ḠĀVĀL (also known as daf, q.v.), the most widespread percussion instrument in the Republic of Azerbaijan, played as much in artistic as in popular music and professional ensembles. It is also used in Armenia and the Persian Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan gāvāl is made up of a circular wooden frame of a diameter of thirty-eight centimeters on which catfish or, failing that, goat skin is stretched. In modern times, the use of synthetic skin, more resistant to humidity, but less appreciated, is also common. The frame is made of various kinds of wood, such as walnut, acacia, vine, and mulberry. Much care is often applied in the manufacture of ḡāvāl; its wooden frame is usually covered with mother of pearl and black horn and several metal rings are placed on the inner side of the frame acting as bells. Traditionally, the male or female singers (classical or popular) accompany themselves by playing the instrument, but there are also specialized soloists, especially in the bard groups āšeq (q.v.) as well as bands of oboe players (sūrnā). Ḡāvāl is sometimes replaced by a two-sided drum called naqqāra, which is played a bit like daf only on one side, but held on the knees.
The ḡāvāl playing techniques can be quite sophisticated requiring the use of all the fingers. In Persia, however, the technique is simpler. Ḡāvāl is used to accompany āšeq bards, but rarely in Persian art music.
Bibliography: A. Rahmatov, Azarbaijan khalg chalghi alatlari, Baku, 1980.
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: February 3, 2012
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Vol. X, Fasc. 3, p. 335