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  • Writer's pictureRhythmatist

Drums of Morocco

Most commonly heard in the market Jma-el-fna of Marrakesh, the Bendir is a shallow frame drum around 14 to 16 inches in diameter which has tightly strung leather or string snares laced under the head. The Bendir has a small hole in the bottom which is used to balance the drum at the base of the left thumb as the left hand fingers tap the rim and the right hand plays the rim and center. Rim tones sound similar to the middle-eastern Tar, a frame drum lacking snares. Center strikes create a rapidly decaying raspy tone.The Bendir usually accompanies lute or other stringed instruments in the singing of anecdotal songs. (For which the listeners have to pay the musicians to hear the conclusion)

In Morocco rhythm is used in sacred chant by groups like "The River Oud" pictured here. The men chant short melodies in synchrony and then upon the signal of the group leader, burst into a mosaic of rhythmic patterns mixing syncopated claps. The pattern is said to be a gift to God/Allah and results in a trance like state for the singers. The rhythmic patterns mesh in a way that is similar to Indonesian Kecak chanting with each individual responsible for a basic phrase that fits in with the gaps in the patterns of others.

Frame drums are the most common form of drum because of their basic design. Native Americans play frame drums with mallets to keep rhythms in tribal songs. The Irish bodhran is played with trills of a double-ended baton. North African frame drums such as the Tar (and its close relative the Bendir, which has string snares beneath the skin) have light skins and are played with strikes, taps and trills of the fingers on different parts of the skin.

Most varieties of drum create sound by moving columns of air through the body of the drum. The frame drum however creates different tones according to the spreading of shockwaves moving across the skin. Center strikes of a large frame drum can be very deep and felt in the body while lighter rim taps and trills are higher pitched. Other Morocan Drums:

Another drum that often accompanies the bendir is a small closed-ended "bongos" that produce a very high pitch. These are made of clay or glazed pottery and laced together with leather strap.

The darbuka is a clay doumbek (pottery drum shaped like the djembe) that in Morocco is covered with either goat skin or fish skin. The fish skin is less susceptible to fluctuations in pitch from moisture and has a high pitched tone whereas the goat skin varies in pitch with humidity and temperature.

Cactus roots are used in Essouira, Morocco to make light drums that vary in shape from small conical drums to massive djembes.

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