Persian Drumming



Percussion is the oldest form of non-vocal music, and as a result directly reflects a particular culture.

The effects of Persian & Eastern music in the Dastgah system, have been pretty well documented in my article regarding Celestial Persian Music, also its effect on the body and soul have also been discussed very thoroughly as well, however the effects of rhythm need to be looked at more in depth...

We know that Persian rhythms have both female and male qualities and can be either earth driven (like the Tonbak) or Sky driven like the (Daf), we also know that rhythm also mimics poetry, words & syllabus, however the effect needs to be looked at more in depth, which is discussed below...

Scientific Research

There have been many scientific research studies conducted to discover the effect sound and drumming have on the human body and psyche. Research has indicated that even drumming for a short period of time can induce an alpha state, brainwaves associated with wellbeing and euphoria. Drumming helps people express and address emotional issues, aiding in the removal of blockages and producing emotional release. Studies have linked drumming with positive effects on Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, emotionally disturbed teens, recovery addicts and trauma patients.

Research demonstrates that drumming accesses the whole brain, synchronizing the two cerebral hemispheres, engaging both logical left brain and intuitive right brain. It has been shown to generate dynamic neuronal connections in the brain, even when there has been significant damage such as after stroke or with Parkinson's Disease. Other studies have noted that IQ scores have improved with control groups after playing drums.

On a physical level drumming in studies has shown to alter endocrine and immunologic response in a person. Scientific research demonstrates that cortisol levels, blood pressure readings, heart rate and blood flow are all postively affected, natural killer cells are more active and drumming aids the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates assisting in pain control.



Sacred Drumming

On a spiritual level, the vibrations of the drumbeat encourage mental, emotional and spiritual energy bodies to realign and chakras to become balanced, resulting in emotional and mental harmony. Our consciousness shifts and we are able to reach our true spiritual selves.

Our creative potential is far greater than we realize—we all possess the power to manifest our intentions. Shamanic drumming is a time-tested technique for transforming our intentions into reality.



The drum serves as a concentration device for stilling the mind and focusing our attention. Shamans have understood for centuries that sustained focused attention on a specific intention, while in a state of inner silence, channels our creative energy into manifesting the physical equivalent of the focus. The key is to focus your energy to that point on the drumhead's surface that you are striking, not beyond it. Transfer your energy and intention into the drum, stroking it firmly, yet gently, until it sings and hums. With practice, you learn just how much energy to send out to achieve a desired result and how much to retain so that you don't tire.

Sufis úse this power and ability and commence the prayer rituals with drumming that is repeated and induces trance-like qualities within the listener during Zikr circles, similar are also Native American and most tribal & shamanic drumming. Ayoub is a very powerful rhythm, with an almost trance-like quality. It is also spelled Ayyub, Ayoob, etc. Ayoub is often associated with the trance dances of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi Order, who whirled themselves into a religious ecstasy using the energy of the pounding dums and trance-inducing hypnotic feel of the rhythm.



Trance music, with its rapid beat, are used to help awaken the Kundalini through sound vibrations. Spiritualist teach that all physical matter is the result of particles vibrating at a certain frequency. A frequency that if you alter, change or amplify in any way, you change your physical and current reality. Charka means, to spin, turn, vibrate. Getting the charkas to vibrate allows the Yoga participate to have spiritual even supernatural out of body experiences. Those experiences can be very supernatural and real. Some have visions, shake violently, others prophesy, sexual awakenings and still others Astro projects.



Ritual Drumming

In some cultures, drumming and dancing aren't just for entertainment. They're religious rituals performed to honor the spirits and to entice them to interact with humans through trance possession... for example Zar is a trance religious ceremony that uses drumming and dancing to cure an illness thought to be caused by a demon, it is technically prohibited by Islam as a pagan practice... Drumming and dancing ceremonies sometimes lead to trance possession by initiated priests and priestesses in the congregatation. Within the Santería community, possession is very important because it allows for direct communication with the spiritual realm.

