Azerbaijan International

Winter 2001 (9.4)
Pages 12-13

Reader's Forum
What's This Instrument?
Recently we had the incredible experience of seeing the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma on his Silk Road tour with musicians playing traditional instruments from Central Asia. I have seen many performances in my life but this was truly exceptional. And one of the musicians [Firangiz Alizade] was in fact from Azerbaijan and had written what I thought was the most beautiful piece of the evening.

After that concert, my wife gave me an instrument. Purportedly, it's a "Turkish violin-like" instrument. I'm wondering what it is?

Let me describe it to the best of my ability: It's about 16" tall, made of a light wood (perhaps pine). It has three strings with a grooved cylindrical head tightened by brown pegs. The bow is about 14 inches long, with no tensioner, some type of hair (maybe horsehair).
Does this instrument sound familiar to you? If so, what can you tell me about it, please? How is it tuned and played? If this is not something you're familiar with, can you refer me to another source? Thanks, in advance, for your kindness.

Robert Alberts, Executive Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters, Texas

Editor: This sounds like a kamancha to us. This instrument is traditionally played in Azerbaijan, Iran and neighboring regions, and yes, its sound closely resembles that of a violin. In Azerbaijan the kamancha is traditionally played by a trio of performers along with another stringed instrument, the tar, and someone who sings mugham (modal music), who sets the rhythm with a gaval (a tambourine-like instrument). But in Azerbaijan, a concerto has been composed for the kamancha and orchestra by Haji Khanmammadov (1917- ). To our knowledge, it's the only symphonic concerto in the world written for kamancha. For sound samples, visit and click on MUSIC.
For more about Haji Khanmammadov and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, see
page 21.

Azerbaijan International (9.4) Winter 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2002. All rights reserved.

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