Kamancheh

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This article is about the Iranian kamancheh. For the related but different Pontian Greek, Turkish or Armenian instrument see Kemenche.
Kamancheh
Hasht-Behesht Palace kamancheh.jpg
Woman playing the kamancheh in a painting from the Hasht Behesht Palace in Isfahan Persia, 1669.
String instrument
Other names Kamancha, Kamanche, Kemancheh, Kamanjah, Kabak kemane
Classification Bowed Strings
Related instruments
Musicians
Builders

Kamancheh (also kamānche or kamāncha) (Persian: کمانچه‎), is an Iranian bowed string instrument, used also in Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kashmiri and Turkish music and related to the rebab, the historical ancestor of the kamancheh and also to the bowed Byzantine lyra, 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.[2] In Kashmir, kamancha is known as saaz-i-kashmir.[3]

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.

A very famous Armenian kamancha player is Sayat-Nova. 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 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. There is also an instrument called kabak kemane used in the Turkish music which is only slightly different from the Persian kamancheh.[4] Other bowed string instruments akin to the kamancheh, yet differing more than slightly from it, I nclude 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.


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Kamanche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: