A doff is a large-sized frame drum, used to accompany both popular and traditional music in the Middle-East and surrounding countries. A doff consists of a thin band made of hardwood, covered with goatskin on one side. It can also have rings or small cymbals along the rim, making them some kind of tambourine. The drum is held with both hands at shoulder height. Tones of various depth and colors are played by hitting different spots on the skin with the fingers. There is also a technique of leaning the drum against the knees. The doff is a percussion instrument with a soft, deep tone. It is suitable for playing indoors and to accompany singers and players on the tambura, rababa, oud and other Oriental instruments.
Dofs can be played to produce highly complex and intense rhythms, causing one to go under a trance and reach an ecstatic and spiritually-high state, such as in zar. They’re also used in sufi ceremonies.
The earliest evidence of the instrument dates back to Sassanid Iran. The Pahlavi (an ancient Iranic language) name of the doff is dap. The word doff is therefore the Arabicized form of the word dap. The presence of the doff in ancient Iranian art proofs that the instrument predates Islam. These frame drums were played in the ancient Middle East (including Egypt), Greece and Rome.