Group 3: Rhythmic instruments without skin

Since ancient times, man has used solid instruments in order to express his rhythmic feeling. Any material that can emphasize or execute the desired rhythm can be considered a rhythmic instrument. It does not necessarily have to have a skin in order to become a rhythmic instrument. In Oman's traditional music there are several rhythmic instruments without a skin that contribute to the rhythmical texture in many ways.

Rhythmic instruments without skin can be classified into the following groups:

a) Idiophone instruments (by shaking)
b) Percussion instruments
c) Wind instruments

A. Idiophone instruments

This group of instruments produces the rhythmic sound by shaking. They can be shaken by hand or by the leg or by the movement of the whole body.

Idiophone instruments include:
1. Mangur 2. khirkhash 3. Khirkhasha 4. Khalakhil 5. Lubus or habus 6. Adad

The African element and effect is clear in most of this group's instruments, like the mangur, the khirkhash, the khirkhasha and lubus or habus. This is also evident in the genres that employ these instruments such as at-tambura, the mikwara, and raqs az-zinug.

1. Mangur

The mangur consists of a wide belt of cloth on which hundreds of sheep hooves are fixed very close together. This belt is tied to the waist of the mangur player.

The rhythmic sound is produced by the movement of the player's waist. The mangur player usually stands in one place and shakes his hips to produce the desired sound. We can say that he is a player and a dancer at the same time because the rhythm is closely tied to the movement of his body. The mangur sound is strong due to the dryness of the sheep's hooves and the intensity of their knocking together. Al-mangur is an essential part of the rhythmic instruments of the tanbura genre.

2. Khirkhash

The khirkhash consists of a large collection of small bells which are sometimes called khishkhash. They are strung on threads and tied to a sash. The dancer of the mikwara genre drapes the sash around his waist so that the required rhythmic sound is produced when he moves. Unlike the mangur, the dancer of the mikwara genre moves in different steps. Some are slow and others are fast in order to change the rhythm that is produced by his body's movement.



3. Khirkhasha

The khirkhasha which is used in Oman consists of a round metal body that has a wooden or metal handle. Inside this body there are many small dry grains, stones or beads that produce a rhythmic sound when they are shaken and hit the wall of the khirkhasha.

The form of the khirkhasha is an imitation of a pumpkin fruit which was used in the past as a rhythmic instrument after drying and filling it with some dry grains. The khirkhasha is used in the mikwara genre.

4. khalakhil

In the raqs az-zinug genre some men use a type of khirkhash (rattle) made of wood and worn around their ankles to embellish the rhythm. Shaking is produced by the movement of the legs.

5. lubus or habus

This is a group of small bells that are tied on a rope and look like a necklace. Women wear it on their legs. The rhythmic sound is produced by moving and shaking the legs as in the khalakhil.


6. adad

Women use the adad to give rhythmic impulse to their dance formation in wiliyat an-nisa in Manah. Al'adad is originally a woman's jewellery: a round bangle made of silver. It is filled with some dry grains or stones to produce the rhythmic sound when shaken.

B. Percussion instruments without skin

The rhythmic sound in this group is produced entirely by beating but in different ways.

Percussion instruments without skin include:
1. sihal
2. tanak
3. rabub / mahhar

1. Sihal

This is also called tasa, sinug or ring and consists of a pair of cymbals made from copper and round in shape. The player holds each cymbal in one hand and produces the sound by beating both cymbals together. The sihal is used in many Omani genres such as funun al-bahr, the aiyala and the wailiya. The sihal not only embellishes the rhythm but also has a special role in some genres like the midema.

2. Tanak

The tanak is an Arabicised form of the English word, 'tank'. The term is used to describe an empty tin that has been squeezed in the middle. The sound is produced when it is beaten with two sticks. Sometimes it is called 'pato' - a name of African origin. The tanak is an essential element in some genres such as the lewa, at-tanbura, riwa and the mikwara.


3. Rabub / mahhar

The name rabub is given to small spiral sea shells which are found on the Sultanate's beaches. As long as the two shells are stuck together with the animal still inside them they are called ad-dok. After separating the two shells from each other and removing the animal, it takes the name mahhar. Children use the mahhar in celebrations for the 15th of Ramadhan. However, depending on the region it can be called different names. In coastal areas, the instrument is often called qaranqashu or toq-toq; in the Dhahirah region, away from the sea, it is called talmis.

The children use the mahhar to emphasize the rhythm of their singing. The sound is produced by hitting the two shells together. In the villages and cities of the interior, the children use two stones rather than shells in their festivities.

C. Wind instruments.

Some people may be surprised to find wind instruments classified as elements of the rhythmic instruments' group. However, if the functions of the instruments are looked at more closely, the reason behind this inclusion becomes clear. These instruments are not used as melodic instruments because they cannot produce different tones to form a melody. They contain only one hole that produces one tone. This tone is interrupted by vibrations of the tongue while blowing so that a rhythmic sound effect results. The sound produced by blowing is only to emphasize the rhythm, aiming mainly to embellish it or stress some of its parts.

Rhythmic instruments by breathing include:

1. Gim
2. Burgham

1. Gim

The gim sometimes pronounced 'yim' is a sea shell that is prepared for blowing into, either through cutting its upper part or by making a hole in it. The gim produces one tone which is rhythmically used as described above. It adds additional colour to other single-skinned rhythmic instruments.

The gim is used in many funun that include genres in connection with traditional healing ceremonies such as the maidan and funun al-bahr (sea genres) like the midema and ash-shubani as well as entertainment genres like the lewa and others.

2. Burgham

The burgham is made from the horn of a big animal such as oryx, ibex or buffalo. The player blows into one hole that is adjacent to the closed and pointed edge, producing one tone which the player uses in a rhythmic manner according to the rhythm of the genre. Even if the player extends the tone of the burgham, its general rhythmic function always becomes very clear. The burgham is used in saber genres like the razha and the azi.

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