Persian Kamānches, ca. 1880
String instrument
Other namesKamancha, Kamanche, Kemancheh, Kamanjah, Kabak kemane
Classification Bowed strings
Playing range
Related instruments
Sound sample
Art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha, a bowed string musical instrument
CountryAzerbaijan and Iran
Inscription history
Inscription2017 (13th session)

The kamancheh (also kamānche or kamāncha) (Persian: کمانچه, Azerbaijani: kamança, Armenian: քամանչա, Kurdish: کەمانچە ,kemançe) is an Iranian bowed string instrument used in Persian,[1] Azerbaijani,[2] Armenian,[3] Kurdish,[4] Georgian, Turkmen, and Uzbek music with slight variations in the structure of the instrument.[5][6] The kamancheh is related to the rebab which is the historical ancestor of the kamancheh and the bowed Byzantine lyra.[7] The strings are played with a variable-tension bow.

In 2017, the art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha was included into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists of Azerbaijan and Iran.[8]

Name and etymology

The word "kamancheh" means "little bow" in Persian (kæman, bow, and -cheh, diminutive).[9] The Turkish word kemençe is borrowed from Persian, with the pronunciation adapted to Turkish phonology. It also denotes a bowed string instrument, but the Turkish version differs significantly in structure and sound from the Persian kamancheh. There is also an instrument called kabak kemane literally "pumpkin-shaped bow instrument" used in Turkish music which is only slightly different from the Iranian kamancheh.[10]


The kamancheh has a long neck including fingerboard which kamancheh maker shapes it as a truncated inverse cone for easy bow moving in down section, pegbox in both side of which four pegs are placed, and finial[11] Traditionally kamanchehs had three silk strings, but modern instruments have four metal strings. Kamanchehs may have highly ornate inlays and elaborately carved ivory tuning pegs. The body has a long upper neck and a lower bowl-shaped resonating chamber made from a gourd or wood, usually covered with a membrane made from the skin of a lamb, goat or sometimes a fish, on which the bridge is set. From the bottom protrudes a spike to support the kamancheh while it is being played, hence in English, the instrument is sometimes called the spiked fiddle. It is played sitting down held like a cello though it is about the length of a viol. The end-pin can rest on the knee or thigh while the player is seated in a chair.[6]

Kamancheh is usually tuned like an ordinary violin (G, D, A, E).

Notable kamancheh players

See also


  1. ^ Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music. Elijah Wald. 2012. p. 227. ISBN 9781135863685.
  2. ^ "Kamancha". UNESCO. In the Republic of Azerbaijan it constitutes a major element of classical and folkloric music, and performances occupy a central place in a wide number of social and cultural gatherings.
  3. ^ Dowsett, Charles (1997). Sayatʻ-Nova: an 18th-century troubadour: a biographical and literary study. Leuven: Peeters Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 90-6831-795-4.
  4. ^ "Iranian Kurdish musician wins prestigious award". Kurdistan24. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Pastimes of Central Asians. Musicians. A Man Practising the Kamancha, a Long-necked Stringed Instrument". World Digital Library. 1865. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b Martin, Andrew R.; Mihalka, Matthew Ph.D., eds. (2020). Music Around the World: A Global Encyclopedia [3 Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 442. ISBN 9781610694995.
  7. ^ "Iranian string instrument 'Kamancheh' to be inscribed on UNESCO list". 11 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  8. ^ "Art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha, a bowed string musical instrument". UNESCO.
  9. ^ "کمانچه – پارسی ویکی". loghatnaameh.com. Archived from the original on 2008-10-17.
  10. ^ "Kabak kemane ve Kemancha hakkında rehber". Archived from the original on 2017-12-14. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
  11. ^ Chandrakausika, R.A.M. (2013-03-08). "The Masters of Kamanche". A World Heritage Of Native Music. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  12. ^ Jonathan M. Bloom, Sheila S. Blair (Ed.): The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Volume 1. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2009, p. 8

Further reading