Kamancheh is one of the main instruments in Iranian music, and it can probably be considered as THE essential instrument in Iranian music after Tar. Kamancheh is very common in the Middle East and the Far East due to its wide range of sounds (more than four octaves) as well as the delicacy of its tone.
Kamancheh is widely used not only in instrumental music but also in Iranian Maqam music. Kamancheh is a string-bow instrument, and its different parts are made of wood, skin, bone, and metal.
In addition to the abdomen, handle, and head, this instrument has a base at the lower end that is placed on the ground or the player’s knee. There is a type of Kamancheh known as Lori Kamancheh that has an open back, and the Lor people call it “Tal”.
History of Kamancheh
The first historical signs of kamancheh are seen in the book of Al-Kabir music by Abu Nasr al-Farabi in the fourth century AH. In this book, he mentions kamancheh with its Arabic name, Rabab. Kamancheh was one of the main Instruments in Iranian music during the Safavid and Qajar eras. The first recorded kamancheh sound dates back to the early twentieth century.
The kamancheh Instrument was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 2017 by the Cultural Heritage Organization.
Introduction of Kamancheh Components
The resonant bowl is almost spherical and hollow. The upper surface is open, on which the skin is peeled, and the vault is installed. The outer surface of the bowl is decorated with pieces of oyster or bone for aesthetics.
- Some local Kamanchehs are also open behind their bowls, causing a louder sound.
The skin of the mouth is selected from the thin skin of quadrupeds such as deer, goats, and lambs.
The handle of the instrument is like a tube full of wood, which is about 25 cm long and 3 cm in diameter.
Kamancheh vault is made of wood or bone, which is 4 cm long and 2 cm high. The vault rests on the skin of the bowl with its two small pedestals.
The instrument clasp is located at the beginning of the length of the handle and is made of wood. Its surface is hollow. The four tunes are located in pairs on either side of it. At the top of the instrument, the clasp is explicit, crown, or narrow.
Kamancheh has four tunes (as in its number of strings) in the form of a wide-headed nail made of wood, which is located on the sides of the instrument clasp. The broad tunes in the player’s hand rotate left and right to the tune. The narrow part is inside the hollow space of the Instrument clasp, and one end of the string is wrapped around it.
It is a small piece of wood or metal that is installed at the end of the bowl, where all the strings are attached to.
Thin, metal rods ten centimeters long, one end of which is fastened to the bottom of the bowl with a screw while playing, and the end of which is placed on the foot or floor.
Great Masters and Musicians of Kamancheh
Kamancheh has been played by a vast number of well-known musicians, some of whom we will get acquainted with below.
Hossein Khan Ismailzadeh:
Hosein Khan is a famous musician of the late Nasserite period and the son of Ismail Kamancheh Nawaz. After learning Kamancheh from his uncle Qoli Khan, he collaborated with the Sar-Polak musicians for some time. As he became very skillful in playing Kamancheh, he got acquainted with the Brotherhood Association, where Kamancheh was taught and practiced. He also participated in the meetings of the Brotherhood Association and was a soloist in the concerts of Darvish Khan and Aref Qazvini.
Ali Asghar Bahari:
Ali Asghar Bahari was born in 1284 in Abbasabad Bazaar area of Tehran. He was originally from the city of Bahar. His father, “Naib Mohammad Taghi Khan” took care of him until he was 13 years old. After his father went bankrupt, his mother, Gohar Khanum, the daughter of Mirza Ali Khan, a skilled Kamancheh musician, was forced to take refuge with her family in her father’s house. It was at this time that he became acquainted with music and became interested in his grandfather’s Kamancheh playing. At the request of his mother, he learned to play Kamancheh for two years from Mirza Ali Khan. He then completed his experiences for four years in his school of three uncles, Reza Khan, Akbar Khan, and Hassan Khan, who were among the famous Iranian artists a century ago.
Ali Asghar Bahari learned what he had to learn from his uncles until, at the age of eighteen, he participated in a concert with the Ibrahim Khan Mansouri Orchestra in a hall. Excellent and knowledgeable musicians accepted playing in Iranian corners.
Ardeshir Kamkar Zadeh was born on November 19, 1972, in Sanandaj. He is a member of the Kamkar group.
As a child, he learned the Violin from his father. Shortly afterward, he became a member of the Sanandaj Culture and Art Orchestra as a Kamancheh and Violin player. He first performed the violin pieces of Abolhassan Saba with Kamancheh.
Ardeshir Kamkar came to Tehran in 1981 and began his collaboration with Aref and Sheida groups and many leading Iranian singers. He also learned additional materials on the traditional Iranian clavier from Mohammad Reza Lotfi and Peshang Kamkar.
Ardeshir Kamkar has always tried to expand the capabilities of Kamancheh. Using special violin techniques and violin positions on the Kamancheh, he was able to show other faces of the instrument.
Kayhan Kalhor Zadeh was born on December 24, 1963, in Kermanshah. He is an Iranian Kurdish composer and musician. Kayhan Kalhor’s specialized instrument is kamancheh, and besides, he plays the tambourine, the Setar, and the Shahkaman. Kalhor has composed many pieces and played with famous Iranian artists such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Shahram Nazeri, Hossein Alizadeh, Ali Akbar Moradi, Alireza Eftekhari and members of the Dastan group. He has also worked in the field of composing soundtracks. His artistic collaboration with artists from various other cultures including Ardal Arzanjan from Turkey, Shujaat Hossein Khan from India, Yo Yo Ma from China, Zhao Ziping, Alim Qasimov from Azerbaijan, Brooklyn Rider from the USA, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, and wind Instruments The Netherlands has made him an international artist.
The influence of Kamancheh on the Instruments and music of the West and the East
Kamancheh has had many effects on many Instruments in Eastern and Western music and changed them remarkably. Some music scholars believe that the current violin-making pattern we now use is nothing more than a Kamancheh Instrument, and that’s how the kamancheh Instrument has created the contemporary Violin.
However, after entering the world of music, Violin was able to take the place of Kamancheh in music due to its extraordinary power, as well as it’s very high clarity and transparency. The Violin even diminished the presence of this instrument in Iranian music.