Skills of Crafting and Playing Iranian Dotār

Skills of Crafting and Playing Iranian Dotār

Dotār is the oldest stringed musical instrument not only in Iran, but also in all the Middle East and Central Asia. The depiction of this musical instrument is existing in some of the ancient rock reliefs. In a book composed in Pahlavi language Dotār is called Tanbur or Tambur.

Some of the musical instruments, songs and music have been mentioned in the narratives of the fictional history of Iran (e.g. Pishdadian and Kayanian dynasties) and in the historical texts (related to Medes, Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid). We read in Shahname, in the entry of Kay Kāvus Kingship and His Going to Mazandaran: “he sat happily along the fountain, found a golden cup and filled it of wine/ he also found a Tanbur next to the wine/ and made the desert a festivity by playing”. Moreover, in the existing Pahlavi texts and stories of ancient times we can see the name of some of the current musical instruments; for example, in Pahlavi story of Ridag and Khosrow: “The king asked which musicianship is better and more pleasant? Ridag answered that these are all fine and delightful: Chang, Tanbur, Barbat and Nāy”. As obvious by the ancient manuscripts of the Persian history and literature the age of this musical instrument can be estimated to more than six thousands of years.

There are two kinds of Dotār in the written documents of the past so that we know one of them as Khorasani Dotār and another as Baghdadi Dotār, according to most of the existing literature. The great Iranian philosopher and scientist, Al-Farabi, established his musical research based upon Dotār-e Khorasani opening an independent entry for scientific description of the instrument in his highlighted and famous work Kitab al-Musiqa al-Kabir (The Great Book of Music).

As obvious by its name, Dotār has two strings which are played by the finger or plectrum. Today the crafting and playing Dotār is popular in the regions of the east and north of Khorasan, Torkaman regions, Katul in Golestan province and the east of Mazandaran. In fact, Dotār can be considered as the musical instrument of the northeast regions of Iran. Dotār is usually crafted using the wood of mulberry, Armenian plum, jujube and walnut trees and its strings were made of silk instead of wire in the past.

The greatest Dotār player of Iran, Haji Qorban Soleimani describes the tenor string of his Dotār to be female (Hava) and the bass one as male (Âdam). Highly important among the skillful Dotār players of the east of Iran are also Mohammad Soleimani, Abdollah Sarvar Ahamdi, Gholamali Pourataei and Osman Mohammadparast.

In Azar 1398 (December 2019) the skill of crafting and playing Iranian Dotār has inscribed on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


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