Group 2: Single-skinned drums

The single-skinned drum group is divided into three classes:

A. musundu
B. duff
C. baz

A. Musundu

The musundu class is characterized by the fact that a single skin is fitted to a long conical body. Furthermore, the individual instruments differ from each other according to their rhythmic function within a particular genre.

The skin is fitted by wooden wedges around the wider side of the musundu. Here, the player controls the tightening of the skin to prepare it for playing either by heating it or by the use of the suhha, a substance whose components - dates, grease and ashes - are kneaded together until they turn into a paste which is applied onto the membrane. The musundu's body is made from wood, either from a part of a tree that is hollowed from the inside, or from a number of strips of wood that are glued together to form the required conical body. Like the rahmani and the kasir, the musundu is beaten either with a stick or with the hands. Its sound is strong and heavy because usually bull or cow skins (and sometimes camel skins) are used to make it.

The African name, musundu, signifies the origin of this instrument. It is mainly used in genres that evolved during the historical interaction between Oman and East African coasts.

The musundu class consists of the following:

1. musundu tawil (long musundu)
2. musundu qasir (short musundu)
3. musundu lewa
4. musundu at-tanbura
5. musundu raqs az-zinug
6. waqqafi

1. Musundu tawil

This is the longest instrument of its class and most players prefer to have the musundu tied to their waist by a belt which allows for playing with both hands. The player puts the musundu between his legs as if mounting a horse.

2. Musundu qasir

This is like the musundu tawil but smaller in size. It is used in the midema genre or in the lewa.




3. Musundu al-lewa

This type of musundu is used in the lewa genre only. The body of the drum is very large, so it rest on the floor on its base, or stands on legs. The body has the form of a barrel and consists of a number of strips of wood. It is beaten with two sticks and during a lewa performance it is always in the centre of the music group.

4. Musundu at-tanbura

The body of the musundu at-tanbura is completely different from all the others in its class, in that it is relatively short. The diameter of the skin area is comparatively large so that its strongly conical form tapers rapidly to a rather pointed shape.

It is beaten with one stick and one hand; a piece of rubber sometimes being used to protect the skin. Sometimes in the tanbura genre, four of these musundus are used at the same time depending on the different rhythm functions required by the musical structure.

5. Musundu funun raqs az-zinug

This musundu has a wide body and looks like the musundu al-lewa but is bigger in size. The player beats it while sitting as the musundu stands on its wooden body. It is used, for instance, in funun raqs az-zinug in Dhofar.


6. Waqqafi

It is the longest type of the musundu class and the player can only beat it in a standing position. It is not beaten with a stick but with both hands. It is the most important rhythmic instrument in the maidan genre in addition to the rahmani, the kasir and the gim.

B. Duff

The duff class is characterized by the fact that the bodies of the instruments that belong to it all have round wooden frames of different sizes. One if its sides is covered with skin. Here, the function of the instrument and its relation to the genre plays the most important role in manufacturing the instrument, concerning the size or the addition of any other features such as bells and copper cymbals.

This class represents the close relationship between Oman and the culture of the Arab Peninsula and Islam also, where the duff always played a vital role in the ancient Arab's life.

The duff class consists of the following:
1. Sama (tar, duff)
2. Duff zu l-galagil
3. Duff saghir (small duff)

1. Sama

The sama is also called the tar or the duff al-kabir. The diameter of its round wooden frame is about 40cm and sheep, cow or deer skin is tightened to the frame in a unique way: the skin is actually sewn onto the wooden frame. It covers the complete outside of the drum and part of it is pulled inside the frame as well. It is usually used in large collective celebrations.

It is widely used in many places in the Sultanate such as Dhofar, the Dhahirah and the Batinah.

The player holds the sama in one hand in front of his chest and beats it with the palm of the other hand. When he wants to embellish the rhythm, he raises it up as if to draw the attention of the crowd to his skill.

2. Duff zu l-galagil

All the specifications and characteristics of the sama apply to the duff zu l-galagil but with a slight difference. The duff zu l-galagil contains small bells that are fixed onto the round wooden frame of the duff so it can also be called the sama zu l-galagil. These bells add special colour to the sound of the duff zu l-galagil that distinguishes it from the sama.

3. Duff saghir (small duff)

The duff sager differs from the sama and the duff zu l-galagil not only in size (its diameter ranges from 20 - 30 cm) but also from the fact that it contains metal cymbals that are fitted inside its wooden frame.

The number of cymbals ranges from five to nine pairs. It is similar, to a great extent, to the riqq, that is used in many Arab countries. The duff saghir is used in the bara and the sharh genres in Dhofar and it can also be seen in many funun an-nisa throughout the Sultanate.

C. Baz class

The baz class is distinguished from the others by a special shape. The body of the instrument looks like a bowl, the open part of which is covered by skin. There is only one instrument of this class, known as the quta.

The quta

The skin is fixed onto the quta by ropes that are placed around its body. Sometimes, when the body is made from pottery or metal, the skin is fixed directly onto it. In other Arab countries, this instrument is called tabl-al-baz. It is beaten with a piece of rubber or with a thin stick. This instrument is used in the children's convoy in the qaranqashu genre. It is noteworthy that the quta is similar to the naqqarat (kettledrum) in which two drums are used, one thicker than the other, and beaten with a stick. The naqqarat were the predecessors of certain large percussion instruments in the Western orchestra, namely, the Timpani (Italy) or Pauke (Germany).

This site is designed and maintained by Oman Electronic Network.
Copyright © 2002 Ministry of Information. All rights reserved.
Copyright of all photographs belongs to the Ministry of Information from whom permission must
be sought for use in any other format, i.e. whether this be in a printed or electronic form, or in a retrieval system