Tambourines: A Long Musical History

A member of the percussion family, tambourines historically have been made by mounting a single drum head (often of thin animal hide) onto a ring that has pairs of metal jingles laced around the drum sides. It should be noted, however, that not all tambourines use a drum head of leather or animal hide. In some instances, there are jingles strung across the center of the tambourine frame instead. The instrument was then used by either striking the drum head, shaking the jingles, or banging the instrument against a part of the body to get both a drum tone and jingles simultaneous.

Historically the tambourine has been identified in many forms of music including Persian, classical, gospel and pop music. The tambourine can be traced back to most ancient civilizations including India, China, Rome, Egypt and Greece where it was usually used during periods of celebration. Frame drums such as the tambourine as some of the most ancient percussion instruments identified. They originated in the ancient Middle East and ultimately reached medieval Europe. In fact, the tambourine began appearing in operas, ballets, and compositions more and more often throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Used as an accompaniment to other musical instruments, or dancers, the tambourine has developed a huge following for use in spiritual or ritual activities even now.

Different countries have small differences in the construction of the instrument, but the basics remain generally the same. For example, the tambourine is related closely to the Riq used in countries including Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and other Arab countries. In Russia, the Ukraine, Slovia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, it is referred to as a Buben. In the Balkans, Persia and Central Asian countries, the instrument is referred to as a Dajre. In South Indian societies the instrument is referred to as a Kanjira. All are equally accepted as an acoustic percussion instrument which has the primary use of maintaining rhythm and timbre within the musical piece during which it is being played.