In oral-aural cultures, sound is regarded as one of the most effective ways of establishing connections with the spirit realm, since it travels through space, permeates visual and physical barriers, and conveys information from the unseen world. The drum can be used to create a bridge to the spirit world, while simultaneously opening the awareness of all the participants to that bridge. Ritual music is a universal way to address the spirit world and provide some kind of fundamental change in an individual's consciousness or in the ambience of a gathering. All elements of drum music such as timbre, rhythm, volume and tempo play an important role in a ritual performance. The entire universe is created through vibration and can be influenced through the vibrations of drumming.

Drums are almost always an accompaniment for any manner of ceremony – births, deaths, marriages – together with a ritual dance. The vicious sound of many drums pounding together is also a necessary installment to stir up emotions in a battle or war to inspire excitement, passion or fear.



Drumming and Resistance

When first brought to North America during the 1600s and 1700s, slaves from the west coast of Africa used drums to communicate with each other in much the same way as they did at home, sending coded rhythmic messages Europeans could not understand over long distances. In this way slaves held in different encampments could stay in contact, and rebellions could be planned. But after some time the masters realized that the drums could talk. Sometimes the drummers would play syncopated beats often causing heart attacks to the masters after the rhythm was tied to the beat of the masters heart beat.

“It is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.” — Slave Code of South Carolina, Article 36 (1740)

Starting on the plantations of the Carolinas and Georgia, this ban soon spread across the United States. There was one exception to drum-lessness: due to the Catholic laws in Louisiana being different from the protestant ones in Georgia and the Carolinas, drums were not banned in New Orleans, the centre of the American slave trade, until much later, in the second half of the 19th Century. This and other crucial social conditions were the ingredients of a series of cultural / musical explosions that would change the course of music forever.



Ta’zieh is a traditional Persian theatrical genre in which the drama is conveyed predominantly through music and dramatic narration.

In Persian tradition, Ta’zieh (meaning condolence theater) and Pardeh-khani (dramatic narration that accompanies events depicted on painted curtains), were inspired by religious and historical events, symbolizing epic spirit and resistance. The common theme is the heroic tales of resistance against the evil, love and sacrifice. It is a play on religious rituals, which is especially performed in Iran during the holy month of Muharram concurrent with the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) and 72 of his companions in Karbala.

These rituals date back to the pre-Islamic period. In the year of the death of mythical hero, Siavash, Iranians mourned his martyrdom by staging this ritual. Later, when Iranians embraced Shiism, the tragedy of Karbala served as a suitable framework for keeping alive the memory of Imam Hussein (AS) and disseminating his message of fighting oppression to future generations.

The musical instruments used in ta’zieh are primarily those of the battle field in the middle ages, such as trumpets and drums. As ta’zieh s became more sophisticated snares, cymbals, horns, and clarinets were added. Gradually a carefully developed system was used taking advantage of the classical Persian music, with the variety of moods its pieces could invoke.

Mourners, both male and female, congregate (in separate sections) for sorrowful, poetic recitations performed in memory of the death of Husayn, lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants of "Ya Husayn."

Chivalry (Pahlevani)





Male Rhythms of Iran

Traditional Iranian wrestling (koshti) dates back to ancient Persia and Parthia and was said to have been practiced by Rustam, mythological hero of the Shahnameh epic. While folk styles were practiced for sport by every ethnic group in various provinces, grappling for combat was considered the particular specialty of the zourkhaneh.

The original purpose of these institutions was to train men as warriors and instill them with a sense of national pride in anticipation for the coming battles. Practitioners of the Zurkhaneh are expected to display a sense of duty for their country and community and respect the elderly. They are expected to be chivalrous, humble, and of high ethical virtue. Overall, they should be javan mard, a gentleman.

