The music played on tabala is called tabala Wolof and is used to inspire ecstatic singing during nightime worship. Tabala Wolof developed in Senegal in the late 1700s. The large bass drum dates back to the 1100s, when the Qadiriya started in Baghdad, and the order's first members began playing an Arab war drum during worship. The music evolved as the order spread across North Africa. Tabala Wolof is heavily influenced by the traditional drum music of the Wolof people of Senegal.
Tabala Wolof in some ways parallels African-American gospel music. Both styles of music developed from African dance rhythms, in response to another culture, at about the same time. Qadiriya worshippers, like African-American gospel singers, typically step in time to the music and through their worship strive to attain a state of grace and ecstasy.
For a recording, see Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal. [Text and photo (c)1995 Village Pulse.]