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Music & Artists

Wu Tong singing, holding his instrument, the sheng


Debuting New Works
Silk Road Ensemble musician and composer Wu Tong (above) sings during the premiere of his composition 9 Rivers during a Silk Road Ensemble residency at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. The piece has become part of the Silk Road Ensemble's repertoire.

Frame Drums



orig. unknown, worldwide  A percussion instrument is an object or set of objects used to create musical rhythm. Sound is produced by striking with the hand or an implement, such as a hammer, mallet or stick, or by shaking, rubbing or producing vibration by other means.

Many string instruments, such as the piano and tar, can be considered percussion instruments, as well. The voice is also often used to create a beat in many musical forms, from Azerbaijani mugham to popular American a cappella music.

Percussion instruments are found the world over, and in so many forms, that it is assumed that they emerged in many different places simultaneously. Most likely, the first form of percussion was the clapping of hands. The word "percussion" derives from the Latin verb "percussio," meaning "to beat" or "to strike."

The Silk Road Ensemble's repertoire features countless percussion instruments, new and ancient, Eastern and Western, simple and elaborate. Among many other instruments, the Ensemble features daira (Middle Eastern frame drums), tabla, jang-go and marimba (African and South-American instrument composed of wooden "keys" or bars that are struck with mallets). Bowls, chimes, blocks, and other percussive noise-making devices are also frequently employed.

Hear the instruments
Daira sound clip
(frame drum) »
Tabla sound clip
(Indian drums) »

Sandeep Das
Joseph Gramley
Dong-Won Kim
Shane Shanahan
Mark Suter

Other percussion instruments