh دَریه" are used for the dayereh.

All over Khorasan, the pre-Islamic name "dap دپ" is used for the daf, though among the Khorasani people in the northern area who speak a kind of "Turkish language زبان ترکی" (not to be confused with Istanbulian Turkish), the expression "al-dafi اَل‌دفی" is used which means "the daf of hand". Note that in their Turkish language and also in the Azerbaijani language (my mother tongue), "al اَل" means hand. In Zanjan, the dayereh player is called "dayrachalan دایراچالان" which is a Zanjani local expression. Note that the word "chalan" comes from the Azerbaijani verb "chalmagh چالماق" and it means to play music.

In Khorasan, large-sized frame drums (called dap and daf) are performed in Sufi music. In "Torbat-e Jam تربت جام", daf is sometimes used to accompany the dotar.

It is quite interesting to mention that in the northern areas of Khorasan, there is a kind of small frame drum called "kanareh کناره" (see p. 740 in [Pa]). In old dictionaries for the Persian language, it has been explained that "kannarah کَنّارَه" or "kannareh کَنّارِِه" are the names for a single-head drum (the daf), and also, the robab and the tanbour. However, Mehdi Setayeshgar believes that using the name "kannareh" for frame drums is an error allowed by usage. I believe that perhaps maestro Setayeshgar was not aware of the small frame drum in northern Khorasan since Pahlevan's voluminous book was published some years after the publication of Setayeshgar's informative encyclopedia on Persian music.

Khuzestan. Khuzestan province of Iran is a host for many ethnicities and cultures. People in Khuzestan speak different languages such as Persian, Arabic, Lori, Ghashghayi, and Mandaic. Though in Khuzestan, the main drums for festive occasions are the dohol and naghareh which accompany the sorna and karna, in Behbahan, Dezful, and Shushtar, the dayereh is performed on festive occasions. In Behbahan, people use the name dayereh, and the dayereh and the tonbak are played to accompany the tar (Persian long-necked lute). However, in Dezful and Shushtar cities, the dayereh is called "darah دارَه" which is a pre-Islamic name. When I was in Dezful, people explained to me that, as a joke, they say

"darah seda nadarah دارَه صدا ندارَه"

which means "the darah has no sound!". In Dezful, any festive occasion, in particular, a wedding ceremony is called "da'vat دعوت" and women play the "darah" in their festive ceremonies.

Arabs of Khuzestan have their own special music. The frame drums popular among Arabs of Khuzestan are "al-dof الدُف" and "al-zanjari الزنجاری". Note that in "zar زار" ceremonies (performed in Abadan city), "zanjari زنجاری" is played. This frame drum is similar to a tambourine (in Persian "dayereh-zangi دایره زنگی"). It is believed that zar ceremonies are of African origin and were brought to the southern provinces of Persia, i.e., Hormozgan and Bushehr provinces, by African slaves (see Appendix). Later, this music reached Khuzestan province which is a neighbor of Bushehr province.

Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad. In Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, there is no use of frame drums and only the dohol is used to accompany the sorna and the karna. Note that the shepherds in this province play a special kind of reed, called "pisheh پیشه".

Kurdistan. In Kurdistan, dance music is mainly performed by the dohol and sorna, though sometimes, for example in Sanandaj, dayereh is used on festive occasions to accompany "nameh nay نرمه نای" (a small-sized Kurdish reed). Note that group dances are quite popular in Kurdistan. In some cities, like Bijar, the tonbak and kamancheh are played at weddings and other festive ceremonies and the dayereh is not popular. In some cities, like Marivan, people clap hands only, and the tonbak and dayereh play no role in their ceremonies.

On the other hand, Kurdistan is one of the main sources of the daf. For example, in the "Pir Shalyar پیر شالیار" ceremony held in "Avraman اورامان" region of Kurdistan, the daf is played extensively. The Pir Shalyar ceremony is an ancient ceremony of Kurdistan. It is held on the 40th day of winter. The celebration is held in three stages, each on a day of three consecutive weeks. For more on the daf, see Daf Iranian frame drum.

Finally, let me add that "Ezadi ایزدی" people speak the "Kurmanji کُرمانجی" language and play the daf, the "shabab شباب" (a kind of reed) and the tanbour. However, the jingles of their dafs are pairs of small metal plates incorporated into the wooden frame of the drum. In this sense, they can be defined as large-sized skinned tambourines. Note that most Ezadi people live in Iraq.

