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Egyptian/ Middle Eastern Doumbek (Goblet Drum)


Musical instrument made of a shallow frame made of wood. Drum head is made of natural animal skin. Handcrafted, coloured black and decorated with white and light grey squares. Reminiscent of Arabesque Period in Egyptian Design.

Cultural notes

The goblet drum (also chalice drum, tarabuka, tarabaki, darbuka, derbake, debuka,  doumbek, dumbec, dumbeg, dumbelek, tablah, toumperleki or zerbaghali) is a single head membranophone with a goblet shaped body used mostly in the Egypt, Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe.

The goblet drum may be played while held under one arm (usually the non-dominant arm) or by placing it sideways upon the lap (with the head towards the player’s knees) while seated.


There are three main sounds produced by the goblet drum.

  1. The first is called the “doum”. It is the deeper bass sound produced by striking the head near the center with the length of the fingers and palm and taking off the hand for an open sound.
  2. The second is called the “tek” and is the higher-pitched sound produced by hitting near the edge of the head with the fingertips. A ‘tek’ struck with the secondary hand is also known as a “ka”.
  3. The third is the closed sound ‘pa’, resting rapidly the hand on the head to not permit an open sound.

Suggested activities

Music and Movement:

  • Marching tempo: Tap out a steady beat on the drum while chanting a corresponding tempo description.  For example, if you drum slowly, then you will say, “largo, largo, largo” or “slow, slow, slow” to the beat.  Then “moderato” for a medium tempo, “allegro” for a fast tempo, and “presto” for a really fast tempo.  Always start with largo, then gradually move up in tempo.  After a few seconds of presto speed, shout, “stop!” The idea is to get the kids to march to the tempo of the drum.  So they will start by marching slowly and eventually end up running crazily around.  As soon as you shout “stop,” the children have to freeze in the position that they were currently in.  Then you start drumming and chanting a slow tempo and encourage the children to move to the tempo again.
  • The Talking Drum game: The talking drum game is great for teaching rhythm and listening. The teacher uses a drum to create a rhythm and asks children to make their feet do what the drum does. If the drum beats a skipping pattern, the children skip. If it beats a loud pattern, they stomp. If it beats a soft pattern, they tiptoe. No running or bumping is allowed or they are called out. When the drum stops they must freeze. If they move, they are called out. The pattern can change from slow to fast, loud to soft. This helps kids experience rhythm by making their feet follow a pattern.
  • Echo/Copy Cat game: For this game, you need to have a drum each or be prepared to share one drum. The adult needs to be the leader. Tap out a simple rhythm on your drum e.g: ta ta ta or ta ti-ti ta. Have your child play back the rhythm on their drum. Most preschoolers will find this a challenge, particularly learning to wait until they have heard the whole pattern before jumping in and playing it back. Keep the phrases simple with a combination of long and short sounds or ta and ti-ti. It may take a little time for your child to succeed with this. Always give encouragement, even if the echo is not exact.

Art & Craft: 

  • Make your own handmade instruments. Find an empty coffee can or oatmeal container. Line the opening with a thick paper such as card stock or construction paper. Use a rubber band to secure the paper around the empty container. You can use a small wooden spoon or chopsticks as drum sticks. Another simple project is making shakers. Find an empty, clean, dry plastic bottle. Fill the bottle with dry rice or beans, recap and you have your own homemade rhythm instrument. You can also use an empty paper towel or toilet paper roll to make a shaker. Simply cap off one end of the roll with thick paper and a rubber band, fill with dry rice or beans and close off the other end with paper and a rubber band.

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.