The Structure of Kurdistan Daf (II)


Mohammad Tarighat

Fatemeh Alimohammadi

With its simple physical structure and captivating sound, the Daf never belonged to a particular culture or location, and every nation had different usages for this instrument considering their dominant customs and traditions. Daf’s position had always been different among the tribes; some use it as the main instrument in joyous occasions and ceremonies, some use it as a war instrument, and others for ritualistic-religious ceremonies (Khaktinat, 2003: 25).  

Nowadays, there are circular structures with different names worldwide in Africa, Native America, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and others.

The Lexical Meaning of Daf

The word Daf is derived from “Taf” which means “hitting” or “beating.” This word is pronounced as “Dob” in the Sumerian language. It entered the Akkadian language from Sumerian and turned into “Dopo” or “Topo”; then it entered the Aramic language and turned into “Dop”; and changed to “Dof” or “Daf” in Arabic (Tohidi, 1996: 30).  

Circular instruments such as Daf are instruments for joyous or exciting ceremonies, capable of creating extremely tremendous excitement in human’s heart, contradictory to their simple creating and playing process. There are different names for Daf in Iran, from Daf and Dayereh to “Charkh,” “Gharbal,” “Araboneh,” “Tar,” “Dire,” “Dap,” “Ghaval,” and etc. (Pahlavan, 2013: 7). Also, Hushang Javid, the Persian anthropology and folk music researcher, believes “Dap,” “Bater,” “Dob,” “Dayereh,” and “Taborak” are the Persian names of Daf in different centuries while “Regh,” “Bandir,” “Mazhar,” “Terial,” and others are its names in the musical culture of the Arab world (Mogharab Samadi, 2007: 77).

Ahmad Khaktinat has also had multiple references to different Daf names:  

“During the third and fourth millennium, Apada was common among the Sumerians and later named Dop. Arabaneh is a type of Daf that  hazelnut-shaped bells are used instead of rings. Talban, Jalajal, and Jaljal are other names of Daf in different regions” (Khaktinat, 2003: 16).

Nagib Sardasht states the following Daf names regarding the Kurdish Hanbaneh Borineh: “Daf in the Kurdish language is known as Dahf, Dahfeh, Dahfak, Aarabaneh, andArabaneh (Nagib Sardasht, 2005: 295).

The Position and Role of Daf in the View of Daf Players

Daf is the most irreplaceable instrument in Tekyehs3 and mystics used in three aspects in their Sama ceremonies: first for its prophetic permission, second for its non-melodic nature, and third for its considerable help in the hypnotic course from the consciousness to the unconsciousness and the mystic realm (Mohammadi, 1999: 10).

Music of Daf is the prosperity of every Sama / Daf targets wounds and oppression

They say if one touches the Daf / It inflicts a wound of honor upon his heart (Rumi)

Daf has a high position among the Kurdish regions of Iran with special sanctity. The people of these regions see Dafs in a particular light of divinity, and this instrument has epic, martial, mystical, and even medical aspects for them. The mystical aspect dominates the others for them. Dafs are widely used in Monasteries and are known as one of the most fundamental mystical instruments.

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Lilly Afshar, Iranian Guitar Legend, passed away

The text you are reading is about Hamed Fathi, a guitarist and one of Lilly Afshar’s students, which was previously published on the Persian website

Mohammad Esmaili passes away

Master Mohammad Ismaili, a prominent musician and renowned tombak player, passed away on August 13, 2023, after battling an illness in the ICU of Rasoul Akram Hospital. His funeral will take place on Thursday, August 17, at 10 am in front of Vahdat Hall, and he will be laid to rest in the Artists’ Section of Behesht Zahra Cemetery.

From Past Days…

Harmony in the Iranian Music (II)

One of his works was the translation of Harmony, which was carried out with the help of Mozayyan al-Dowleh, and included a pamphlet based on which he used to teach the subject to the students of the school of music; the pamphlet was never published. It was, in fact, a kind of simple harmony for the piano with no quadriads, it rather featured the engagement of both the right hand and the left hand which was being taught at the music school for the first time. Salar-Mo’azez also composed military marches and hymns for schools, which he harmonized to be performed and piano. Likewise, he used to compose for military orchestras.

Gholam Reza Khan Minbashian: a pioneer in Iranian music (I)

Gholam Reza Khan Minbashian, a.k.a Salar-Mo’azez, was a pioneer in several domains in the history of the Iranian music. He is recognized as the first Iranian musician who was educated in classical music. He is also the first Iranian the score of whose works were published in Europe. He is the first Iranian to have launched courses on Western classical music and was also the first Iranian teacher of classical music. Moreover, he is the first founder of a string orchestra in Iran, the first author of the Iranian Radif which was available in oral form. Minbashian is also the first Iranian who studied music in Europe.

Hossein Aslani passed away!

Hossein Aslani, Iranian pianist residing in the US, passed away due to cancer in late January 2020. His last musical activity was an article written for Harmony Talk entitled “Iran amidst musical struggle” in 2016, his memoir entitled “I Play You Again” in the same year and his album “Symbolic Emotion” published by Arganoun Publications in 2014. Here is a brief biography of Hossein Aslani according to his own website:

Interview with the Makers of the New Qeychak (I)

On occasion of the 8th anniversary of launching HarmonyTalk Online Journal on 6 April 2012, Reza Ziaei, master luthier and researcher on classical music instruments (violin family), announced that the first phase of the project to improve Qeychak has borne fruit. The new instrument would feature a bowl of ribs and the material used for the surface would be wooden. Carrying out the second phase of the project took more than 7 years engaging the new members of Reza Ziaei’s Workshop. In this phase, new researches were conducted from different aspects on the Qeychak and the modern versions of the instrument which were introduced previously by other instrument makers. The available versions of the instrument were studied in terms of their weak and strong technical features.

Quality Decline in Regional Music Festivals

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Interview with Farhad Poupel (I)

Born in Isfahan, Iran, and based in the UK, Farhad Poupel’s music has been performed and will be performed in numerous prestigious concert halls and festivals throughout the world including Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan; La Roque-d’Anthéron Piano Festival, La Roque-d’Anthéron, France; Biarritz Festival, Biarritz, France; Stoller Hall, Manchester, UK; Janacek academy of music and performing art, Brno, Czech Republic; Karlskrona International Piano Festival, Karlskrona, Sweden; by distinguished artists such as Kotaro Fukuma, Peter Jablonski, Daniel Grimwood, Margaret Fingerhut, Catherine Carby, Kristýna Znamenáčková,Jeffrey Biegel, Jean-Francois Bouvery and orchestras such as Windsor Symphony Orchestra or broadcasted on the NPR Radio 4, Netherland. The following is an interview with him on the ocaasion of the premier of the Legend of Bijan and Manijeh.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (VI)

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Illusion or Ingenuity?

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Principles of Playing Violin (VI)

B. applying force: the force needed for putting finger on finger board is applied through finger tips and using the rest of hand set especially wrist is not allowed. To practice this, it is possible to hold violin without the bow and throw the fingers on the finger board from 1-2cm distance; apply force only through finger tips.

A Persian Nocturne for Piano

A Night in a Persian Garden is the name of a Nocturne composed by the Persian (Iranian) contemporary composer Behzad Ranjbaran. This Nocturne, published recently by the Theodore Presser Company in the US, was performed for the first time in 2002 in New York City by the young Persian pianist Soheil Nasseri and has enjoyed many performances by other pianists.