Doumbek vs Darbuka: The Definitive Answer

This is an article from our Darbuka Short Answers Collection. If you would like to submit a Darbuka question that you would like answered, send us a message


Darbuka and Doumbek both mean and refer to the same musical instrument. They are two different names for effectively the same item. For the sake of simplicity, we like to refer to everything here at Malik Instruments as "Darbuka", however the word Doumbek could also be used in its place. 


To provide a little bit of context on the matter:

  • Darbuka comes from the Arabic verb Daraba, which means "to strike".  It is highly likely that the word Darbuka was given its name through some derivative of this verb Daraba.
  • Doumbek comes from a language quirk that exists in the Arabic language whereby they name things after the way something sounds. The main sounds on the Doumbek are Doum and Tek. By combining the words Doum and Tek, we get Doumtek. This is difficult to say in the Arabic language, and the Arabs will often change sounds in a word if it is difficult to say. For example, the word hotel in Arabic is supposed to be pronounced "Funduck", however, most Arabs will just say "Fundu'" because they don't want to pronounce the "ck" sound. Similarly, since Doumtek is challenging to say, it is very likely the pronunciation was changed to Doumbek, which rolls much more easily off the tongue.


As such, the definitive answer to the difference between a Darbuka and a Doumbek is that there is no difference, they are exactly the same. 


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