Rubab (instrument)

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This article is about the Central Asian plucked instrument otherwise known as the "Kabuli rebab". For the bowed instrument, see Rebab. For the north Indian "Seni rebab", see Seni rebab.
Related instruments
Sarod, Dutar, Tanbur

Rubab, robab or rabab (Pashto: رباب‎, Urdu: رباب‎, Azerbaijani: Rübab, Turkish: Rübab, Persian: رُباب‎‎ rubāb, Tajik and Uzbek рубоб) is a lute-like musical instrument originating from central Afghanistan.[1] It derives its name from the Arab rebab which means "played with a bow" but in Central Asia the instrument is plucked and is distinctly different in construction. The rubab is mainly used by Pashtun, Tajik, Turkish, Kashmiri, Baluch, Azerbaijani, and Iranian Kurdish classical musicians. Rabab is a national music instrument of Afghanistan.[2]

Etymology of the term Rubab, Rabab and Rebab[edit]

Rbab (Arabic: رباب‎‎) is an Arabic word. According to the Arabic diacritics, vowels between consonants - apart from Alif (Aleph) are not written but articulates. Harakat (movement = inflection of vowels) with Fatḥah similar to Acute accent Rabab (Arabic: رَباب‎‎, with Kasrah Rebab (Arabic: رِباب‎‎) and with Ḍammah Rubab or Robab (Arabic: رُباب‎‎ and Rubabah Persian: رُبابه‎‎. In context, the inflections and thus with respect to the meanings of words John Richardson has written in 1777 the first English-Arabic-Persian dictionary. Here are just a few meanings mentioned.[3][4] Rabab or Rubab as:

  • a beautiful woman, contract, mirror, Persian instrument with a bow, long-necked lute.
  • the name of the mother of Ali Asghar, a great-grandson of Mohammad

see Rubab bint Imra al-Qais

Since the introduction of the Arabic script in the main Iranian languages such as Persian, Pashto, Kurdish and Beluchi the original words are outdated for today's music intruments and are still only largely in dictionaries, et al listed by Thomas Hyde 50 Pharhang (Farhang is a Persian word meaning dictionary) in his major work, published in 1700 in Latin. In Latin writings before the time of Thomas Hyde terms like Persarum Pandura or Citara.

Ruwawah (Persian: رواوه‎‎), Rawadah (Persian: رواده‎‎), Shashang (Persian: شاشنگ‎‎; King Harpe) (Persian: شنگ‎‎ "Sheng", Arabized for (Persian: چنگ ‎‎ Chang for Harpe, Navarah (Persian: نواره‎‎) , Navara Tar(Persian: ناواره‎‎) (Nava means sound, voice, tone, melody and varah or vareh is Suffix for Suffix for part of speech formation and means similar to existence, Sazvareh(Persian: سازواره ‎‎ for music instrument and for organism(ic)) Tar(Persian: تار‎‎), Tar(Persian: تار‎‎), Saz (Persian: ساز‎‎) or Rud, long-necked lute have been used.[5][6][7] The Arabic terms Rabab, Rabab, etc. have become established for the Iranian musical instruments. Even Rudaki has not made of Rubab use, Al Farabi anyway! The first poet of Persian literature and author of Shahnama, Firdoussi from Khorassan has many times (9 times is to prove) the instrument Rubab used in his work.[8] But the European translator of Shahnama from Persian to German as Friedrich Rückert has the Proper nouns "Rubab" not adopted, but translates the name Rubab like lute, stringed lute, sound of Strings. Sir James Redhouse, as an English translator of Masnavi ye Manavi of Mavlavi or Mavlana Balkhi, Rumi also - has the proper name "Rubabplayer" translated for better understanding: Harper and not Rubab. In fact, was named for Rubab also "Sheng" (Chang). Because of this reality clarifying instrument Rubab is quite confused. Without exception, all Persian poet from Balkh to India, from Kashgar to Sham Iraq-Syria have written the name Rubab in their works.


Many great poets of the [Persian] language and literature have used the term Rubab. Here the poet after Firdousi: Poem of Rumi

فایدهٔ اول سماع بانگ آب[9]

Fayeda awal Sama bang e aab

بانگ او چون بانگ اسرافیل شد

Bang e O bang e Israfil schud

کو بود مر تشنگان را چون رباب

Ku buwad ("bud" in Poetry "buvad") mar tashnagan ra chon Rubab [...]

