Alfaia means clothing or decoration. This drum belongs to the membranophone family, and is used to produce the rhythm in maracatu, as well as in coco de roda and in ciranda, in Pernambuco.
This instrument's Arabic origins are disputed, because it is shaped like a medieval Galician-Portuguese and Arabic drum (tamboril, of Arabic origins, predecessor of the bombo), and was also used, above all, in Afro-Brazilian musical and performance traditions. It was originally made from solid wood macaíba, cedar or mahogany tree trunks, with rims measuring 18, 20 or 22 inches, a double layer of goat leather, and a cord tied around the drum used for tuning.
The person playing the instrument, standing up, hits it with two drumsticks, usually in a parade or procession for the maracatu de baque virado. It holds great prestige and symbolic value in the city of Recife.