Chant of Drums
Catalog no. QuarterTone QTCD-1004

A composition in seven sections for percussion instruments of Iran

Composed by Hooshang Kamkar,
performed by  The Kamkars

Bijan Kamkar: daf
Pashang Kamkar: do-table
Arzhang Kamkar: tombak, zarbe-zoorkhane
Arsalan Kamkar: barbat, violin, viola
Ardeshir Kamkar: dohol, damam, viola
Ardavan Kamkar: santur
Hooshang Kamkar: Tas

Recording Engineer: Iraj Fahimi
Recorded at Bell Studio, Spring 1999

Cover Design: Houman Mortazavi

    A short segment in MP3 format.

Chant of Drumsis a composition for percussion instruments of Iran based on the rhythms and melodies heard in the spiritual religious ceremonies of Zekr (a ritualistic dance performed by the dervishes during devotional ceremonies) and Samâ (the state of self-abandonment reached through listening ,whereby the dervish becomes one with the world). These rituals are performed in the Khânghâh (place of spiritual gathering) of the province of Kurdistan, as well as in religious mourning ceremonies in the city of Booshehr. This work includes various rhythmical figures and it has a special polyrhythmical form composed of the various rhythms found in the aforementioned ceremonies and regions.

The form of call and response between groups of instruments and solo instruments, and the utilization of pitched instruments solely for maintaining the rhythm on the two notes F and C are among the unique features of this work. In certain cases, as a reminder of a particular spiritual space or mood, the melodic nature of the instruments has been used in light motifs. Using techniques of counterpoint and orchestration, Chant of Drums is composed for percussion instruments and spiritual melodies without lyrics. The unintelligible voices, which are often unconsciously uttered by the dervishes at climactic points during spiritual gatherings, have been used for rhythmic emphasis as well as further stressing the states of trance. This composition is comprised of seven parts. It has an episodic form, and at the same time the repetition of a variance of the first part at the end of the seventh, renders it a cyclical form.

The following percussion instruments have been used in this composition:

Daf The daf is a percussion instrument considered sacred by the Dervishes of Kurdistan. It consists of a relatively large wooden circular frame (a closed arc) six to seven centimeters wide and seventy to eighty centimeters in diameter. A piece of sheep skin is stretched tightly over one side of the frame. Small chain links hang all around the interior of the frame; the links carry the syncopations and convey a feeling similar to breathing while performing. The daf is normally held up high and is played by both hands. The daf is a scared instrument and commands respect among the Dervishes. When the daf's skin is torn while performing in a state of self abandonment, that daf is said to have become a martyr. In addition to the Zekr and Samâ ceremonies, the daf is also used during the reception of tribal leaders by welcoming Dervishes.

TâsThe tâs is another percussion instrument of Kurdistan's Dervishes played alongside the daf at the climax of the Samâ. The tâs is constructed from a metallic bowl and covered with skin, stretched tight by belts on the sides of the bowl. The tâs is placed on the ground and played by two wide leather straps. This instrument is also played during eclipses and ritual ceremonies for rain on the rooftops in Kurdistan.

Dohol The dohol is one of the most widely used percussion instruments in joyous ceremonies by the Kurdish people, and is found in other parts of Iran as well as some other countries in the world. Along with the sorna (a wind instrument), the dohol is played during group dances. The dohol produces a very loud and voluminous sound. It has a cylinder like shape made of wood and both sides of the cylinder are covered with skin. The instrument is played by a stick in the shape of a cane in the right hand and a thin stick in the left. The cane like stick plays the strong beats of the rhythm, whereas the thin stick plays the ornaments and shorter beats. The dohol hangs from the performer's neck by a strap and is often played outdoors due to its high volume.

Do-Tablé (literally translated as two drummed)As its name suggests, this instrument is constructed from a large and a small drum set side by side. It is considered a wartime instrument by the Kurds, suspended from the neck of horses in the front of the cavalry and played in order to spur the warriors. Similar to the tâs, the do-tablé consists of metallic bowls covered with skin fastened by belts on the sides, and is also played by two short leather straps. The larger drum has a more base tone whereas the smaller drum has a sharper tone. Do-tablé resembles the Indian Tabla, except in that the Tabla has a more diffused sound and is played with the fingers.

Damâm The damâm is one of the most famous instruments in the south of Iran particularly in Booshehr used in most of the ceremonies of that region. The bowl of the damâm has a cylindrical construction covered by skin on both sides and fastened by straps and ropes on the sides. In general the damâm is held on the ground and played by both hands, but sometimes it is suspended from the neck with straps during performances. This instrument is particular to the south of Iran, and one can find instances of it in India as well as certain Arabic and African countries.

Zarbé-Zoorkhané This is one of the ancient percussion instruments of Iran used in sport arenas during a traditional form of sporting activity in order to harmonize movements. It resembles a very large tombak, and its bowl is made of clay. It sounds sharper than the tombak, and a considerable amount of physical strength is needed to play it. The instrument is placed on the ground due to its heavy weight and is played by both hands.

Tombak The tombak is considered one the most important percussion instruments in the traditional music of Iran and often accompanies all orchestral and rhythmical solo pieces. The tombak is made of wood and is comprised of two parts. The first in the form of a cylinder which is called the resonance bowl and the second in the shape of a funnel attached to the resonance bowl which functions as the outlet for the sound. It is covered by skin and played by both hands. It produces a variety of tones such as a deep base tone produced in the middle of the skin (called tom), a middle tone, and a dry tone produced at the rim (called bak). The tombak is one of the oldest percussion instruments of Iran and its likes are not found in other countries.

Hooshang Kamkar

Translated by Bijan Mottahedeh