Lorestan. Lorestan province is mountainous and most regions of this province belong to the Zagros mountains. Most people in Lorestan province speak the Lori language with different dialects. It is famous that the main musical instruments in Lori music are the sorna, the dohol, the kamancheh (with the local name "tal"), and the tonbak. On festive occasions, people play the dohol and sorna outdoors, and the tonbak and the "tal" (kamancheh) indoors. However, the dayereh with the local name "dariyeh" is played in "Dorud دورود" and "Borujerd بروجرد" cities in Lorestan province. Note that historically, as Mohammad Reza Darvishi reports, the drum for accompanying the "tal" (the Lori kamancheh) was the dariyeh. Later, dariyeh and tonbak were both the accompaniments of the "tal", and finally, the dariyeh was completely replaced by the tonbak in most cities of Lorestan province.

Markazi. The word "markazi مرکزی" means central. Markazi province is, somehow, in the center of Iran. However, some believe that the name "markazi" is not suitable for this province because it does not reflect anything about the history of this ancient region of Iran which was formerly called "Aragh-e-Ajam عراق عجم" (in English, "Persian Iraq").

In the history of Persian classical music, the Markazi province has played a very important role. Maestro Ali Akbar Farahani (c. 1820-1826 - c. 1861-1862), from the Farahan County of the Markazi province, was one of the greatest musicians of Persian classical music who came from Farahan to the court of Naser al-Din Shah in Tehran. As Aref Ghazvini reports he was one of the favorite musicians of Naser al-Din Shah. The sons of Ali Akbar, i.e., Abdollah and Hossein Gholi learned music from Maestro Gholam Hossein Farahani who was a nephew and a student of Ali Akbar. Note that while Abdollah and Hossein Gholi were kids, they lost their father and they received the heritage of Persian classical music from Maestro Gholam Hossein Farahani who had married their mother after the demise of Ali Akbar. Later, Mirza Abdollah and Mirza Hossein Gholi gathered all the melodies that they learned in a special order in a systematic manner known as the instrumental "radif ردیف" of Persian "dastgah دستگاه" music. Note that the word "radif" means "row" and "dastgah" means "system" in English. Thus this is why Mirza Abdollah and Mirza Hossein Gholi are considered the founders of two radifs in Persian classical music. Let me add that Maestro Abdollah Davami, from Tafresh city in Markazi province, also played an important role in the history of Persian classical music. Davami was one of the greatest masters of Persian vocal music. He was also a great master of the tonbak in his time. He founded the vocal "radif" of Persian "dastgah" music in Tehran and similar to Mirza Abdollah and Mirza Hossein Gholi was a leading musician of his time. After this short introduction to the important role of Markazi province in the history of contemporary music in Iran, we proceed to explain the status of frame drumming in this province.

The center of Markazi province, i.e., Arak city is rather a new city in comparison to many cities in Iran, and perhaps because of that, there is no established musical culture, though 50 days before Nowruz some people who called themselves "Reshki-va-Massi رِشکی و ماسّی" play dayereh-zangi (tambourine) to give the tidings of the coming Nowruz (compare with Haji Firuz singers in Tehran). However, the dayereh (with the local names "dariyeh" and "daf") is quite popular in many cities and villages of Markazi province and it is performed on festive occasions. For example, in the ancient city of Delijan, a woman dayereh player is called "dafanavaz دف‌نواز" which means "daf player". It is quite interesting that "Shahsavan شاهسَوَن" people in Markazi province do not use the dayereh while one may have the impression that they must play the Azerbaijani dayereh (called the ghaval) because Shahsavan people speak the Azerbaijani language. Let me add that, in fact, Shahsavan people play the dohol and sorna on their festive occasions.

Mazandaran. In Mazandaran province, the dayereh (with the local name "das-dayereh") is quite popular. For more on the etymology of "das-dayereh" see the section on Golestan province. However, in humid regions like Tonekabon city (formerly, known as Shahsavar), the "tasht" is an alternative to the natural-skinned dayereh. The musical instruments popular in Mazandarani folk music are the "Lalehva لَلِه‌وا" (a kind of reed), the sorna (with the local name "serna سِرنا"), the karna, the dotar, the kamancheh, the "desarkutan دِسَرکوتن" (see Persian Kettledrums), the dohol, and finally, "das-dayereh" (frame drum). While the dohol and the desarkutan are the drums to accompany the sorna, the dayereh is used to accompany the kamancheh. In Mazandaran province, the 6-beat rhythm cycle called the "sema-hal سِماحال" (known as the "shish-hasht" in Persian, i.e. 6/8) is performed on the dayereh and is quite popular in dance music.

