Maestro Ostad Asghar Bahari
This page is dedicated to the late Ostad Asghar Bahari
one of the worlds prestigous Kamanche players…
Ostad Ali Asghar Bahari
(1905 – June 10, 1995) was an Iranian musician and kamancheh player. He was born in Tehran and started his music lessons under his grand father Mohammad Taghi Khan, who was a kamancheh player as well. After three years, his father sent him to his uncles to learn more advanced techniques. Asghar had three uncles (all mother’s brothers): Akbar, Reza and hassan. They were all famous kamancheh players. His first major success was with Ebrahim Khan Mansouri’s Orchestra at the age of 18. He started his own music school in Mashhad, then he moved back to Tehran and became an kamancheh instructor in Honarestan under Ruhollah Khaleghi. He played with most famous Iranian musician such as Hossein Tehrani, Ahmad Ebadi, and Abolhasan Saba. He also was a professor of music in Tehran University for a few years. He toured France, Belgium, Germany’ Italy’ England and United States[America]. He died in Tehran.he was the best kamanche player in the world.
Kamanche belongs to the Chordophones category of instruments, and in more details to Bowed Stringed Instruments or it can be said Kamanche is a Persian Spike Fiddle. The word Kamanche means in Persian language a small bow. Kamanche is played in many different cultures and regions, like in Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey,…and with different pronunciations and different names, like Kamanche or Kamancheh or Kamantche in Iran, Kamancha or Kamantcha in Azerbaijan, Kemanche or Kemancha or Kemantcha in Armenia, Kabak Kemane in Turkey, Ghijak (Gijak, Gidzhak,…) in Central Asia, Rababa in Arab countries…. Kamanche is played both in classical and folk Music.
Strings were first made of gut or silk. Modern strings may be gut, solid steel, stranded steel, or various synthetic materials, wound with various metals. Kamanche strings are produced in the countries, in which Kamanche is played, but the quality of these strings are not good enough, that is why many Kamanche players try to use Violin or Viola strings for Kamanche. Kamanche players will usually change a string when it no longer plays true or when it loses the desired tone. We count the strings from the highest tone to the lowest tone. Kamanche has mainly four strings at the present time, but there are some kinds of Kamanche that they have three strings and there were at the past time some kinds of Kamanche with two until six strings.
If we put Diese (sharp) next to a note, the note will become half note higher, Bemol (flat), half tone lower, Sori, 1/4 tone higher and Koron 1/4 tone lower. The signs and definitions that we use here, are only to show the exact notes that we play in the mentioned musical culture. For example when we use Mi Diese, we do not mean the note, that is half tone higher than Mi, but we mean the note between Re and Mi Koron. It means the usage and function of the signs are not exactly like the definitions of the signs. We count the strings from higher to lower. The most usual tunings are Re La Re La and Re Sol Re Sol.
(Courtesy of Parham Nassehpoor)
Woman playing the Kamanche in a wall painting
from the Hasht Behesht Palace in Isfahan, Iran, 1669
History of Kamanche
Abstract: The kamanche is a Persian bowed string instrument
related to the bowed Rebab, an earliest spiked fiddle
which is ancestor to most modern European and Asian bowed instruments.
Kamanche is played in many different
cultures and areas, such as Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and etc.
It is played vertically with a variable-tension
bow in the manner of the European violine.
The Renaissance was an enormous cultural progress
which brought about a period of scientific revolution and
artistic alteration, at the dawn of modern European
history. It marks the transitional period between the end
of the middle Ages and the start of the modern age. The
Renaissance is more often thought to have begun in the
14th century in Italy and the 16th century in northern
Europe. The Renaissance artists applied the Golden
section widely in their paintings and sculptures to attain
balance and beauty. Musical instrument designing also
did not exempt of this category, and Golden section was
applied in designing musical instruments by the greatest
luthier of Cremona, Stradivarius. Unfortunately it was
not applied in traditional instruments. We use Golden
section in designing a Kamanche as a Persian traditional
instrument and hope it will flourish in other traditional
instruments. Until now, no designing procedure or
acceptable ratios have been proposed for this musical
instrument. The rest of the paper is organized as follows.
The representation of Kamanche, Golden section and
CATIA software marshally will be given in Sections 2, 3
and 4. Section 5 describes our methodology to designing
a Kamanche by using the Golden section.
The Kamanche or Kamancha is a Persian bowed string
instrument related to the bowed Rebab, played with a
variable-tension bow. The word “Kamanche” means
“little bow” in Persian (Kaman, bow, and -che,
diminutive). It is extensively used in the musical culture
of Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and
Turkmenistan, with slight variations in the structure of
Kamanche is being seen in celebration and war scenes
paintings, from Mongol and Timurid periods.