Translation of Sir James William Redhouse: [8] The Mesnevi of Mevlana (Our Lord) Jelalu-'D-Din, Muhammed, Er-Rumi, 1881, pag 139, the Harper

Paschtu or Afghan Language[edit]

Afghanistan as name of land is about 150 years old. The name of Afghanistan has emerged in 1856 due to the redrew East India Company and Iran (Persia), so that Friedrich Engels spoke in 1857 of Afghanistan. Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote in his book "Kingdom of Cabul" that "I am now enabled to desceribe the complicated limits of the country of the Afghans" and "the Afghans have no general name for their country".[10]

The Scottish statesman and Governor of Bombay of British India is really the founder of the name of "Afghanistan".[11] Elphinstone wrote in his book that 'Afghans have no general name for their country'.[12][13] That is why the term 'Rubab from Afghanistan' is clearer than 'afghan Rubab'. The term afghan is historically occupied for Pashtuns.

But Pashtu as afghan language und Pashtuns as Iranian people living in Persian culture area in India since centuries. They were called Afghan (ethnonym) or Pathan[14][15] After the murder of his patron (Nader Afshar) Abdali took over as Pashtun or Afghan power in Kandahar, not as king of Afghanistan, but as King of Great Khorasan and the areas from above the Oxus. After his coronation changed his name to Durrani: Ahmad Shah Durrani. His Patron Takeover does not mean change of name of the country. Abdali when he is not renamed in Durrani, was as chief of the royal army in Mashhad, for 11 years by the Persian Emperor, Nader Afshar. Mashhad is the capital of Khorassan and the capital of Iran by Afshar ( Persia is Exonym, Iran endonym). In this capital his son of Ahmad Shah Abdali Temor Shah Durrani was born. Durrani and Nader Afschar were related. Temor Shah was married to the granddaughter of the emperor Nader Afshar. His patron has might have given him Koh i Noor. Diamond is mentioned in Persian also Durr (pearl). Durrani means the owner of pearl. Dauran, also called Durran means Era. So Pearl of age?

It is said that man has created in the time of Babur, the present form of Rubab. His name is written with Natan Khan. He was not Mughal, but it receives from the great Mughal the title Khan (title) and they themselves were the Persian title as Jahangir (World Conqueror ), Shah Jahan (King of the World). The successors of Babur gave Afghans (Pashtuns) the title of Genghis Khan, before and after their name like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Some means "afghan Rubab" is 150 years old. It is not so. It is correct that the name Rubab also of Pashtun or Afghan or so Pathan eastern Iranian poets mentioned. Abul Rahman Mohmand (now as Rahman Baba), the eminent poet of language and literature of Paschtu has mentioned Rubab in different places of his Divan (work).

هر مطرب چې غوږی تاو کا د رباب[16]

har Motreb che tav o ka de Rubab

په دا تاو کې زما زړه کاندي کبــاب

pa da ta o ki zema zele kandi kabab (Kebab)

Translation: Any player who Rubab plucks back and forth, making my heart upset. [17][18]

Khushal Khan Khattak (now as Khushal Baba), another Pashto poet used in his work, the music instrument Rubab. His main work is Dastarnama (دستارنامه, literally "Letter of turban" meant book of crown) a book about how a leader should act.[19][20] Here a Ghazal by the Pashtun poet who is known as a man of the sword:

بيا رباب د مغني ښه سرايت کا[21]

Bia Rubab de Mughni* sha Sarayat ka

په نغمه کې نوی نوی حکايت کا

Pa Naghma ke navee navee Hekayat ka

Translation: Come Rubab here, and infected* (take good influence on) Mugni With melody recount new current stories

  • infected Mughni (fig. "emotional contagion")

Traditional construction in the old city of Kabul[edit]

In Shurbazar (Shor Bazar), not far from districts Hinduguzar[22] and Kharabat away lay up to recent destruction of Kabul the craft for the construction of traditional musical instruments. Just like Europe are also in Afghanistan musical instruments common heritage of Indo-Iran and Turan (China, Turkic peoples of Central Asia) like Intersection of the three circles or trilateration of three cultures, because the city of Kabul to have been at least 2,500 years old and was founded by Darius the Great. According to Avesta Kabul was founded by the mythical hero Esfandiyār in Shahnama, Greece Culture, Hindushahi or Kabul Shahi (Kings of Kabulistan), Turkshahi[23] etc. The city of Kabul, Kabul Province, and finally the country Kabulistan (also called Cabul) is an intersection of these cultures and the heart of the Iranian, Indian and Turkic cultures, mainly Hinduism,, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and 1000 years even Islamic. Actually no people of the land with the recent name "Afghanistan" called "Afghan" (see Constitution in 2004)! The word afghan seems to be mathematical formula. Afghan = Tajiik, Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek, etc. After the liberation of Kabul 2002 instrument makers gradually came back into town and built the Music Art on again. Among them are two historical families who used this craft abroad. "Rubab Saz" (Rubab maker) Yousef Qaderi said in this video that he was great-grandfather of Reza Qaderi and his Khandan (family) has been busy "Charsad Sal" (400 years) with the construction of Rubab. The other family has to be descendants of Ustad Vassel (Maestro Vassel) a history of Sakhtan e Rubab (construction of Rubab) of Shashsad Sal (600 years).[24][25]

