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The dabakan

The dabakan is a Philippine indigenous kettledrum-type of membranophone (drum) acting as an accompanying instrument for the kulintang ensemble.

The dabakan is usually found among the Maguindanao and Maranao; also called dbakan, debekan (Maguindanao), dadabuan, dadaboon (Maranao), libbit (Tausug), tibubu (Poso), and tiwal (Kulawi and Minahasa).



The dabakan is a goblet-shaped (or often hourglass-shaped, conical, or tubular) drum with a length of more than two feet and a diameter of more than a foot. The instrument is easily identified by its pedestal, which supports the bowl-shaped body.

The body (called shell) is then carved from the wood of either the coconut tree or jackfruit tree which is hollowed out. The drumhead, made of goat-skin, carabao skin, deep rawhide, or snake/lizard skin, is stretched over the shell -- with the latter (snake/lizard skin) as the best material to use. The drumhead is then tied over the shell with a small metal wire, then very tightly with two hoops of rattan to allow the rattan sticks to bounce cleanly.

Maranao artists then carve the body with extravagant okkil (okir/ukkil) designs.

The sound produced by the dabakan is quick and muted, but the player could apply new styles of playing and techniques to change the sound according to the songs/tune accompanied.


Proper way of hitting the dabakan's drumhead parallel to its surface with a pair of rattan.

Traditionally, the Maranao dabakan is a masculine instrument, while the Maguindanao dabakan is for the females, but as see today both men and women can play a dabakan.

The instrument is played by hitting two sticks (made of rattan or bamboo) onto the drumhead, and normally played while the player is standing, sitting, or kneeling.

The sticks/strips, however, should be parallel to the surface of the drum and are then pivoted between the thumb and forefinger using the wrist to provide power when striking the drumhead's surface along the entire length of its diameter.


The dabakan is commonly played as rhythmic support to a kulintang ensemble, to keep the tempo in check. In a traditional performance, the Maguindanao and Maranao place the dabakan to the right of the kulintang player.

It can also be an accompaniment for the kutiyapi, another kind of fiddle/lute.




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