Kamanche was one of the most important instruments in
the Safavid and Qajar periods. It was an instrument
which was used in celebration scenes of Safavid era. A
wall fresco at Chehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan shows a
Kamanche player among a group of court musicians at
the royal court. This wall painting depicts a banquet
scene of Shah Abbas II in honor of Nader Mohammad
Khan emir of Turkistan in 1646 (Figure 1). Also,
another wall painting at Hasht Behesh Palace in Isfahan
shows a woman playing the Kamanche (Figure 2).
A Tasnif – a vocal piece played in the modal system of
Persian classical music – has been remained from the
Zand period which is related to Lotf Ali Khan Zand (the
last king of this dynasty), sang with Kamanche and Ney.
Eugene Flandin, an Italian-born artist who lived in Paris,
was sent to Iran on a mission in 1840 to collect
information about Iran’s political situation. He talked
about kamanche in his observation from Fat’h Ali Shah
– second Qajar king of Persia – court; and described it a
kind of Violin called Kamanche.
There were so many groups of jiggers called ‘Dásteh’ in
Zand and Qajar periods which some of them were
courted and the others non-courted. The most famous of
this Dastehs were master Zohreh and master Mina
Dasteh in Fath Ali Shah monarchy. Zohreh and Mina
were two famous singer and player women in this period
which used Kamanche as one of the most important
instruments in their Dasteh; although from the era of
Lotf Ali Khan, the last king of the Zand dynasty, these
Dastehs decreased but Kamanche stand up as one of the
most important instruments in these groups. All these
explanations revealed importance of Kamanche in
Persian music history but from the end of Mozafaridin
shah monarchy, the importance of kamanche decreased
by coming violin to Iran. In last decades, by efforts of
Ali Asghar Bahari, kamanche revived among Persian
The kamanche has a long neck including fingerboard
which kamanche maker shapes it as a truncated inverse
cone for easy bow moving in down section, peg box in
both side of which four pegs are placed, and finial
(Figure 3). Its body also has a lower spheroid chamber
made from gourd or coconut shell or wooden staves
such as blackberry, blackberry root, walnut, pear, maple,
cherry or sourcherry – depending upon the geographic
region where Kamanche maker lived – as a sound box,
which is usually covered on the playing side with skin
from a lamb, goat, deer or fish (Figure 3). At the bottom
of the instrument protrudes a sort of spike to support the
kamanche while it is being played (Figure 3). Therefore
in English the instrument is sometimes named the spiked
fiddle. It is played while sitting down and it is held like a
viol. The end-pin can rest on the knee or thigh while
seated in a chair. The kamanches appearing in antique
Persian paintings have three strings. It is suspected that
the fourth string was added in the early twentieth
century as the result of the introduction of the European
violin to Persia.
Kamanche is usually tuned like ordinary violin (G, D, A,
E) but it may alter depending on Persian music Dastgahs
and the region of the country where it is played.
1. Roh-Allah Khaleqi, Sargozasht musiqi Iran, Safi Ali
2. Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instrument, W.
W. Norton & company. Inc, 1940
3. Richard A Dunlap, The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci
Numbers, World Scientific Publishing, 1997.
4. Kevin Coates, Geometry, proportion and The Art of
Lutherie, Oxford University Press, 1985
SHAHAB KHAEFI (1), MITRA JAHANDIDEH (2), AHANALI JAHANDIDEH(3),
(1) Department of Music, Art University, Karaj, Tehran, IRAN
(2) Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Art, Tehran University, Tehran, IRAN
(4) Department of Music, Guilan University, Rasht, Guilan, IRAN
Although there is a great discrepancy concerning the history of many instruments, the first manuscript which deals with the musical instruments including kamancheh – under the title of “rabab” – is Almusiqi-Alkabir by Farabi, the great Persian philosopher and scientist of 9th and 10th centuries. A.D.
Farabi did not mention using a bow for rabab, and this the reason why so many scholars considered it a non-bowed instrument. Nevertheless his description of the instrument is totally concordant with kamancheh that he classified it into 3 groups: Raba-e Sha’er, Rabab-e Mesri and Rabab-e Torki.
Four centuries later, Abdulqader Maraqe’i in his two major books gives comprehensive details of the instrument.
Ruhollah Khaleqi believed that kamancheh is one of the oldest instruments in Eastern hemisphere. Albert Lavignac in La musique et les musiciens pointed out that the oldest bowed instrument is ravanstron, in fact a Chinese instrument, Khaleqi also traces back the origin of kamancheh to Qezh or Qezhak belonging to the pre-Islamic culture of Iran.
In the great hall of Chehelsotun (Safavid dynasty) there is a fresco which shows a musician bowing a kamancheh. This is the oldest document revealing kamancheh and its usual style of playing. During Qajar period musicians added a fourth string to the instrument after getting familiar with violin, an instrument which exerted a forceful influence on kamancheh playing and also on the players. There is also another type of kamancheh used in regional music of Iran. This folk instrument is often with three strings.