The davul (or screw davul) is one of the very oldest instruments, having been used down the ages by the various civilisations of Anatolia, and later by communities in Central Asia. Despite some changes in form and construction technique, the percussion instrument that has come down to the present day ıs actually one of the least altered traditional Turkish musical instruments. It is one of the fundamental elements of traditional Turkish music, and has been used for a variety of purposes. These include communications by means of local or mehter music, making announcements and issuing warnings. The davul is traditionally associated together with the zurna, although in many places it has also been used on its own, not unlike the meydan sazı. The davul has gone by a number of names down the years, including; tuğ, tavul, küvrüg, tuvıl and tabl. Davul players have been called ‘tablzen,’ ‘davulzen’ and ‘davulcu.’ The davul was the principle instrument used by shamans, and was and still is used in Türkiye at weddings, to wake people so they can eat something before fasting all day, traditional sports and games, horse racing, wrestling matches and festivals.

It has also been used to spread tidings of good news, security matters, war and fire.

In essence, davuls can be classed into three different sizes. These are the small (diameter approx. 60 cm.), medium (diameter 70 cm.) and large (80-90 cm.). The width of the rim changes considerably from region to region and depending on the player. It consists of two main parts, the skin of leather which has been passed over a stretching hoop, and the wooden section joined to it, known as the ‘kasnak’ (rim). The two kins that have been stretched over the hoop can be tightened as wished to produce the desired tone by means of the attachments on the side. The frame may be made of walnut, lime or fir, although oak is probably the most popular of all. Over it is stretched calf, dog, sheep or goat skin, attached to the top and bottom of the frame. They are put on wet, and tied down at the top and bottom with zig-zag cords. The skin is kept fully stretched once it has dried out in order to maintain the desired pitch. It is also oiled with sesame or olive oil to prevent it cracking as it dries out.

After being hung round the neck by a stout cord, the davul is played by hitting it with a thick stick called the ‘tokmak’ (or çomak, meççik, metçik or çomaka) held in the right hand, and a thinner one known as the ‘thin stick’ or ‘çubuk (orçırpı or zipzibi) held in the left. The tokmak beats the main stresses of the rhythm, and the çubuk the lighter ones. The çubuk is usually about 40-50 cm. long, and the tokmak slightly longer.

Sound of the tokmak davul/mp3 (145 KB)
Sound of the tokmak davul/rm (28 KB)

Top picture: tokmak davul