The Ramadan Drummer: The Story Behind a Beautiful Community Tradition
It's not easy to wake up before dawn to eat in the month of Ramadan - hence the Ramadan drummer! He (sometimes she) walks through neighborhoods with a drum in hand, playing music and singing verses of poetry in order to awaken people and encouraging them to eat and keep a fast.
The tradition was popularized in the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, I always portray the drummer in Ottoman-inspired clothes but in a chosen color palette of purple, yellow, white. (In the Ottoman Empire, he would have worn red and green, but this can mistakenly translate as Christmas). The Ramadan drummer is a cross-cultural tradition, not just a Turkish one. He exists in many cultures including Turkish, Arab, Indian, and African. And while the world increasingly relies on alarm clocks, the tradition is still alive and well in many countries including Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan.
Some other things about the drummer: it's an artisanal profession. The drummer makes his drum by hand (curing leather and all) and is usually trained in music and poetry. The work passes down from generation to generation - the Ramadan drummer's father and grandfather and great grandfather and so on, were also probably Ramadan drummers.
During the month, many people, particularly children, look forward to nightly visits from the drummer, especially if he is a talented musician with moving lyrics. It can be a very lively tradition bringing the whole neighborhood out onto the streets to watch.
At the end of the month, on Eid, the residents of the neighborhood are expected to tip the drummer for the month long wake up service he provided. Sometimes, people also include wrapped gifts like sweets or clothes with their monetary tip.
Looking for more Ramadan and Eid ideas? Watch how to make a paper lantern place card for the iftar: