A small, goblet-shaped drum, the tonbak is rarely seen or heard outside Iran, but it drives the fast and frenetic rhythmic intensity of Persian classical music.
The tonbak is usually made of walnut, ash or pear wood and topped with a thin piece of camel or goat skin. Musicians play with their hands, sitting down with the drum resting sideways across their legs.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Iran in search of the tonbak and to make The Hidden Drummers of Iran -- a crowdfunded documentary film
about my quest.
In Esfahan, a historic city in central Iran, I met renowned tonbak player Jafar Ghazi Asgar, who runs a music academy with his wife, Melika Davoodi. According to Davoodi, young tonbak players are drumming life into this ancient art form -- thanks in part to Instagram. Google, Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, but Instagram is permitted and provides a haven for young players to share their music.