The Italian tamborello is an integral part of Italian folk music with history over 2000 years old. Also called tammorra (a slightly different design) and tamburo, this hand drum (a fore-father of the tamborine) holds a prominent role is in the accompaniment of the tarantella, which is an old hopping dance allegedly related to ancient Dionysian ritual dances. The name references the hopping of the tarantula spiders during their mating dance.
As varied as the landscapes, dialects and cuisine of Italy, many variations exist in both the tarantelle and the playing techniques of the tamborello instrument. All techniques allow virtuoso triole-playing (rapid, triple strokes) by using different rotation techniques, where the hand rotates either over the horizontal or the vertical axis of the drum. This can also be accomplished by a stiff finger dragging and jittering forwards across the drum head--a very difficult technique only masters of the instrument achieve.
Cheap, painted tamborelli made for tourists
Traditionally, a tamborello would be made by the same artisans that made household and farm sieves. The technique used steam to bend the shape of the frame for each drum. Skins can be dog, cat, kid (goat) or even donkey. In Calabria, often the hairs are left on to give a deeper, more mellow sound. In Sicily the skins are highly refined giving a more bright, crisp sound. Many modern tamborello are made using synthetic drum heads which keep their pitch, unlike natural skins which change their pitch depending on humidity.
Even today the tamborello can be heard on every street and folk dance festival in Southern Italy. The culture and music have been passed on over the many centuries with considerable changes. Nowadays fusions of tarantella with Heavy Metal, Ancient Music, Jazz, Pop etc. are very popular.