The circular shape of the Zurkhaneh is symbolic of the sun and unity. The entrance has a low doorway, forcing one to bow his head in acknowledgment of a higher power. Then there is the gowd, pit, or exercise area. Being below ground level, the gowd also reminds the practitioners of humility. In fact, when they enter the gowd, they must first kiss the ground signifying that we are from the earth, and one day we will return to it.

The gowd faces the sardam, the podium where the morshed, master, sits. Historically, the morshed would have been the most fit and highest ranking of those in the Zurkhaneh. He plays his zarb drum and zang, bell, and sings songs from Fewdowsi's epic Shahnameh or poems from Rumi, Hafez, Sa'adi or others.



Female Rhythms of Iran

Are mostly in 6/8 time signature, more delicate, complex and ornate in nature, sensual and circular and varied in tempo, these rhythms are mostly for dance purposes and closely mimic the dance movement of the body and torso. Different dances exist for different occasions and purpose, are almost always solo & improvised in nature and can be found in almost all parts of Iran, sometimes 2/4 and other time signatures are used as well...



Celebratory Drumming

Nowruz (the first day of the Iranian New Year and the national festival of the Iranian peoples) and other festive occasions have been accompanied by daf since the Sassanid periods (224 A.D. - 651 A.D.) Dafs were part of religious music in Iran much before Sufism. In this period the daf was played in order to accompany Iranian classical music. Dafs were likely used in the court to be played in the modes and melodies of traditional music on festive occasions as they are a hallmark of prosperity and celebration, uniting people through collective rhythm and tempo.



Drumming and Nature

Biomusicologists argue that not only are the sounds of some animals pleasing, but they are also composed with the same musical language that humans use. The writers also point to birds as musicians, noting that bird songs follow rhythmic patterns and pitches that are in tune with human music. Birds not only create vocal sound, they point out, some also add a percussion instrument to their songs. Citing these similarities, as well as the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal flutes examined by Atema, the Science article suggest that there may be a “universal music”: one that unites all composers—human and animal. Music has a more ancient origin even than human language!

The Five Basic Elements are Fire, Earth, Water, Metal, and Wood.

All elements are present when you perform on the Tonbak drum, even Metal such as when wearing a ring, etc. Earth, Water and Wood are present in the body of the drum and skin... Fire is the passion of your soul... Following ancient, ancient practices of drumming, each of the four basic strokes can synchronize with one of the four elements out of which all creation emerges, including you and me. Earth, Air, Water, Fire: we are all one! And the Holy flows in and through and around and before and after each one of our strokes!

According to the ancient Chinese belief, those are the basic elements of the universe and everything in our world is a compound of the five elements. These elements are understood as different types of energy in a state of constant interaction and flux with one another. The most important of all is the balance of all five elements.

The movements of five elements are stable and predictable when they are in balance, and vice versa. When you are in a stable five-element environment, and everything is under control, you live peacefully and feel lucky. When you are in an unpredictable environment, you feel bad luck and are easily out of control. Bring your five elements into balance if you want to be a lucky person.

There are affinity and enmity relationships between five elements.

The affinity relationship means generating, supporting, helping, producing, etc. The enmity relationship means destroying, overcoming, etc. There are also two cycles of imbalance, an overacting cycle and an insulting cycle.

The Affinity Relationships Between Five Elements:

Water can help tree (Wood) grow
Wood can help Fire to burn
Fire can help to produce dust (Earth)
Earth can help mineral (Metal) to form
Metal can hold Water

The Enmity Relationships Between Five Elements:

Water quenches Fire
Fire melts Metal
Metal chops Wood
Wood parts Earth
Earth absorbs Water

The Tonbak drum is made from a tree, which already has consumed air, water & earth based minerals, the trees are then placed and kept in earth to dry and absorb earth qualities, the skin which also consists of water is then placed on top and sometimes is warmed with fire to tighten the skin, as you can see all these elements already exist and come to life as the sound vibrates through the air!!