Levant and Iraq. A long-necked fretted lute with metal strings and
a carved sound-box. Often associated with itinerant players. May be derived from the
North Africa. A deep three-stringed wooden bass instrument,
sometimes with an added wooden resonator. Fretless, with a long cylindrical neck and a
sound box covered with skin. In Morocco, often used by Gnawa musicians.
Iraq. A four-string spike-fiddle. Sound box is part of a
coconut shell covered with skin. One of the instruments traditionally used to accompany maqam
Nowadays this is the term for a western-style violin
(though tuned to Arab musical requirements). Previously it referred to an Iranian violin,
played vertically, which had been adopted by the Arabs. It is also a name sometimes given
to the rababah.
A Berber lute, with three or four strings and a round
Typically pear-shaped, short-necked and fretless, with five or six
strings. It is played by plucking, either solo or in ensemble. The instrument has a warm
timbre, low tessatura, and microtonal flexibility - which makes it extremely popular. It
is often intricately decorated. "Al-'ud" is the origin of the English word,
Sabbagh and other 'ud masters
by John Absood
A flat zither-type instrument with 26 strings which are
played by plucking. The strings are tuned to the basic notes of a given scale and the
pitch is raised or lowered by stopping the strings with a series of metal levers.
A spike fiddle, traditionally used to accompany poetry.
The Bedouin version has a quadrilateral sound box covered with skin and a single horsehair
string. It is played with a horsehair bow. The Moroccan variant has a boat-shaped sound
box and the string may be positioned to the side of the neck. In Egypt, the sound box is
made from a coconut shell. Some versions have two strings. See kamanjah.
Iraq: a hammer dulcimer with metal strings. One of the
instruments traditionally used to accompany maqam singing.
Egyptian version of the yarghul.
Morocco: a wooden double-reed instrument, similar to the
A metre-long flute with two playing holes at the far end.
Thought to be one of the oldest wind instruments, and still played in the Tihama area of
Yemen. See article.
North Africa (especially Libya and Tunisia): a single-reed
instrument with two horn bells. See also mizwid.
Lebanon: this instrument has two identical reed tubes
(the name means "paired" or "married"). Each tube has five or six
holes and a smaller tube inside which vibrates to produce the sound. It is played using a
circular breathing technique which produces a continuous sound, unlike a flute. See also mitbiq and yarghul.
Levant and Iraq: a reed flute, open-ended and end-blown.
It has a limited range and a breathy sound, which the player sometimes accomanpies by
humming. Associated with weddings and dances, but also played by shepherds. See also shabbabah.
Iraq: a twin-tube instrument similar to the mijwiz.
Mizmar (mizwij in
In Egypt, a double-reed instrument. Normally three are played
together, accompanied by a large double-sided drum (tabl).
Libya, Tunisia, Algeria: basically a maqrunah with a bag attached, giving a bagpipe
Morocco: a three-metre long
single-note horn made of copper. Used in ceremonial music and to awaken the faithful
An open-ended reed flute, blown obliquely. With a wide
range and breathy tone, it is highly expressive. and capable of producing dynamic and
tonal inflections. The development and use of the nay has been attributed to
shepherds, but it is, in fact, an urban instrument. In Egypt, it is one of the instruments
traditionally used in the ensemble known as a takht, ("platform"). Also
associated with Sufism. How to play
Southern Algeria, Tunisia: an end-blown reed flute used to
Egypt: an open-ended reed-flute associated with Sufism.
Palestinian version of the minjayrah.
Palestine: similar in principle to the mijwiz, but only one of its tubes has holes; the
other, which is longer, is used to produce an accompanying drone.
Levant and Iraq: double-reed oboe-type instrument used to
Tunisia: a double-reed instrument similar to the Moroccan ghaytah.
Egyptian version of the mijwiz.
Morocco: goatskin-covered wooden
drum, with two strings stretched across the underside, producing a distinctive distorted
percussive sound. Used by Berbers in the Atlas mountains. Several may be
Generally a small tambourine. Also known as a riqq.
Often used alongside the tablah. In
Lebanon, the daff is used typically by the performers of sung folk-poetry
(zajal). In Egypt it is one of the instruments traditionally used in the ensemble
known as a takht, ("platform"). In Morocco, the instrument is a
wooden-framed drum, entirely covered with stretched skin and played from both sides.
How to play the daff/riq
Levant and Iraq: a hand-drum, usually conical or
vase-shaped. May be made of pottery or metal. Also called tablah.
Morocco: metal clackers resembling double castanets. They
are held two in each hand. Commonly used by Gnawa performers, particularly on
Gulf region: a clay pot played with both hands. Along with
the mirwas, this is one of the instruments
used to accompany pearl fishermens songs (fijri).
Egypt: large tambourine with sets of cymbals.
A large wooden coffee-grinder used (and played) by
Bedouin. It consists of a decorative mortar, about a foot tall, and a two-foot pestle.
Apart from its musical qualities, it is regarded as a symbol of affluence, status and
a small double-sided hand drum. Along with the jahlah,
this is one of the instruments used to accompany pearl fishermens songs (fijri).
Morocco: double kettle drums made of pottery.
Southern Tunisia: a large, shallow, kettle drum.
Small brass finger-cymbals used by dancers in Egypt.
Typically, a large, cylindrical double-sided drum, played
with the hand on one side and with a beater on the other. The name is widely used, though
the instrument itself has regional variations.
Egypt: a large frame drum.
Morocco: Smaller version of the derbouka, held in one hand
and played with the other.
Morocco: bongo drums.
Morocco: bongo drums made of clay pots covered with
Morocco: wooden drum covered with goatskin and played with
light wooden sticks. Used in Gnawa ceremonies.