The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Tanbour (a guitar or harp like instrument) is the oldest and most genuine Iranian musical instrument and nowadays nearly half of the people around the world are acquainted with this ancient Iranian instrument and are using it in different parts of the world under different names.
instrument with is heavenly and ravishing sound is used in many countries
specially in China, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS) such as Azarbaijan and Armenia and other countries. It is specially
revered by native Iranians who during their collective or individual prayers use
the guitar to commune with God and believe it helps them to approach the
described in dictionary of musical instruments by Husseinali Mallah
In the opinion of Farmer with the spread of the Islamic religion around the world the impact of this Iranian musical instrument spread in every corner and even in such remote regions where Islam had failed to penetrate i.e., to shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the west, to Siberia in the north and to confines of India and islands located in the eastern wing of India.
Tanbour known as
Tanboureh in Iran's neighboring countries gradually arrived in China and changed
its name into Tanpoula. In Greece it was called Tampouras. From Greece the
guitar traveled to Albania and was renamed Tamoura. In Russia it was christened
Dumbra and in Siberia and Mongolia they called it Dumbra or Dumbereh. However
during the Byzantine empire they called it Pandora and other European tribes
became acquainted with that instrument through Byzantine. The instrument is
popular in Turkey and India as well.
In Reyman musical
dictionary, reference is made to Tanbour (p. 1319): "Making of tambourine
was an Iranian and Arab art and the instrument is from the family of aggaloch."
Reyman believes that the instrument was called Tambouri in India which
undoubtedly was the same Iranian Tanbour. In Italy it is called Tamburo and in
Caucasus it is named Tampour. The Armenians also call it Tambour.
The Graw Musical
Dictionary says the term tambourine was changed into different appellation in
the difficult dialects of various nations. The Encyclopedia Britannica says
Tanbour is a long-necked lute played under various names from the Balkans to
Northwest Asia. Closely resembling the ancient Greek pandoura and the long lutes
of ancient Egypt and Babylon, it has a deep, pear-shaped body, a fretted neck,
and 2 to 10 double courses of metal strings fastened with front and side tuning
pegs without a pegbox.
The Tanbour has
remained popular since medieval times. Its derivatives include the Greek buzuki,
the Romanian tamburitza, and the Indian sitar and tambura.
Tanboura is an
instrument invented in the East from the family of the aggaloch with a long
handle and two or three strings which is played by the fingers. The most ancient
trace of this instrument were the images discovered in Bani Yunos and Keyvan
hills, in Mosul. From these images one can deduce that these instruments closely
resembled the present guitar. They held a very long and thin handle with a
delicate bowl with a proper covering.
in Shush belong to 1500 years B.C. and those discovered at Haft Tappeh display
the antiquity of the instrument.
writes: Farabi, a writer of the tenth century A.D., has carefully described the
musical instruments of his time such as aggaloch, guitar, Khorassani Tanbour and
Shirazi tanbour and has given a precise account of the method of employment of
fingers on the strings by numbering the fingers. Among tambourine those used in
Baghdad and Damascus had different divisions of notes.
In Zax, which is a
complete dictionary of musical instrument, it is said: The Persian, Kurdish and
Hebrew guitar resembles the egg with a long handle and in fact the guitar
fabrication was the first step by mankind to develop and refine such
instruments. As a whole one can study the changes in the outside appearance of
the tanbour from the Assyrian age to present time. Nowadays guitar belongs to a
large mass of human community.
root of Tanbour was pandora
In his Glossary of
Musical Terms, volume 1, Mehdi Setayeshgar thus describes the tanbour: Tanbour
is a string instrument set to a long handle and a bowl and is played by beating
Tanbour has existed
in different periods of history and was the most popular string plectrum
instrument. Formerly a pear-like tanbour prevailed in Iran and Syria; then it
traveled to Turkey and Greece and from there to the West.
Nowadays one can sea
different models of native tanbour with longer handles or bigger bowls or much
more curved than the Setar (three string guitar) which possesses two, three or
four strings with octave spaces divided into scales.
Tanbour is played by
hand which points to the close relation between the tanbour and double string
guitar like Iranian instrument. Tanbour is used in the assembly of tanbour
players, athletes and dervishes by reciting religious verses.
Ibne Khordad has
referred to singing by tanbour in Rey, Tabrestan and Deylam, says Setayeshgar.
