Museum of Greek folk instruments: drums

By: | Post date: July 2, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Greece, Music

Greek folk music used to run on pairings of a melody instrument, and a rhythm instrument. That principle kept going into modern times, but the membership changed.

Stage 3, which there was a bit of in the mainland, and a lot more of in the bouzouki orchestra, was several melody leads alternating, and several rhythm instruments; for example, violin, clarinet, accordion, guitar.

Stage 2, which is still the rule in the islands, was lyra (islands) or clarinet (mainland), and laouto or guitar.

The earliest stage didn’t use plucked instruments. It used drums. So in the 1973 song Good morning, sun (Καλημέρα ήλιε), which ended up as the Socialist Party anthem, the sun is greeted “with daouli and zournas”, the davul (drum) and zurna (shawm). The davul and zurna were the traditional duo in the Greek mainland, just as they were in Turkey.

Drums have persisted in some regional traditions, but not, fair to say, in most: the point of them was that they were loud, and they turned out to be too loud for early 20th century recording, or for modern tastes, or for professionalised music-making. Already by 1973, the reference in Good morning, sun was antiquarian.

I may be reflecting an islander bias here, since drums are still heard in mainland music-making, but not on the islands. At least, not currently on the islands; as I already noted, the museum has a toumpi from Sitia, and I’ve never heard a drum in Cretan music. Not even now, when mandolins and bagpipes and flutes are being revived.

Top left, toumpi from Sitia, Crete; bottom right, toumpi from Kythnos, Cyclades. The other two drums are a daouli from Mesolonghi and from Amfissa, Central Greece. As you can tell, not much difference between them.

The goblet drum (toubeleki) display was out for conservation—

although Wikipedia has profited from the museum’s official photos, and I’m feeling a little silly now that I didn’t as well:


TOYMBELEKI (Pottery drum).jpg

The closest Western ears will be familiar with are bongos.

The goblet drum was the Ottoman military instrument of choice; so when General Karaiskakis, with typical Karaiskakis vulgarity, wrote “my dick’s got bugles, and my dick’s got goblet drums too”, he was warning his correspondent that he would think nothing of switching sides, from the Greek insurgents (using Western bugles, because that’s how they wanted to see themselves) back to the Ottomans. (And his correspondent threatened him right back: Nick Nicholas’ Answer to: What are some interesting stories about Greek General Georgios Karaiskakis?)

During the Greek financial crisis, a song of defiance against EU-imposed austerity featured Karaiskakis’ insult. Without quite understanding his treasonous nuance.

Some out of focus tambourines (defi and tampoutsa), some of them jumbo size, not all of them with zills (the little jingly brass bits):


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