The santur was invented and developed in the area of Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey, and parts of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). This instrument was traded and traveled to different parts of the Middle East. Each country customized and designed its own versions to adapt to their musical scales and tunings. The original santur was made with tree bark and stones, and stringed with goat intestines. The Mesopotamian santur is also the father of the harp, the Chinese yangqin, the harpsichord, the qanun, the cimbalom, and the American and European hammered dulcimers.
The oval-shaped Mezrabs (mallets) are feather-weight and are held between the thumb, index, and middle fingers. A typical Persian santur has two sets of bridges, providing a range of approximately three octaves. The right-hand strings are made of brass or copper, while the left-hand strings are made of steel.
Two rows of 9 bridges[clarification needed].[clarification needed] A total of 18 bridges divide the santur into three positions. Over each bridge cross four strings tuned in unison, spanning horizontally across the right and left side of the instrument. There are three sections of nine pitches: each for the bass, middle and higher octave called behind the left bridges comprising 27 notes altogether. The top "F" note is repeated twice, creating a total of 25 separate tones in the Santur. The Persian santur is primarily tuned to a variety of different diatonic scales utilizing 1/4 tones which are designated into 12 modes (dastgahs) of Persian classical music. These 12 Dastgahs are the repertory of Persian classical music known as the Radif. They also had 16 inch botos.
Similar musical instruments have been present since medieval times all over the world, including Armenia, China, Greece, India, etc. The Indian santoor is wider, more rectangular and has more strings. Its corresponding mallets are also held differently played with a different technique. The eastern European version of the santur called the cimbalom, which is much larger and chromatic, is used to accompany Romani music.
The archetype of the instrument carried horizontally and struck with two sticks, found in iconographical documents in ancient Babylon (1600-911 BCE) and neo-Assyria (911-612 BCE).
Chalghi Santur Player playing on a non-standard Iraqi Santur
The Iraqi santur (also santour, santoor ) (Arabic: ) is a hammered dulcimer of Mesopotamian origin. It is a trapezoid box zither with a walnut body and ninety two steel (or bronze) strings. The strings, tuned to the same pitch in groups of four, are struck with two wooden mallets called "midhrab". The tuning of these twenty-three sets of strings extends from the lower yakah (G) up to jawab jawab husayni (a). The bridges are called dama (chessmen in Iraqi Arabic) because they look like pawns. The name 'santur' is thought to be derived from the Greek psalterion which, itself, is the result of musical experiments by Phythagorus based on the 6,000-year-old bull-headed lyre discovered from excavations found in the ancient city of Ur ('Children's Book of Music' ISBN978-0-7566-6734-4). It is also thought that the name is derived from "Sant"- "Ur", meaning sound of Ur in Sumerian. It is native to Iraq, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan.
It is the main instrument used in the classical Maqam al-iraqi tradition along with the Iraqi spike fiddle joza. ('Music of the Arabs' ISBN0-931340-88-8).
The instrument was brought to Europe by the Arabs through North Africa and Spain during the Middle Ages and also to China where it was referred to as the "foreign qin".
The Iraqi santur has, since its inception, been fully chromatic allowing for full maqam modulations. It uses 12 bridges of steel strings on both sides, and has three movable bridges: B half flat qaraar, E half flat and B half flat jawaab. The non-standard version of the Iraqi santur includes extra bridges so that there's no need to move those three bridges. However, playing it is a bit harder than playing the standard 12-bridge santur. ('Music of the Arabs' ISBN0-931340-88-8) For a video demonstration, see Wesam al-Azzawy's video links in the sections below.
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