Dohol and Related Cylindrical Drums

Dr. Peyman Nasehpour


Dohol is a double-headed cylindrical drum for accompanying the sorna (Persian oboe) to be played in outdoors in regional music of Persia in the festive ceremonies. Different names are applied for this drum in Iran and other countries. In this article I will discuss different versions of this instrument in different regions. Any other information is welcomed.


Dhol is an Armenian cylindrical drum traditionally covered with goatskin on both sides, one high and one low in pitch. It is covered with pre-fabricated head which is unaffected by changes in humidity, unlike natural skin. Played with the fingers and hands the dhol rests in your lap and sets off to one side with one arm resting on top of the drum. This is the same as Azerbaijani naghara. There is a proverb in Azerbaijani language that says toy-dan-sora-naghara! This literally means after the wedding ceremonies naghara!

Baluchestan of Persia

Dohol: Persian dohol.

Timbook: Small dohol.

Doholak: This is a small dohol but longer than timbook, to be played by two hands. There are two kinds of doholak; one is tunable while the other is not.


In Bulgaria dohol is called tupan. It has a cylindrical wooden body on which two goat skin or sheep skin is stretched by means of a hoop and lacing. The tupan is played like the Persian dohol.


In Egypt dohol is called tabl ballady.


In Greece dohol is called dauli.


The dohol in Kurdistan is called daval. Daval is one of the most broadly used percussion instruments in festive ceremonies by the Kurds of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The daval along with the saz (another name of sorna, Persian oboe) is played during group dances. It makes a very loud sound. The instrument is played by a stick-shaped cane in the right hand and a thin stick in the left. The cane like stick plays the strong beats of the rhythm, whereas the thin stick plays the ornaments and shorter beats.


There are three cylindrical drums in India that seems to be related to Persian dohol. Here is a brief description of the drums.

Dholak: A crude folk drum characterized by a cylindrical shell covered with skin on both sides. The name is Persian and a diminutive of Dhol, but this drum is of a distinct type, with its own historical roots. The dholak survives chiefly in North-Central and Northwest India and Pakistan, among performers such as the qawwal (singers of Muslim devotional music, qawwali), the Manganiyar musicians of Rajasthan etc.

Dholki: A small cylindrical folk drum, called also nal, popular in tamasha (street performance) of Maharashtra.

Tavil: A large cylindrical drum used in south Indian temples and wedding ceremonies sometimes accompanying the nadaswaram (a large south Indian oboe used in temples and wedding ceremonies).

Some believe that dohol and the other dialects of this name come from the Sanskrit name dholaka. Today dholaka is a kind of cylindrical Hindi drum.


In Macedonia dohol is called tapan. Tapan accompanies zurna (Macedonian oboe) in festive occasions such as wedding ceremonies. It is believed that these instruments are borrowed from the Turkish culture, while the others believe that they are borrowed from Persian culture. The musical culture of Turkey and Persia are very similar and at times very difficult to make a distinction.


Dohol is a big cylindrical two-faced drum to be played by two special drumsticks. One is a wooden thick stick that is bowed at the end and its name is Changal (or Kajaki). The other is a thin wooden twig and its name is Deyrak. (In Hormozgan province of Iran, Dohol is played by two hands.) Dohol is the main accompaniment of Sorna (Persian oboe). It is played in outdoors in regional music of Persia in the festive ceremonies (The famous poet Molana Rumi has mentioned sorna and dohol in his poems). Dobol is a dialect of dohol in Shushtar a city in Khuzestan province of Iran. Dohol is called daval in Kurdistan. Saz-daval is an expression for sorna and dohol in Kurdistan. Other names such as davul, tavel and so on have been applied too. Since dohol is a double-faced drum sometimes it is called do-ruyeh in Persian language. I should mention that ghaval and daf are yek-ruyeh (one-faced).

There are some proverbs in Iran about this drum. The most famous proverb that many poets have been used in their works is: "Avaz-e-dohol shenidan az dur khosh ast" that literally means dohol sounds pleasant from a distance.

The famous Persian astronomer-mathematician-poet, Hakim Omar Khayyam Naishpuri (1048-1131), the creator of the Jalali Calendar and contributor to Non-Euclidean Geometry, has composed the following robai (quatrain) that involves the above proverb:

The English translation by Edward Fitzgerald is:
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the promise go,
Nor heed the music of a distant Drum [dohol]!

There are some expressions for dohol player in Persian language such as doholchi, doholzan, doholnavaz and doholkub. It is said that only sornachi (sorna player) is able to meet the protests of doholchi!


In Russia dohol is called tumyr.

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan "dolak" is used extensively in Sri Lanka, in both Buddhist and Hindu communities, to accompany musical forms imported from India. It is now usually conical in shape, with a badama spot (which affects the tuning and timbre) on one head. The hemp (or nylon) braces pass lengthways down the drum, through metal rings and over wooden blocks, both of which are used for tuning.

The term is also used more or less indiscriminately in Sri Lanka to denote any folk or popular drum, those that are more properly termed demala-bere, for example, often being called dolak.


In Turkey dohol is called davul that is the accompaniment of zurna (Turkish oboe). It varies in sizes. One side is made of goatskin; the other side is made of sheepskin. It is played while hung on the shoulder with knitted or leather strap. The thin-skinned is beaten with a light wooden stick or twig, and the thick side is hit with a tokmak (in Persian and Azerbaijani tokhmagh that it literally means beetle but here a heavy drumstick for producing the bass sound). The davul is generally played in outdoors. There is a proverb in Turkish language that is interesting to mention here: Davul birinin boynunda, tokmak bir baskasinin elinde. This literally means: The davul in on the shoulder of one person while the tokmak (heavy drumstick) is in the hand of the other person! Another proverb is: davulun sesi ozaktan hos gelir that literally means: the distant davul sounds pleasant. The latter one is exactly the same as the Persian proverb mentioned in above. I should mention that there is another cylindrical drum in Turkey that is called naghara (nagara) and is defined in Turkish koltuk davulu that means armpit davul. Koltuk (in Azerbaijani, gholtukh) means armpit. This is similar to Azerbaijani naghara and Armenian dhol.


In Yugoslavia dohol is called teppan.

Acknowledgment. The author wishes to thank Ms. Anna Smart for e-mailing the information about the Sri Lankan dolak.


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