Rubab (with bow) is, according to an Austrian Iranist name of Hammer Purgstall the oldest violin in the world. Rubab ye Arash a ye (Persian: رباب آرشه اى‎‎, Arash the Archer archer-figure of the Iranian mythology; Rubab with bow) played kept vertical. Rubab ye Zeje (Rubab Plucked string instrument) played held horizontally. He said they use wood from mulberry trees from Shamali (northern). This timber is suitable for the construction of musical instruments. We bought last bought 120 tonnes from Shamali (Northern regions of the country) Panjschir Provinz. Toot o Talkhan, dried mulberry and nuts توت و تلخان are winter food of the Nordic regions as Panjschir and other regions.. Apparently is originally from Rubab in Bactra (now the northern provinces, among others, the Balkh Province) have been created.

Name of Rubab by size[edit]

  • large: Shah Rubab شاه رباب (Persian: شاه رباب‎‎, King Size), 21 strings like, 15 sympathetic strings, Shahrud, Shahnai Ney in King Size, Shahtar (Large string). (see to Rubabnamah (Persian: رباب نامه‎‎) of Sultan Walad, son of Rumi from Balkh.
  • medium-sized: Rubab (Persian: رباب‎‎), 19 strings, 13 sympathetic strings
  • small-sized: Zaliche (Persian: زيلچه‎‎) 5 sympathetic strings

Rubab accordance with the construction[edit]

Seven forms of Rubab. The number seven has the Iranian cultural area of great importance Rubab has regularly twice bodies. In many varieties the double-Corpus are close to each other, in some has moved away and again for some is just a body

  1. Various forms of Rubab
  2. Rubab quadrangular Corpus or shell
  3. Rubab with cylindrical-Corpus
  4. Rubab with a ship shape-Corpus
  5. Rubab with pear shape Corpus
  6. Rubab with round corpus
  7. Rubab with oval bowl

Components of Rubab[edit]

  1. Kassah or Kasseh (Persian: کاسه‎‎) = bowl, Shell
  2. Badanah or Badaneh (Persian: بدنه‎‎) = body
  3. Safah or Safeh (Persian: صفحه‎‎) = side
  4. Dastah or Desteh (Persian: دسته‎‎) = Neck (music)
  5. Goshi (Persian: گوشی‌‎‎) = Tuning peg
  6. Sheitanak (little devil) (Persian: شیطانک‎‎) Nut (string instrument)
  7. Seemgeer (Persian: سیم گیر‎‎) = Site for binding the strings below the Corpus
  8. Sar Penjah or Ser Panjeh (Persian: سر پنجه‎‎) or Taj(Persian: تاج‎‎; crown)
  9. Pust (Persian: پوست ‎‎) = Pelt or Skin of goat
  10. Kharak ("little donkey" or trestle) (Persian: خرک‎‎) = Bridge (instrument), secured on fur
  11. Mezrab (Arabic: مضراب‎‎) or Shahbaz (Persian: شاهباز‎‎; Kingsplayer), (Persian: ناخنک ‎‎; little nail)= Plectrum
  12. Mangassak (Persian: منگسک ‎‎ small fly) very small pegs from bone for 13 sympathetic strings of Rubab[26]
  13. Pardah or Pardeh (Persian: پرده‎‎) Fret, 3 or 4
  14. Tar (Persian: تار‎‎), string, maximum of 6 thick musical string for melody and 15 for sympathetic

Videos about the various forms of Rubab[edit]

Varioationen of Rubab deemed national and traditional music instrument in various countries. The governments of Afghanistan declared Rubab than as national music instrument, Buzkashi as national sport, Attan as national dance Pashtu as National language, a Pashto song as national anthem.


