Tambora (Dominican drum)
The Dominican tambora (from the Spanish word tambor, meaning "drum") is a two headed drum played in merengue music. In many countries, especially the Dominican Republic, tamboras were made from salvaged rum barrels. Performers on the tambora are referred to as tamboreros.
There are three types of tambora for the merengue style of music. The oldest kind is the rope-tuned tambora with black-colored heads. This is seen more in folkloric music of the Dominican republic and Afro-Caribbean slaves. The second type is a rope tuned tambora played with goatskin, or "chivo" heads, either with or without the hair left on. The third type, as made by modern companies, is bolt-tuned with rawhide conga heads. This kind usually has metal or wooden rims to hit as a filler for rhythms, sounding, if one strikes it correctly, something reminiscent of a wood block. This type can also be tuned to higher pitches and can sound like a conga.
Role in Merengue
In merengue tipico, known also as perico ripiao (the oldest form of merengue), the tambora has a significantly large role, playing many different types of rhythms and variations on those rhythms. However, in orchestra merengue, the tambora usually only plays the merengue derecho rhythm as a background instrument, while congas are the main rhythm instrument, followed by the güira. In orchestra merengue, a separate performer for timbales can be seen very frequently, while in perico ripiao, the timbales and tambora are played most of the time by the same musician (timbales are used most of the time for fills, and, occasionally, solos). Timbales were introduced into the genre by Dominican percussionist Ray "Chino" Diaz.
There are three basic strokes: slap, rim/woodblock, and open tone: these three are all used in standard merengue rhythms, such as merengue derecho (most common merengue form) and pambiche.