The sound the Kamancheh of Kayhan Kalhor

The beginning

I remember clearly the day that i’ve first heard Kayhan Kalhor. The soft mysterious sound, the floating overtones and the fascinating dance of the kamancheh. Kayhan Kalhor was born in Iran, and at 13 years was already playing at the national Iranian orchestra. Later he arrives to Europe and finally settles in USA. He is now a world famous teacher and many students are waiting in a queue for his lessons.

Kalhor playing the ‘Nava’ scale (dastgah).

Australian kamancheh

Australian kamanchehIn another place in another time, a Australian guy named Peter Biffin who mainly explored weird wood made musical instruments goes to a concert in Istanbul. The concert is performed by a Yayli Tanbur artist name Erhan Alptechin. Peter hears the sound of the tanbur and immediately falls in love with it. There was something in the long neck, divided to 29 frets per octave (2 times more than a guitar), allowing deep understanding of the Turkish scales.

Later on. Habil Elayev the famous Azerbaijani kamancheh player and Ros Dali, entering his life. Ros Dali, the Greek multi instrumentalist who plays fluently on all bowed instruments among them Lyra, Kamanche and more. Peter is going through a deep brainstorming with the 2 geniuses. First, tried Peter imitating the Chinese ‘Erhu’, a 2 stringed spike fiddle with an oval shaped sound box. On the way, he has made a variation on the tanbur, and from these experiments, a new instrument has seen light: Tarhu.


The Tarhu was a modern instrument by all means. Made of a detachable sound box, wood conus that joint together at the sound box. while the neck itself, floats above the instrument. One of the important inventions in this instrument was the minor use of glue; The instrument is holding it self. The strings are stretched on the neck alone, and don’t overweight on the sound box.

The changing point for Peter, was meeting Kayhan.

For a long time Kalhor is accompanying Peter while building his Shahkaman – the kind of the kamanchehs, the ultimative instrument, the holy grail of the Persian violin.

Peter Biffin kamancheh

Persian kamancheh by Peter Biggin

The Shah Kaman in the perspective of traditional hand making instruments, is an alien. Made out of 18 slices of wood that make up resonating box, an ebony wood neck and adjustable bridge. The most surprising features of the instrument is the pegbox. You will find there 7 extra pegs in addition to the 5 melody pegs. The answer for the riddle: These are for sympathetic strings; meaning resonating strings. The strings are tuned by the scale’s degreess and the strings are ‘answering’ for each note that is played on the neck.

The 3 tenors

Today, the 3 biggest names in the kamancheh world are all playing Peter’s instruments. These are Kayhan Kalhor, Habil Elayev & Imamyar Hassanov. Each one owns a slightly different model which was personally designed for them. Check them up in Youtube, you wouldn’t miss the impressive stick on their legs.

God, make me rich!

So, if you happen to have 6000 AUD free in your pocket, you can take a ride to Australia where you can ask Peter to build you one of these amazing kamanchas. If you are not that rich, take a look at our website, we have many great instruments, and one of them can be yours.

Take also a look at Peter’s website, where you can read stories, and get more info:

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