Thursday, May 31, 2007

What is a Furruco?

Sandra (percussion), Enrique (FURRUCO) and Pucho (tambora)
Sofia and Mariana are our furruqueras, or furruco players in Parranda Venezuela. Next time you come out to see us, watch them! Even though they are across the room from each other they are always communicating, with telling glances to coincide their playing. And they work extra hard because they usually play every song, their arms really get a workout, and they often get blisters on their hands. Not only that but when everyone else takes a break, they usually have to stand guard by their instruments because everyone wants to know more about the furruco and get their hands on it! People often think that you must have to really pull down on the stick. In actuality the stick must be handled very gently because it could easily break or if not played correctly it can puncture the skin of the furro.
The furruco is a folk instrument from Venezuela. It is commonly described as a friction drum. This instrument has facinating origins, and has variations throughout the world, all of which were originally used ritualistically (as most music has been).
Grove's Dictionary asserts that the friction drum's appeal was "because of the rather unearthly character of its sound" which is often described as a roar. For this reason it was associated with the jaguar in the Maya culture, and with lions and leopards in Sub-Saharan African cultures. In Africa varieties of friction drums are known in the Congo (dingwinti), among the Bantu people (ngoma), and the Zulu (ingungu). The friction drum has also evolved into various European instruments used in Spain (zambomba), Portugal (sarronca), France (toulouhou), Turkey (kaplan kabagi), Greece (mourgrinára ) and Italy (pu-ti-pù). In Europe the friction drum is particularly used during the Christmas holidays which may explain the why the Venezuelan furruco is typically used for Gaitas and Aguinaldos (types of music) which are specific to the Christmas holidays.
According to the New Grove's Dictionary of Musical Instruments (1984), the friction drum is "a membranophone sounded by friction, either direct or indirect". According to an excellent article by anthropoligist John A. Donahue (
"The body of the drum may consist of a bucket with the bottom removed or of an earthenware pot. The membrane on direct friction drums is rubbed either by the hand, which may be wet or rosined, by a leather 'plectrum' or by a stick which passes back and forth through a hole in the membrane. The membrane on indirect friction drums is made to vibrate by friction on a cord or stick in contact with the drumhead."