• Origin: Ohrid, Macedonia
  • Date: Post-1st Century
  • Collection: DHB 120

Goblet-shaped, hollow clay body with an open top and bottom, painted in a large patterned design all the way around. A thin piece of hide is stretched over the wider top hole and held there by string wrapped around the drum.

Goblet drums, such as the darbuka, are played across Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe, and is considered one of the most significant percussion instruments in the Middle East, although some speculate the drum was popularized there after originating in Europe through nomadic Celtic tribes, the very first thought to have been made around 4000 years ago. This darbuka is from Macedonia, however, as goblet drums made their way to the Mediterranean after Alexander the Great invaded Egypt in 332 C.E., allowing for cultural diffusion to send these drums to Macedonia.

The traditional goblet drum has many different names depending on region and era. The Sasanid Persians called it a “dombalak” and later a “doumbek” or “tonbak.” The Arabic names for it are “darbouka” or “darbukkah” in Egypt and “darbuka” in Turkish. This is called a darbuka, possibly linking it to Turkish influences, as the ancient Macedonians had a foothold in the region. The names of the drums also reflected their design differences as the ages went on, so perhaps a tonbak would be decidedly different from this darbukah in modern times. 

Although the darbukah has ancient origins, it has spread far and wide, and has even been used in western composition. The first instance of this occurred in 1958, when French composer Hector Berlioz performed his opera Les Troyens in the early 1860s. Also, in 1958 New York City, Halim El-Dabh performed his Fantasia-Tahmeel which included a composition for a goblet drum, with Leopold Stokowski conducting an accompanying string orchestra. It was part of various 20th century performances, even throughout the West.

  1. “Goblet Drum.” Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Academic. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/193635.

  2. Houston, Ron. “Middle Eastern Drums.” The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH), 2018. https://www.sfdh.us/encyclopedia/middle_eastern_drums.html.

  3. Nasehpour, Peyman. “The Many Names of the Doumbek.” Peyman and his Tonbak. Accessed June 15, 2022. http://www.nasehpour.com/tonbak/the-many-names-of-the-doumbek.html.

  4. Samuel, Alan Edouard, and Alan K. Bowman. “Macedonian and Ptolemaic Egypt (332–30 BCE).” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-Egypt/Macedonian-and-Ptolemaic-Egypt-332-30-bce.

  5. Ukanji, Shairose. “Darbuka: A Little-Known Percussion Instrument.” The Express Tribune, September 21, 2010. https://tribune.com.pk/story/51389/darbuka-a-little-known-percussion-instrument.