The Tassa (drum)

The Tassa (drum)

The conventional tassa was half a sphere in shape with a diameter of 20 inches and a depth of 12 inches. It was fashioned out of clay by skilful potters and baked in a very hot kiln until it became very tough.

The opened end of the tassa was covered with dried goat skin after all particles of hair had been carefully removed. This piece of circular skin was tightly pulled over the drum and held in place by strips of "deer skin". The drier the goat skin the better is the sound that comes from it, hence when it is played one would notice that the surface is heated periodically to retain that clean, clear tenor sound.

The instrument is hung from the neck and played using two pieces of specially selected sticks (chope) with padded ends that make contact with the tassa when struck.

Tassa is usually used in accompaniment with a large base drum (dhol) and brass cymbals (jhanj).

Today, the sphere-like part of the tassa is being replaced by a metal hemispherical bowl which is in fact an empty tank in which refrigeration gas was stored. The goat skin is also replaced by a synthetic covering which is held in position by specially designed nuts and screws. One advantage of this new covering is that, it does not need heating.

The tassa is played in Hindu weddings, Hosay or Muharram festivals, Carnival celebrations and social and cultural events.