Qazvin. Historically, Qazvin city has always been an important city. Even this city was the capital of Persia for a while. In the Safavid era, the King of Persia, Tahmasp I (1514-1576), relocated the capital of Persia and the royal capital moved from Tabriz to Qazvin. Qazvin was the capital of Persia for about 48 years. Qazvin has culturally been an important city also. Not only Qazvin has been one of the centers of Persian literature, today, it is known to be the capital of Persian calligraphy. Most people in Qazvin speak Persian in Qazvini dialect. However, other languages and dialects are spoken because different ethnicities such as Tats and Azerbaijanis live in Qazvin city and its suburbs. On festive occasions, the dayereh (with the local name "dariyeh داریه") is played (usually, by women), though the instruments dohol and sorna are also quite popular. In "Lower Tarom District بخش طارم سفلی", at the end of summer, the farmers start on a specific day to collect the pomegranates in the trees while playing the dayereh, the dohol, and the sorna. Before that day, nobody has the right to collect pomegranates. This is called the "pomegranate festival جشن انار".

In Takestan, most people speak Tati and Azerbaijani, and the dayereh, dohol, and sorna play an important role in wedding ceremonies.

Qom. In some villages of Qom province, in wedding ceremonies, the dayereh is used. For example, as Keivan Pahlevan reports in his book, in "Amoreh آمُره" village in the Khalajastan district in Qom province, the wedding ceremonies last three days and nights and in different hours of the ceremonies, the dayereh is played by women.

Semnan. Semnan province is famous to host strange languages and dialects. However, since this is not relevant to the subject under discussion, we focus on the applications of frame drums in this province of Iran. In "Semnan سمنان" city, wedding ceremonies lasted from 3 to 7 days and nights, and on all these days, the dayereh (with the local name "dariyah داریَه") and tonbak, as well as, the dohol and sorna play an important role in these ceremonies. In "Damghan دامغان" city, the dayereh and kamancheh were played together, but as Keivan Pahlevan reports, the dayereh was replaced by the tonbak.

In Sangsar and Shahrud cities, dayereh has been popular. Note that in the past, people in Sangsar were nomadic and in those times, dayereh did not exist. Later they settled down in Sangsar and other cities and villages and started to use the dayereh.

In "Shahmirzad شهمیرزاد" city, the dayereh (with the local name "deyreh دِیرِه") and the tonbak have been quite popular.

Sistan and Baluchistan. Sistan and Baluchistan (abbreviated as the SB in this note) is the second biggest province of Iran after the Kerman province. Note that before 2004, Khorasan was the biggest province but in 2004, it was divided into three smaller provinces. Different kinds of drums are popular in the SB. In particular, frame drums with their unique names play an important role on festive occasions.

The Sisten is the northern region of the SB and people in this region speak the Sistani dialect of the Persian language. The percussion instruments in the Sistan are "dohol دهل" (cylindrical drum), "dayereh دایره" (In Zabol city, the local name of dayereh is "darah دارَه"), and "ghashoghak قاشقک" (Castanets). In Sistan, "zekreh-chini ذکره چینی" is a musical expression and it means to play a rhythm cycle by beating on the dayereh. The dance rhythms, in Sistan, are called "chap چاپ" and the dancer is called "chapgar چاپگر". Usually, the songs are accompanied by "gheychak قیچک" (bowed instrument) and dayereh.

Baluchistan of Iran, which is 92 percent of the SB, hosts different ethnicities, mainly Baluchi people, but also, Kurds and Afghans. The dayereh, mainly played by women, is used extensively on festive occasions such as wedding ceremonies in the whole of Baluchistan.

The southern part of Baluchistan (of Iran) borders the Gulf of Oman. In the coastal areas, there is a kind of religious ceremony called "maled مالِد". The only instrument performed in "maled" ceremonies is a kind of frame drum called "sama سما". The sama is performed to help the dancers to go into ecstasy. The dancers who do extraordinary actions are called "mastan مستان".

