Since its origins in Baghdad in the early 1100s, and its evolution in Senegal during the 1700s, worshipers have played the Tabala drums and sung prayers to its rhythms in order to evoke God’s presence. In Senegal, converts from the Wolof people incorporated traditional Wolof rhythms into Qadiriya worship, to satisfy their own tastes and to communicate Qadiriya messages in the Wolof language. Tabala Wolof is still a widely ritualistic drum, and is played in interlocking rhythms and tuned to inspire ecstatic song, during worship or ceremonial events.
On the left you can see seven of our percussionists playing the traditional Tabala drums. The Tabala, originally one in existence, was said to be the drum used to welcome the prophet Mohammed. The Tabala is still used today in senegalese culture as a ceremonial drum, used in various rituals to commemorate the prophet. Though there are only four types/variations of the Tabala, ten have been created for the show’s choreography.
The Khine is the most spiritual of the Senegalese Sabar drums and is not often found in the modern ensemble. Traditionally used as a communicative drum between villages, the Khine is much shorter than the other sabar drums, yet quite large in circumference and open at the bottom.
The performances of the Sabar usually consists of 7 different types of drums: M’bung M’bung, Sabar N’der, Lambe, Talmbat, Gorong Yeguel, Tama, and Khine. Made primarily of shaved goat skin and 3 types of wood, the drums are tuned to a system of 7 pegs and are adjusted to create specific melodic rhythms when played in unison. The drummers typically play with only one hand, using a long,thin stick called Galan.
The Sabar are traditionally used for various celebratory rituals (i.e.. weddings, births, funerals, welcoming royalty and political figures, etc). They were played for United States president George W. Bush apon his visit to Senegal in 2006. Before there was electricity, in olden days, the Sabala were used as a means of communication between villages, and were drummed high on mountain tops.
The M’bung M’bung is the main drum for playing the basic sabar rhythms. It is the first drum learned by student percussionists, as it is the defining rhythm in all sabar drumming.
The Sabar N’der is often considered to be the most important drum, the leader of the ensemble, as it the drum which sets the underlining rhythm and sound for the other drums. It is the tallest drum; slender and open at the bottom, and is typically the lead solo drum.
The lambe (sometimes spelled Lamba) is a heavy, closed bottomed, large circumference, barrel-shaped,bass drum. It is often called Thiol. It is the lowest in pitch and is considered the Grandfather of all sabar drums in Senegal.
The Talmbat is similar to the Lambe but has a narrower barrel shape. It is considered the tenor drum. Sometimes the Talmbat is referred to as the Gorong Talmbat. It too has its own accompanying rhythms.
The Sabar ensemble’s newest addition, the Gorong Yeguel is esthetically similar to the Lambe with a closed bottom. It functions similarly to the Sabar N’der, however, with an equally high, penetrating sound.
Often said to be the ‘talking’ drum of the ensemble, the Tama’s small hourglass shape is similar to the larger talking drums of many West African countries, and is usually used to play the more complicated melodic rhythms of the group.
Though it is believed by religious extremists that the ‘coming together’ of these instruments creates a bad omen and that it is offensive to Muslims, the belief is not shared by Laye Ananas and the group, as there is no law in the Koran stating that this should be offensive. The instruments are played in unison for the show to enrich its choreography.