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The art of Tanbur in Kermanshah

DALAHU, Nov. 09 (MNA) –Tanbur, a long-necked fretted lute, is an inseparable part of the lives of the Kurds in Iran, so much so that the children learn how to play it before they learn how to read and write. The Kamali brothers have dedicated nearly 50 years of their lives to revive and preserve the art of Tanbur among their people in Dalahu County, Kermanshah Province. (By: Amir Ali Razzaghi)


Persian traditional music or Iranian traditional music, also known as Persian classical music or Iranian classical music, refers to the classical music of Iran (also known as Persia). It consists of characteristics developed through the country's classical, medieval, and contemporary eras.

Due to the exchange of musical science throughout history, many of Iran's classical melodies and modes are related to those of its neighboring cultures.

Iran's classical art music continues to function as a spiritual tool, as it has throughout history, and much less of a recreational activity. It belongs for the most part to the social elite, as opposed to the folkloric and popular music, in which the society as a whole participates. However, the parameters of Iran's classical music have also been incorporated into folk and pop music compositions.



Indigenous Iranian musical instruments used in the traditional music include string instruments such as the chang (harp), qanun, santur, rud (oud, barbat), tar, dotar, setar, tanbur, and kamanche, wind instruments such as the sorna (zurna, karna), ney, and neyanban, and percussion instruments such as the tompak, kus, daf (dayere), naqare, and dohol.

Some instruments, such as the sorna, neyanban, dohol, and naqare, are usually not used in the classical repertoire, but are used in the folk music. Up until the middle of the Safavid Empire, the chang was an important part of Iranian music. It was then replaced by the qanun (zither), and later by the western piano. The tar functions as the primary string instrument in a performance. The setar is especially common among Sufi musicians. The western violin is also used, with an alternative tuning preferred by Iranian musicians. The ghaychak, that is a type of fiddle, is being re-introduced to the classical music after many years of exclusion.



Understanding the rhythmic aspect of Iranian music is aided by understanding the rhythmic structure of Persian poetry, the old Persian rhythmic cycles and the rhythmic characteristics of improvised and composed music. Analysis of more than fifty improvisations and pieces of composed music shows that the rhythmic organisation of gūsheh-ha and of musical genres in free metre, stretchable metre or fixed metre may be influenced by Persian poetic metres.

Music-related manuscripts from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries CE provide an opportunity to compare more than thirty different rhythmic cycles. The system of rhythmic cycles is no longer explicitly used in Iranian music but contemporary improvisation and composition reveals that their influence is still felt, as in current techniques of tombak performance.

This rich rhythmic vocabulary may bear ancestral relationship to the complex rhythms of India and certainly is related to traditional rhythms of North Africa and Ottoman Janissary and Turkish drumming.

The most common time signatures associated with the tombak are 6/8, 2/4, 4/4, 5/8, 7/8, and 16/8 times. Today the rhythmic ictus (beat or pulse) of the drum does not merely work as a metronome but is usually woven into the main fabric of the music as if it were any other (melodic) instrument.