Geographic Region: West Asia
Country of origin: Turkey
SvH No.: 321.321
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While the term tanbur (or its variants tambur, tambura,etc.) can refer to any number of different types of long-necked lutes found across much of Asia and the Near East, the example shown here is a Turkish tanbur kebir türki, or "great Turkish tanbur." The tanbur has an extremely long neck and a hemispherical carvel-built body. There are as many as 48 frets tied onto the neck, allowing the employment of a great variety of modes, including microtonal intervals, by dividing the octave into 24 tones.
Tuning and technique
The tanbur featured here has six strings doubled in courses, although some tanburs have as many as nine strings. Tanbur is usually played with a plectrum, but some players bow the tanbur; in these cases the instrument is referred to as yaylı tanbur.
History and context
Unlike the more common Turkish folk instrument called bağlama, the tanbur is used primarily in Turkish art music traditions associated with urban areas. The tanbur has been central to this type of music since its origins in the Ottoman empire in the 16th century. While the instrumentation of Ottoman music (later called Turkish classical music or Turkish art music) has varied significantly over time, it has typically been performed by small chamber ensembles consisting of some combination of ney; some form of spike fiddle; either santur, or later, kanun; and tanbur. Originally, there was a greater variety of lutes used in Ottoman music including ud and kopuz, among others, often with multiple types of lutes played together. However, the tanbur earned an exclusive role as the lute of choice for the Ottoman court ensembles by the end of the 17th century, having become highly valued for its capability of producing such a comprehensive set of tones (see Feldman 1996: 142-3). More recently, in the 20th century, the ud has been re-introduced, and the use of the tanbur has become more restricted.
Feldman, Walter Zev. 1996. Music of the Ottoman Court. Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.
Coşkun, Abdi and Fahreddin Çimenli. 1989. Turquie: L’art du tanbur ottoman. Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire, XVI CD-586.
Last Modified: 12-Mar-2009TOP