The frame drum is one of the oldest drums in the world. The drum is made of a round wooden frame on which a sheet of leather is stretched. The various sizes of the drum and the range of diverse sounds it produces are influenced from its geographical and cultural roots.
The various accessories that accompany the drum; bells, rings, or strings that are stretched on the leather, are also influenced by its geographical and cultural relation. There are drums that have leather stretched on both sides with seeds or grains inserted into the space. These provide an additional tonal range.
Most frame drums are round, but there are square frame drums as well.
The way the drum is played is also quite diverse: with the palm of the hand, with twigs (brushes), with sticks of varying lengths and widths or with different techniques of finger tapping.
The frame drum has different versions and names in cultures around the world: Bendir (Turkey, Morocco), Pandeiro (Brazil), Tamburello (Italy), Mazhar (Egypt), Kanjira (India), Pandereta (Spain), Tar (North Africa), Tambourine (Europe, USA), Daf (Middle East), and Riq (Arabic world).
In the Middle East, the version of the frame drum called Daf/Def is common, and it includes the round hand drums, big or small, with all their shapes and sounds. The Riq, Mazhar, and Bendir belong to the family of the Daf drums.
In ancient Jewish-Israeli culture, the frame drum is called “tof miriam”. The phonetic resemblance between the words “daf” and “tof” (Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew) is additional ancient evidence of the roots of the Jewish-Israeli culture in the region of the Middle East. The name “Miriam” that accompanies the drum refers to Miriam the prophet, the biblical figure, the daughter of Amram and Yocheved, sister of Aaron and Moses of the Levi tribe, the tribe that differed from the rest of the tribes of Israel in its purpose of worshipping at the Holy Temple with singing and playing instruments. Miriam, who was one of the seven female prophets of the people of Israel, led the culture of drum playing in Jewish-Israeli tradition during biblical times.
“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” Exodus 15:20
Testimonies from the bible and archeological findings of figurines in the Land of Israel reveal that the biblical Miriam drum was an overhead drum between 12 to 14 inches in size. Its initial and simple shape was a wooden frame (in most cases) with leather stretched on its front side. It appears that the drum was without any cymbals or other additions.
The culture of playing the Miriam drum also took place in religious and spiritual rituals, as well as in special events such as weddings, the first of the month, and welcoming and bidding farewell to the Sabbath. This culture vanished almost completely from the Jewish culture since the destruction of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman emperor Titus Flavius. Following the destruction of the Holy Temple, Jews were forbidden from rejoicing and playing melodies in synagogues and in religious spiritual events. They are commanded to remain in mourning until the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.
Since then, the presence of the Miriam drum in Israeli culture is minor. It serves mostly as an aide among school and kindergarten teachers to communicate with the children: calling, gathering, or dismissing them, as well as during group singing and playing as part of educational activities, social games, etc.
The Miriam drum is not perceived as a significant musical instrument and was not integrated into serious and artistic musical work in Israeli-Jewish culture.