Tehran. Tehran, in comparison to many ancient cities of Persia, is rather a new city. Before that, Tehran was a small village in the Northern part of Rey city, which is an ancient city. We have almost no information on the status of drumming in Tehran and Rey till the Ghajar King "Agha Mohammad Khan" (1742--1797) chose Tehran as the capital of Persia in 1786. When Tehran was chosen as the capital of Persia, Persian musicians, including drummers, gradually emigrated to Tehran from different regions of Persia. Because before the establishment of the Ghajar dynasty, Shiraz was the capital of Persia in Zand dynasty, many musicians were active in Shiraz, and after the establishment of the Ghajar dynasty, they left there to move to Tehran. The drummers who played an important role in the development of Persian music during the Ghajar era were tonbak, dayereh, daf, and naghareh players. The names of the frame drums were just dayereh (and its dialect dariyeh) and daf. On festive occasions, the dayereh, and the tonbak were performed. Finally, let me add that some days before "Nowruz نوروز" (Persian new year), special characters called "Haji Firuz حاجی فیروز" sing some popular poems and play on a small-sized frame drum called "dayereh-zangi دایره زنگی" which is somehow equivalent to a tambourine. The name "dorya دُریَه" has been popular among the Jewish people in Tehran, according to the Dehkhoda dictionary.

Though Firuzkuh city belongs to Tehran province, people in Firuzkuh city speak the Mazandarani language with Firuzkuhi dialect and play the dayereh on their festive occasions. Firuzkuh is a mountainous city and the weather is very suitable for playing on the natural-skinned dayereh.

The daf was not popular in Tehran and only in recent decades after the introduction of the daf to Persian classical music, it became so popular that today it is considered the second national drum of Iran after the tonbak which is the chief percussion instrument in Iran. For more, see Daf Iranian frame drum.

Yazd. In Yazd province, there is a kind of frame drum called "arabuneh اَربونه" which is played on festive occasions both by Muslims and Zarathustrians.

The etymology of the word "arabuneh اَربونه". In a research paper in Persian written by "Yaser Montazeri Hedeshi یاسر منتظری‌هدشی", it is explained that the word "arabaneh اربانه" means a small cylinder and this word is a technical expression which is used in Yazdi traditional architecture. Then, Montazeri adds that the word "arabuneh اَربونه" which is a Yazdi dialect of the word "arabuneh اربانه" and is derived from this word. Note that in some references, this Yazdi frame drum is called "عربونه" (pronounced exactly the same as "arabuneh اَربونه"), though some researchers like Montazeri believe that this is not a correct spelling. Let me add that in old dictionaries, "عَربانه" stands for a kind of frame drum with jingles, most probably related to an Arabic frame drum called "arbani عَربَنی" and "erbeni عِربِنی".

There is an ancient pre-Islamic festival called "sadeh سَده" which is celebrated 50 days before Nowruz (the festival of the Persian new year). Note that the word "sadeh" is related to the Persian word "sad" meaning a hundred mentioning one hundred days and nights before Nowruz. Nowruz starts on the first day of spring, i.e., the spring solstice. In the sadeh festival, usually celebrated by Zarathustrians, people light a big fire and play the arabuneh.

Zanjan. In Zanjan, wedding ceremonies may last for several days and nights. The musicians who play on festive occasions are called "chal chaghirchi چال چاقیرچی". For this reason, one can guess that the dayereh has an important role in wedding ceremonies. Note that in Zanjan, people use the name "dayra دایرا" for their frame drum, which is definitely a dialect of "dayereh".

Appendix. I must emphasize that on February 7, 1929, the Iranian National Parliament ratified an anti-slavery bill that outlawed the slave trade or any other claim of ownership over human beings. The bill also empowered the government to take immediate action for the emancipation of all slaves.


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[V] Naser Vahdati, Alborz Khastgah-e-Musighi-ye-Iran, Zendegi va Musighi, Negah Publishers, 2005.

Online Frame Drum Lessons

Chughru the Double-headed Square Drum in Kerman Province

"In "Bidkhun-e Marghak بیدخون مَرغک" village, located in "Bam County" in Kerman province, there is a double-headed square drum called "chughru چوغرو". Into the square frame of the "chughru" two small bells and a couple of chains are incorporated as jingles. Goat or sheep skin is stretched on the heads of the drum."