2011 postal stamp of Azerbaijan depicting a 19th century Rubab.

The rubab is a short-necked lute whose body is carved out of a single piece of wood, with a membrane, covering the hollow bowl of the sound-chamber, upon which the bridge is positioned. It has three melody strings tuned in fourths, two or three drone strings and up to 15 sympathetic strings. The instrument is made from the trunk of a mulberry tree, the head from an animal skin such as goat, and the strings either gut (from the intestines of young goats, brought to the size of thread) or nylon.


The rubab is known as "the lion of instruments" and is one of the two national instruments of Afghanistan (with the zerbaghali). Classical Afghan music often features this instrument as a key component. Elsewhere it is known as the Kabuli rebab. It is the ancestor of the South Asian sarod, though — unlike the sarod — it is a fretted instrument.[27]

The rubab is attested from the 7th century CE. It is mentioned in old Persian books, and many Sufi poets mention it in their poems. It is the traditional instrument of Khorasan[vague] and today it is widely used in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The rubab holds as the first instrument used by Sikhism; it was used by Bhai Mardana the companion of Guru Nanak. Whenever a shabad was revealed to Guru Nanak he would sing it and Bhai Mardana would play it on his rubab; he was known as a rubabi. The rubab playing tradition is carried on by some Sikhs such as Namdharis

In Tajikistan a similar but somewhat distinct rubab-i-pamir (Pamiri rubab) is played, having a shallower body and neck.[28] The rubab of the Pamir area has six gut strings, one of which, rather than running from the head to the bridge, is attached partway down the neck, similar to the fifth string of the American banjo.[29]

Notable players[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Courtney, 'Rabab', Chandra & David's Homepage
  2. ^ The Wide World Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly of True Narrative, Adventure, Travel, Customs and Sport ... A. Newnes, Limited. 1905. pp. 15–. 
  3. ^ John Richardson:A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic, and English Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1777, Pg 463
  4. ^ see Francis Joseph Steingass too
  5. ^ Franciscus a Mesgnien Meninski:Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalium, Vienna, 1680
  6. ^ Johann August Vullers, Lexicon persico-latinum etymologicum [1], Bonn, 1864, Pgs 20,63
  7. ^ Johann August Vullers, Lexicon persico-latinum etymologicum, [2], Bonn, 1864
  8. ^
  9. ^ "1". 
  10. ^ Mountstuart Elphinstone. An account of the kingdom of Caubul and its dependencies in Persia, Tartary [...] [3], London, 1842, 1st edition, 1815 Pg.92
  11. ^ Mountstuart Elphinstone. An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, and Its Dependencies in Persia [4] ibid
  12. ^ Mountstuart Elphinstone.[5] An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, and Its Dependencies in Persia ...1819, V 1, Pg 152
  13. ^ The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Or Dictionary of Arts ...,Vol. 1, edition 2, Pgs 210-219
  14. ^ John Richardson (1810), Sir Charles Wilkins, David Hopkins [6] ed. A vocabulary, Persian, Arabic, and English: abridged from the quarto edition of Richardson's dictionary. Printed for F. and C. Rivingson. Pg54
  15. ^ John Richardson,Franciszek Meniński [7] Pgs. 128, 136, 1359 1747
  16. ^ "Rahman Baba, Gedichte: Diwan. Einführung". 
  17. ^ Ingrid von Heiseler reviewed the translation of Rahman Baba
  18. ^ Robert Sampson, and Momin Khan. The Poetry of Rahman Baba: Poet of the Pukhtuns. Translated by Robert Sampson and Momin Khan. Peshawar: University Book Agency, 2005.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Khushal Khan Khattak. Dastar Nama, Pashto Academy, University of Peshawar, 2007, pg. 102
  21. ^ "دستر نومیالي خوشحال خان بابا په هکله یو څو خبرې". 
  22. ^ Hindu Guzar
  23. ^ The Turk Shahis in Kabulistan
  24. ^ great-grandfather of Qasim Qaderi
  25. ^ india-instruments - Rubab, Kabuli Rubab or Afghani Rubab or Hurasan = Khorassan
  26. ^ the-physical-rubab
  27. ^ Simon Broughton, 'Tools of the Trade: Sarod' Archived November 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., published in Songlines-The World Music Magazine
  28. ^ "Pastimes of Central Asians. A Musician Playing a Rubab, a Fretted Lute-like Instrument". World Digital Library. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  29. ^ Music and Poetry from the Pamir Mountains Musical Instruments, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

External links[edit]