September 2022 – The Khal

Welcome to this month’s diary entry where we’ll have a look at Khal Drogo’s theme and how it differs from our Westerosi themes.

The Dothraki

In the Societies page there is an entry dedicated to the Dothraki culture where we breakdown the basics of their music. There we saw how the Dothraki music is very percussion driven but there wasn’t much in the melodic department except for the statement that all their melodies are based on the pentatonic modes.

Expanding on that concept we have the same 5/4 rhythm we already heard played by three instruments of Middle Eastern origin: The Tombak, The Daf, and the Riq.

  • The Riq is a tambourine of Egyptian origin large zills that allow for very finger playing on them.
  • The Tombak is a type of goblet drum of Persian origin capable of an astounding range of sounds and effects only surpassed, in my opinion, by the Indian Tabla.
  • The Daf is a type of frame drum, also of Persian origin, with hundreds of little metal rings attached to the frame giving it a very characteristic sound.

The three instruments combined can create a diverse yet cohesive ensemble where the different ranges of the instruments complement each other rather nicely; with the daf providing a solid bass texture, the riq adding a rich high end to the mix, while the Tombak brings it all together.

What’s a new addition to the mix is the Mongolian horse-fiddle, or Morink Khuur. This cello-like instrument made of horse hair and played by Mongolian horsemen for millennia was bound to make its way to the Dothraki theme somehow.

The Khal

The music for Khal Drogo features a full string section playing ponticello, a technique that creates a harsher sound than what we are used, accompanied by the percussive ensemble of Riq, Tombak, and Daf. The minor pentatonic scale plays in the key of F♯, a key never used in any other theme and reserved exclusively for the Dothraki and Lhazareen.

That was all for this month. I hope to see you in the next one!

Maester Ludwig

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