About Split Hand Darbuka . by Raquy Danziger
Split-hand is a style of playing darbuka where you use individual fingers instead of the whole hand, like in the Arabic style. It allows the drummer to play much more intricate and fast patterns, similar to Indian tabla players. This style began about twenty years ago in Turkey, and since then, there has been what I call a "revolution" there with many drummers practicing and getting inhumanly fast. Darbuka players from around the globe are coming to Istanbul to learn this style.
Split-hand players tend to prefer using clay darbukas with natural skins, but this technique also sounds amazing on the metal Arabic drum.
Misirli Ahmet, a Turkish darbuka player, invented the Turkish Split Hand Technique around the turn of the century while living in the Sinai Desert with his brothers. Many drummers got ideas and inspiration from Ahmet, and he deserves recognition as the father of this technique.
There are now many other players like Bünyamin Olguncan and Suat Borazan, who have taken the idea of split-hand and branched out creating their own unique styles.
I was first exposed to the split hand technique in 2000 on a trip to Istanbul. I was hanging out backstage with some Turkish musicians and I saw the darbuka player doing crazy fast rolls. “What’s that?” I asked. He showed me the fingers: 1 3 1 3. I sat on the roof of my hotel for a week doing 1 3 1 3. Coming back to America, I began incorporating the 1 3 into my playing. “I’m doing the Turkish Split Hand Technique!”, I thought to myself. However, little did I know that there is so much more to this style than simply splitting the left hand into 1 and 3.
In 2009 I found myself making a living in NYC as a darbuka player with lots of work and many students, but in the inspiration department I was beginning to feel a little stuck and was craving a new challenge and a teacher.
I had a Turkish percussion CD called “Harem” that had beautiful, intricate compositions featuring the darbuka. “Who are these guys?” I used to wonder. I fantasized about going to Istanbul, finding the incredible drummers from that album and practicing with them.
I also started watching YouTube and witnessing the mind-blowing drumming coming out of Turkey. The way they played seemed inhuman. I found it impossible to decipher the patterns at those speeds. I could not imagine how many hours of practice it took to attain that level.
I decided that it was time to leave my ego in Brooklyn and make my first pilgrimage to learn from the master drummers in Istanbul. Accompanied by a group of my favorite students who happened to be all women, “The Magic Girls”, I set off for Istanbul. We rented an apartment in the heart of the “Tünel” music district of Istanbul and resolved to learn as much as we could.
I found my teacher Bünyamin Olgucan, started taking lessons. And it turns out he was the leader of the Harem group I had been listening to! Kismet! I fell in love with Istanbul and moved there, immersing myself in darbuka training.
Now I have my own Darbuka Ofis in downtown Istanbul where many great drummers come to practice and I travel the world performing and teaching. You can still find me and Bünyamin most days at the Darbuka Ofis still training together after 10 years!
Here is an example: