The secret of the Tar
Tar. What is the secret of the instrument that was invented in Siraz but fast traveled to Herat in Afghanistan and quickly concreted the Caucasus. In the small villages of Azarbaijan, people still seat, play the tar and listening to its magical sounds. They keep the tar close to their chest, the the dead, like trying to understand where are this sounds coming from and where they go out to. A string clear sound from one side, but soft and cloudy on the other hand.
In Persia, the melodies that were played on the tar, were known as medicine for headaches, sleeping problems and depression. Also, a sure and promised way to relief muscles pain. The common belief was that listening to the tar, transfers the listener to a philosophical mood that leads him to deep thought about life. Not only that – in the ancient Kabus nama book it is mentioned that: “For a person with a apathetic and passive mood, low notes should be used, and for a person with depressive mood, high notes are recommended.”
The history of the tar
Different from the Ney, Setar and Daf, the tar is not so old. It is estimated that the tar as we know it today, is 250 years old. The tar firstly appears int painting from era of Naser ElAdi and the Kajar. In this time, musical pieces were rearranged from the ‘Raddif’ to the tar, till they became classics that were sung by everybody. The Persian tar has a very close relative; the Azeri tar. By ethnic music researchers, the Azeri tar migrated from Persia to Azerbaijan at the end of the 18th century. In Azeri style tar, there are 8 strings, 2 more than in Persian tar, and also the body is slightly smaller. Another difference can be seen in the playing position, while in Persian tar it is seated on the knees and in Azeri tar is attached to the chest.
The instrument structure
The special shape sound box of the tar is traditionally made from mulberry or walnut wood. On it is stretched skin of lamb. The small bowl, is called ‘Nakara’ and the big bowl is called ‘Shaqam’. On the building process, after the 2 symmetric pieces are joined together, the peg box will be added. The common length for the tar neck is 45cm-50cm. Traditionally, the neck is topped by 2 slices of camel bone for decoration and long lasting sustain.
The tar has a range of 2.5 octaves and it can be tuned in many ways. Mostly, the player will tune the tar by the Dastgah (scale) which he is going to play. On the finger-board installed 25-28 frets, usually made weather from lamb guts or plastic wires. The frets are movable and often moved according to the piece’s scale.
The tar is pluck with a special metal plectrum which is made from 7 different kind of metals welded together. At the edge of the plectrum it is common to see wax, this is to ease the holding.
The tar ia being plucked with a special pick made of 7 metal combination. Half of the pick is covered with natural bees wax for better grip..
Even though tar is a relatively new instrument, soon wide culture and traditions had grown next to it. In fact, most of the famous virtuoso and famous musicians from Tehran in the last decades, are tar players. Among the musicians in Israel, Piris Eliyahu has became famous as a tar player and a special character in the Israeli music scene.
We’ve collected for you some songs that inspired us. Enjoy!
Ali akbar shahnazi
Mohammad reza lotfi (specially recommended!)
Ali naki vaziri – special style!