He says Farabi has described Mizani or Baghdadi tanbours and their method of
tuning. These possess two strings and were famous as Turkish tanbours. He has
also described the Shervanian tanbour and the images in Nineva. He has described
the Baghdadi, Turkish, Khorassani, double string, Shervanian, Tambourak,
Tamouraki, Moroccan, Mongolian and Tanbireh or guitars and their methods of use.
In his expertise
research of music Alireza Feizbashipour is speaking about tanbour and the people
west of Iran.
beliefs and documents as well as examination of various musicians and the
different types of tanbours used by the Kurdish tribe and people west of Iran,
one can conclude that this tanbour was the same ancient Iranian tanbour or
guitar which has been referred in ancient books and images as well as in
literary texts. He refers to each of
the following tanbours and their method of use:
Baghdadi, Turkish, Khorassani, double string, Shervanian, Tambourak, Tanbouraki,
Moroccan, Mongolian, Tanbireh.
In his masterly and
expertise research about Iranian music, Alireza Feizbashipour says based on the
beliefs and existing records and examination of music and the different ranks
among the Kurdish tribe and the folk living west of Iran, one can conclude that
tanbour was a derivation of the same ancient tanbour which has been spoken in
ancient books, images or literary texts.
He mentions Barieh,
Tarze Rostam, Majnooni and Jongara ranks as the ancient ranks which were
transferred from ancient times to the present times from generation to
generation. He seems to have mistaken Barieh rank with Barbod rank.
between the ranks (Dastans) in that tanbour nearly resembles the interval
between 12 notes Dastans known as Fors (introduced by Farabi). He says two
models of tanbours were popular in Kermanshah in the Gouran and Safeh regions,
and it was popularly played in the Safeh region among Alavians and the mountain
skirts of Zagros and the elders and leaders of these regions were completely
familiar with the instrument.
The tanbour is
equipped with two basic tuning instruments which if used in a scientific manner
in one of the turning knobs the base wire is symmetrical with the fifth interval
known as Chiereh and in the other the base wire harmonious with the fourth
interval known as Dang. Both these tuning knobs bear their own specific names
and the names attributed to two specific ranks in the tanbour. The first
interval or the base wire tuning knot forms the Sheir Amiri interval with the
fourth interval. The second tuning knob which links the base wire to the fifth
Vakhan is known as Kook Tarz and they are always called with these appellations.
In different regions other names are given such as Borz and Tarz and Haft Dassan
(Haft Dastan) and Panj Dassan (panj dastan).
Borz is the same
Sheikh Amir tuning and Haft Dastan and Tarz is the tarz tuning knob called Panj
Dastan. One must note that these ancient ranks for tanbour were mostly used by
Tarz tuning knobs and is far ancient. Commenting on the musical notes played by
tanbour Feizbashipour says, the tanbour music is specific and exceptionally
melodious compared to other music in Kermanshah. The specific features of that
music such as the interval, weight and the cadence of the lay is such which
leads us to believe that the tanbour music is a genuine ancient Iranian music to
the extent that a careful examination of such music can shed light on certain
features of old Iranian music.
It must be noted
that beside conducting music in ranks the tanbour is played in two other forms
as well. One of them is used for elegies extemporaneous plays on the basis of
the tanbour ranks and the other is to play pieces composed by outstanding
masters of music. After group music became popular such type of tanbour playing
has increased but regretfully many such pieces are unrelated to tanbour music
and are void of cultural or artistic value for the tanbour or guitar.
Tanbour and popular plectrums
This rank was played
and is still played as elegy to mourn the departure of a beloved one. During
mourning ceremonies or burial of their dead this tribe use a tanbour accompanied
by a solo singer or group singers. Flower and earth is one of the branches of
elegy played by tanbour or the Iranian guitar, but being a theoretical rank it
is not used in the above mentioned ceremonies. In mourning ceremonies two
dialectic ranks of the tanbour known as Fani Fani is used. Flower and earth is
mostly sung by natives of Hozeh Gouran or Karand. Its rhythm is
produced by seven plectrums which is called Sepa (three steps or tripod) in
Seyed Vali Husseini
Gahvareyi and Seyed Ghaem Afzali Shah Ebrahimi are well known players of the
flower and earth ranks.
This rank is specifically used in Gouran and played by Kouk Borz. Of important players of such pieces one might refer to Seyed Mahmood Alavi and Seyed Vali Husseini and Taher Yarveissi, his able student. In the past a man called Birkhan Zardehi used to play this rank in an excellent manner.
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