The tambourine is a musical instrument of the percussion family consisting of a frame, often of wood with pairs of small metal cymbals. The tambourine has been played throughout many centuries in different styles of music and in many cultures. In the picture to the left a woman is depicted on an Ancient Greek vase playing a tambourine.
The riq (sometimes called daff) is a type of tambourine used in folk and classical music throughout the Arabic-speaking world. In the first half of the 20th century it was common for the riq to be the sole percussion instrument in an ensemble.
Click here for an introductory clip on how to play the riq.
The idea of using the tambourine as a belly dance prop possibly originates from Western artists’ images of Ghawazee performers, such as the one on the right. Older women would accompany the dancers on the tambourine and dancers would often pass the tambourine around the audience after a street show to collect money.
They always feature in the list of props that belly dancers might use but not all Western dancers agree that tambourines belong in belly dance. Click here for an online discussion of where tambourines fit in to belly dance.
While dancing the tambourine can be played as a percussion instrument to emphasize the rhythms, in the same way that zills are. It can be used to frame or draw attention to a part of the body. Here are some youtube clips of dancers, both Western and Middle Eastern, performing with a tambourine: