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
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.