What Names can the Darbuka Take?

By Ibraheem Malik


The Darbuka can be referred to by many names. The name used can vary by the size of the Darbuka in question, or the region in which the name is used. To make matters even more confusing, most people use various names interchangeably, which makes it harder to identify what someone is referring to. For simplicity, we consistently use the term “Darbuka” to refer to the drum in question. However, the below list should help you understand what other people mean when they use different names.


  • Darbuka - If you're reading this, you know what a Darbuka is. They are fantastic percussion instruments that create amazing sounds.
  • Doumbek - Another word for Darbuka. Some would say that Doumbek and Darbuka are different, but in practice, most people use the names interchangeably.
  • Sombaty - A (slightly) larger sized Darbuka.
  • Doholla - A very large Darbuka.
  • Tabla - In India, this instrument is a two-part drum that's part of the Indian musical heritage. In Egypt, a Tabla means a Darbuka.
  • Tarabana/Darabana - Another word for a Darbuka, commonly used across Eastern Europe.
  • Bongo - A different instrument that has nothing to do with a Darbuka.


Let’s just analyse the above names in a little more depth. Inside Egypt, we use the words Tabla, Sombaty and Doholla primarily. Since Egypt is commonly agreed to be home to the best of Arabic music, this is important to note.


Outside of Egypt, in most Arab and Western countries, we drop the word Tabla, and replace it with Darbuka or Doumbek:


  • Darbuka, coming from the Arabic word Daraba (to strike) is a widespread name that people use.
    • I use the word Darbuka when referring to this instrument, and many other Westerners will also do the same.
  • Doumbek is another popular name that is used. It is likely named as such because of the sounds that the instrument makes when played (namely Doum and Tek).
    • The name Doumbek is likely used rather than Doumtek because of the ease of pronunciation.


Finally, within Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania etc.), it is unanimously agreed that the name Tarabana/Darabana is used.


Note: You should never refer to the Darbuka as a “Bongo drum” or “the Bongos”. Calling the Darbuka by one of these names is a cardinal sin in the Darbuka world.


The Darbuka Master’s Blog aims to help any Darbuka player answer every question they have about the Darbuka. This blog contents short answers that touch on concepts covered in our world-leading course, the Darbuka Mastery Program.


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By Ibraheem Malik

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