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Title: Kamanche  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rebab, Iranian musical instruments
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


This article is about the Persian kamancheh. For the related but different Pontian Greek, Turkish or Armenian instrument see Kemenche.
String instrument
Other names Kamancha, Kamanche, Kemancheh, Kamanjah

Bowed Strings
Related instruments



Kamancheh (kamānche or kamāncha) (Persian: کمانچه‎) is a Persian bowed string instrument related to the bowed rebab, the historical ancestor of the kamancheh and also to the bowed lira of the Byzantine Empire, ancestor of the European violin family. The strings are played with a variable-tension bow: the word "kamancheh" means "little bow" in Persian (kæman, bow, and -cheh, diminutive).[1] It is widely used in the classical music of Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kurdistan Regions with slight variations in the structure of the instrument. In Kashmir, kamancha is known as saaz-i-kashmir.[2]

Traditionally kamanchehs had three silk strings, but modern ones have four metal ones. Kamanchehs may have highly ornate inlays and fancy carved ivory tuning pegs. The body has a long upper neck and a lower bowl-shaped resonating chamber made from a gourd or wood, usually covered with a membrane, made from the skin of a lamb, goat or sometimes fish, on which the bridge is set. From the bottom protrudes a spike to support the kamancheh while it is being played, hence in English the instrument is sometimes called the spiked fiddle. It is played sitting down held like a cello though it is about the length of a viola. The end-pin can rest on the knee or thigh while seated in a chair.

Famous Iranian kamancheh players include Ali-Asghar Bahari, Ardeshir Kamkar, Saeed Farajpouri, and Kayhan Kalhor. A famous Azeri kamancheh player is Habil Aliev.

The Turkish and Armenian kemenche or kemençe is a bowed string instrument with a very similar or identical name, but it differs significantly in structure and sound from the Persian kamancheh. Other bowed string instruments akin to the kamancheh, yet differing more than slightly from it, include the kemenche of the Pontic Greeks of the Black Sea, the old Russian gudok, the Persian ghaychak, and the Kazakh kobyz.

Persian traditional classical music also uses the ordinary violin with Persian tuning. The kamancheh and the ordinary violin are tuned in the same way and have the same range but different timbres due to their differing sound boxes.

A kamancheh is depicted on the reverse of the Azerbaijani 1 qəpik coin minted since 2006[3] and on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 1 manat banknote issued since 2006.[4]


The chagane is a four-stringed instrument[5] that was used in Iran up until the end of : the 19th century. The Russian artist G. Gagarin, who visited Iran in the first half of 19th century, depicted the chagane in his work "Shamaha Dancers".

Information about this instrument appears in the works of Qatran Tabrizi, Imadaddin Nasimi, Seyid Azim Shirvani and many other classical poets. The chagane has a pear-shaped body, a neck and a head. This reconstructed instrument was presented at a scientific symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2000 and made a significant impression on the participants at the symposium.

Kamancheh Improvisation Played by Kayhan Kalhor - Silk Road Project

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The oblong body of the chagane consists of nine parts. It is assembled from pieces of nut wood, sandalwood and beech. The body and neck of the instrument are connected with a long iron probe that goes from the bottom part of the body and plays the role of a core. The face of the body is covered with a 5mm thick sounding board made of pine. Resonator apertures are bored through this board. During the performance, the instrument is held in a vertical position, and the probe rests on the floor. The sound is produced with a bow that is held in the right hand.

The total length of the instrument is 820 mm. The body is 420 mm long, 220 mm wide and 140 mm tall. Its range goes from the "fa sharp" of the great octave to the "fa sharp" of the second octave.

See also


External links

  • Farabi School
  • About Kamanche and Kamanche Players
  • : The Encyclopedia of Persian Music Instruments
  • Arash Dejkam's Iran Pages kamancheh section, features sound clips
  • An old video of Ali-Asghar Bahari, playing Kamancheh in Hafezieh, shiraz
  • Ardeshir Kamkar and Mathaios Tsahouridis (kurdish/greek)
  • The song called "Kamancha" composed by Sayat Nova

Kamanche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

  • Kamanche, Iran, ca. 1880
  • Kamanche, Iran, ca. 1869
  • Video: )

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