Persian Tanboor is a string instrument in which the strings are installed on a long frame with a bowl shaped body. Player uses the fingers to play Tanboor. It is closely related to Setar and Dotar.
Tanboor has epic, mythical, and mystical characteristics and it is often used to accompany the narration of epic stories. This instrument has traveled far and wide in time and space and it has taken on different names and shapes. Between 10 to 15 frets are placed on the Tanboor. Iranian Tanboor has 3 strings, and as mentioned before, it is played without a pick.
With embossed depictions belonging to 1500 BC found upon ruins in Shoosh, The instrument has ancient beginnings. With a pear shaped cup, Tanboor was made regularly in Iran and Syria. Later on, it was taken to Bactria via Turkey and Greece. It was in Egypt that the oval shaped cup became the norm. Today, Tanboor is used in mystical circles to accompany the Dervishes’ chants and mantras and is usually accompanied by Daf on such occasions.
The Maqam system is used for playing the Tanboor. It rarely adheres strictly to rhythm, and if the piece is indeed rhythmic, it is typically very slow and heavy. Unlike other traditional instruments, Tanboor does not have quarter notes.
Tanboor can be found in two different shapes. One is older in style and the cup is created out of a single wooden piece. The second style has a cup made up of a few smaller pieces that are attached together. The second style is easier to make and if any problems arise with its structure, it is easier to fix. Tanboor is mostly associated with the Bakhtari region of Iran. It is also known as a staple of culture for Dervishes of Kurdistan and Kermanshah and their religious music.
In texts about Arab music, Tanboor has been praised as a complete instrument and highly suitable for accompaniment with singing. It is referred to as the Iranian long-necked Tanboor. Seyyed Khalil Alinezhad wrote in his thesis, “Tanboor From Ancient Times to Today”, that Tanboor was popular during the height of Islam in Iraq. During the same time, Tanboor was also becoming popular in Hejaz and Syria. It was in the Abbasid era that Tanboor became the highest regarded instrument. Towards the end of the Safavid era, similar to many other instruments and art forms, Tanboor survived through a cultural hiatus and made its way to our world today. According to Alinezhad, variations of this instrument exist in India, the Americas, China, Egypt, Syria, Balkans, Georgia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Morocco.
Tanboor is found in a variety of sizes. Its general size varies between 87 and 95 centimeters. The board, which sits atop the front of the resonance cup, is typically 34 to 42 centimeters in height and 15 to 20 centimeters wide. The cup is typically 12 to 17 centimeters deep.
Online Tanbur lessons by Masoud Arzanlou at Rhythmitica Academy
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