Moroccan Drums 1: the bendir
The bendir is part of the frame drum family and is the quintessential Moroccan/ North African percussion instrument. Most Moroccans for example will be able to pick up a bendir and knock out a couple of rhythms even if they have no musical training. There is a wide variety of bendirs and styles of playing and the bendir is the rhythmic mainstay in the folklore styles. Traditionally the drum heads are made with a goat’s skin but recently this has been replaced with plastic heads and systems to tighten them that are very similar to the systems used on drum kits. This allows the drums to be tightened right up and tuned with ease and accuracy.
But what is common to all of them is the addition of a wires stretched across the under-side of the drum head which give the bendir its unique buzzing sound. Mix engineers when hearing it for the first time often think that the signal is too high and so saturated or that their speakers have blown! This sound combined with the rolling/ repetitive style of playing them and the fact that there are often three or more bendir players in a section each playing a slightly different rhythm, make for a powerful and rich groove.
If you listen to practically any style of Moroccan music, you will the bendir being played. To hear Mouna playing the bendir click here. She has her own style of playing with her fingers filling in the rhythm on the drum head. This gives her playing a supple and rolling effect.
Other styles worth checking out are Aissawa and most Berber musical traditions.
Not only is the bendir a great sounding and versatile percussion instrument but is also an essential part of Moroccan/ North African folklore and religious ceremonies and its importance cannot be underestimated.