What is an Alfaia?
Alfaias are bass drums from Pernambuco, a State on the
Northeast of Brazil, where they are used in maracatu, mangue, and
related music forms. Well-known regional artists such as Chico Science & Nação Zumbi
and Mestre Ambrosio use them in their performances
They are also known as surdos de cordas (rope surdos), and are included
in the class of bass drums called bombos, which includes surdo drums
and zabumbas as well.
The largest alfaias are called Marcante and Meião up
to 20" - 22". Medium-sized drums are called alfaia "de vira" up to 16" -
These hope drums are similar to surdos and may be an ancestor of their
popular urban cousins. The first feature one notices that sets them
apart from surdos is the rope tuning. The two cow leather - or goat
hide heads are clamped to the wooden body with thick wooden hoops. The
hoops are threaded with rope which is used for tensioning the heads.
Alfaias are played with distinctly-shaped fat wooden drumsticks;
sometimes the stick in the dominant hand is a little larger than the
one used in the weak hand.
Their construction is similar to 19th
Century US and European military field drums, bombos, and other Latin
American wooden bass drums. They often have a rustic, natural look, but
I also have seen them in many brilliant colors.
Alfaias are very famous in Brazil and it getting popular around the
world. We have made instruments that have been sold not only to
maracatu groups but also to musicians in Europe, Americas and Asia.
Alfaias are made of wood with leather heads. The heads are held in
place with wooden rings called counter hoops. This is the same basic
construction as the bass drum in drum kits. The rings are tensioned
against the alfaia's shell by ropes. The shell itself is of wood. The two
cow or goathide heads are clamped to the wooden body with thick wooden
hoops threaded with rope which is used for tensioning the heads.
Alfaias are played with distinctly-shaped fat wooden drumsticks. They
are usually between 16", 18”, 20" and 22" in diameter.
Playing an Alfaia
Traditionally strapped over the shoulder, alfaias are played with a
distinctive technique. Because it is worn opposite the players dominant
hand, the drum is in an awkward position for the weak hand. Players
hold the weak-hand drumstick inverted to get the proper attack on the
head. In some mangue bands, such as Nacão Zumbi, the alfaia-players
wear the drums strapped around the waist, much like surdos in Bahia.
é um tambor ícone do rítmo brasileiro
maracatu. Na terminologia alfaia significa necessidade,
roupa, utensílio e enfeite. O instrumento é constituído
de corpo, peles (membranas), aro, e cordas para a afinação.
alfaia se percute com duas baquetas e o tocador se apresenta em pé, na
maioria das vezes em procissão. Esse instrumento veio a ser conhecido
ao público do centro-sul do Brasi, relativamente há pouco tempo através
de grupos de música pop que introduziram a alfaia em seu instrumental e
por percussionistas e pesquisadores que contribuíram ao aparecimento de
grupos e oficinas de maracatu.
É classificada como membramofônica, já que o som é obtido através da membrana ou pele e instrumento de altura indeterminada exemplos: Zabumbas, caixas de guerra, surdos.
Além dos diversos tipos de maracatu, a alfaia encontra-se também no côco e na ciranda.