When Persian vocalist Parissa and the Dastan Ensemble perform in Zankel Hall on Friday, November 8 at 8:30 PM, they’ll be playing instruments that many audience members may not recognize. Learn about a few of these beautiful instruments.
The tar is known in Iran as the “king of instruments.” It became the chosen
instrument of the classical masters of Persian music from the mid–19th
century onwards. The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry
wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lambskin. The fingerboard has 26
adjustable gut frets and there are three double courses of strings.
The barbat is a short-necked unfretted lute of ancient Persian–Central Asian origin that became the model for lutes around the world, from the Chinese pipa to the European lute. It was refined by the Arabs who called it al ‘ud. The instrument played by the Dastan Ensemble is based on the ancient model, has a smaller bowl than the ‘ud, and has five courses of strings (instead of the six used in Arab music).
The kamancheh, a bowed lute, is the ancestor to most bowed instruments of Europe and Asia. It has a small hollowed belly made of walnut or mulberry wood, with a thin stretched skin covering and a conical-shaped neck. The modern kamancheh has four strings generally tuned in fourths or fifths and held vertically.
The tombak, also known as zarb, is a goblet-shaped drum that is the principal percussion instrument of classical Persian music. It is hollowed out of mulberry wood and has a sheepskin or lambskin head.
The daf is a large frame drum often used for Sufi ceremonies or to accompany singers. It is the preferred percussion instrument in Kurdish music.