How to Play Tifa: A Traditional Instrument from Papua


Papua is not only famous for its nature and its unique animals. It also has a lot of heritage in the culture of their people, from traditional culture to the famous one—for example, the dances, houses, architecture, and of course, the conventional instruments. One of the most famous traditional instruments that everyone longing to see and play is the Tifa. Therefore, in this article, you will learn how to play Tifa: A traditional Instrument from Papua.

What is Tifa?

Tifa is a traditional musical instrument in Papua that people make from wood with a membrane of animal skin. It is a single-headed frame drum. Tifa’s origins are closely related to folklore. The body of the Tifa has many decorations with specific motifs according to the beliefs of the supporting community. A player plays this instrument by hitting the membrane based on four rhythm patterns.

In Papua, Tifa is also a musical instrument that must be present in traditional ritual events. These formal events are often juxtaposed with ritual music, with Tifa as the main melodic instrument. The ritual music has a very sacred rhythm. The Tifa has an essential role in determining the rhythm and producing beats that make the ritual more solemn.

How Does It Sound Like?

Therefore, you can play Tifa’s musical instrument by beating or hitting it so that the sound produced is the same as a drum. However, the size of the Tifa and how to tie animal skins as a cover affect each type of sound that Tifa will produce.

So, the drier the animal skin layer used, the more beautiful the sound emitted from the Tifa.

How Does It Looks Like?

​​Tifa is similar to a drum instrument we usually play by hitting it. This musical instrument is made of a piece of wood that has been emptied or removed and covered at one end. People in Papua also cover it with deerskin that needs to be as dry as possible to produce a nice and beautiful sound. Meanwhile, for the shape, they usually make it in a traditional way with carvings. Each tribe in Maluku and Papua has a drum with its characteristics.

So, How To Play Tifa?

It is essential to know that the size of the drum will affect the size of the sound and the rhythm of the resulting tone; how to play a Tifa that is beaten. Although it looks easy, playing this instrument is not as simple as one might think. It takes instinct and a long musical experience so that his voice sounds harmonious and beautiful.

Therefore, for the record, for the people of Papua, playing the Tifa musical instrument cannot be haphazard. In fact, from the narrative of the indigenous Papuan people, the person who will ring the Tifa must first obtain permission from the tribal chief. This can happen because the Tifa is famous as a sacred musical instrument for the Papuan people.

Where Can We Found It?

We can find this traditional instrument in Papua and Maluku. But, there are a few differences between Tifa from Papua and Tifa from Maluku. The easiest one to spot is the shape of the Tifa itself.

In Maluku, Tifa is just an ordinary tube and does not have a handle. This distinctive musical instrument has beautiful carvings to decorate it and is unique to each region. But not just decoration, this carving also contains stories of life and expressions of gratitude from the Tifa maker.

Meanwhile, Tifa in Papua has a handle on the side and is slimmer.

So, those are some pieces of information and an easy guide on how to play Tifa: a traditional instrument from Papua.