Maracatu - Oficina do Barulho

Professional Percussion Instruments made with art and quality
Intrumentos de Percussao Profissionais feitos com arte e qualidade
By Mestre Ruy
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 and recordings.

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" - 18".

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.

Alfaia 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.

A 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.

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