types Dambura is
a long-neck lute with two strings. It is the most common
musical instrument in Northern Afghanistan and the lute
encountered in Hazarajaat where just two other instruments are
documented: surnay (shawm) and tula (transverse flute).
There are two
types of damburas: the larger named after the region, Turkestan
called the turkestani
dambura, or after place of construction, Aibak. The smaller type is
typical of Badakhshan and thus called badakhshi
dambura; or sheghni
after the town Sheghni.1
instruments encountered in Afghanistan is the fretted dotâr
common in the west and the north, the tanpur with metal
strings, and the sophisticated robâb – a classical
instrument of the high culture of Kabul and Herat.
appears mainly as acompaniment for songs, though instrumental pieces
appear sporadically in the documentation. The player is often the singer but also
duos of a damburachi (the dambura performer) and a singer appear.
instrument, the role of the dambura is twofold: 1) building a musical
entity as an ongoing rhythm and a formal framework as introduction
and interludes between the verses of the song 2) as support for the
song, dubbing the tones of the melody with the deep string’s
constant sound as a basic reference.
is abundant: out of 78 recordings, 39 are dambura songs and dambura
solo. Among the damburachis there are at least a handful skilled
players. Some performers have a tight repertoire (Ali Ahmed (recorded in Farakh
Olum), Sâkhi Dâd (Panjao), Moh. Nawi (Kabul)) indicating a
professional status. Other musicians perform in more lose settings.
The role of the instrument in the musical enterprise is documented to
an extent as to deduct habitual patterns – interacting components
that constitutes style.
investigation material of the music collected in Hazarajaat, only a
few examples are recorded with the dambura solo. One of these, the
Sâkhi Dâd tune (208-09) is likely to be a prolonged introduction to
the following song with dambura accompaniment.
ex. 2. 208-09 Sâkhi Dâd
Another one from Waras
is merely an interrupted recording (456-21) with a duration of 21”
and could have been an introduction to a song. The remaining two
tunes (208-11, 456-04) are addressed in the chapter on instrumental
tunes (6.6.)*. In comparison with the material from Turkestan in
particular, which contains a wealth of instrumental tunes, little can
be stated about instrumental music from Hazarajaat. This scarce
representation of dambura solo points to a primary function as
accompaniment for songs.2
The lute family
In Central Asia
the two-stringed lute appears in numerous variants and different
outlines all along the silk road from China to Turkey.
The names on lute
instruments are determined by cultural and linguistic relations.
Common is the so-called ‘pearformed’ belly, which is actually the
form of a pear sliced in two3.
In Turkey, this type is the saz,
in Iran it is the setar
(translates se three,
in Kirgistan it is komuz,
but in Kazakhstan the belly has an oblong shape and is called dombra. In Afghanistan,
the two types appear as the dotâr (do two, târ
(silk) string) with frets and metal strings and the dambura
with no frets and nylon string(s). (Actually, one string is used - from one peg wounded around a bottom knob at the opposite end of the instrument, and then back to the other peg). The term dambura is
linguistically related to the Uzbek/Tajik tanbûr
(pick-plucked bronze double-strings), the Hindu tambura (drone
instrument - derived from two words, 'tana' referring to musical phrase and 'pura' meaning complete (indobase.com)), and the Persian tambur which is cymbalum with ca.
75 strings played with small metal sticks.
The music for
two-stringed lutes in Central Asia share a number of characteristics.
Part of these are due to the idiomatic of the instrument.
Ethnically rooted musical style
settlement of nomadic tribes has had a considerable effect on the
spreading of music. In Northern Afghanistan in particular,
settlements of ethnic groups are scattered all over in segments of
Pashtun, Kirghiz, Kazakh and Turkmen origin. The majority of the
inhabitants are Uzbek and Tajik. For these groups mixtures of
language and song traditions is common and musical styles has
The singing style
and structure of song melodies of the different ethnic segments are
factors which differentiate these musics the most. The dambura music,
on the other hand, share more features. Thus, in the Hazara dambura
music, the uzbek playing style is an important inspiration, while the
song forms are adapted from the Hazara solo song.
Discussion of history – Sakata and Slobin
that instruments are “a recent innovation” according to the
relative scarcity of instruments on the locations she visited during
her field studies (1967 and 1972). Furthermore, Sakata states that
the dambura, along with asymmetrical rhythms have been introduced by
the Tajiks who among the northern ethnic groups are the only ones
using the meter of seven. In addition, the dambura is claimed to be
basically a Tajik instrument. In this line, “instances of
asymmetrical meter in accompanied songs are probably influenced by
direct contact with Tajik songs or by professional Hazara musicians,
who accompany themselves on the dambura”.4
has another view on this: He regards Uzbek and Tajik music of
Turkestan as converged into a uniform style. Two categories are
defined: 1) mahali
– the folk or popular style of Afghan Uzbeks, which substantiates
the bulk of Uzbek music, 2) the immigrant Transkhonian classical
Bukharan style with the dotâr
as the main instrument. The two categories differ by their
instruments, repertoire and audiences. The mahali
is compounded to Afghanistan and
does not appear in Uzbekistan proper.
The culture and
music of the Pashtun nomads and tradesmen have had practically no
impact on the Hazaras.6
But the recurring temporary migration of Hazara workers mainly to
Kabul may have resulted in extended influx of Tajik-Uzbek inspired
dambura music. On the whole, it is remarkable that a large number of
Hazara pieces for dambura and song is based on asymmetrical metres,
whereas the bulk of popular songs are in binary or tripart metres.
Still, 6/8 and 6/4 are also frequent as meter for songs with dambura.
In the north,
teahouses located in markets and bazaars often had live music – a
singing dambura player, or even a small ensemble. These were the main
spots for the exposure of music and could provide a steady income for
the villages had no teahouses. As mentioned in the introduction,
music was typically performed at private parties and celebrations,
such as toi (weddings),
(Independence day), and the Id
celebration and nau roz
(new year’s day). 7 The teahouse
repertoire may have had an impact on the Hazaras particularly in the
playing techniques on the dambura. But also with regard to the
composition of the repertoire: the recurring presentation of a line
of songs of different origin may be a reflection of the practice of
which Slobin points out as a common feature of teahouse music8.
Splitting the songs up in individual units in the investigation
material may have been a practical undertaking due to the time
limitation of the tape.
The dambura is
one of many variants of lutes among the peoples of Central Asia. The
idiomatics of the instrument and the common tuning are factors that
makes up relations.
The bulk of the
Hazara material of the present investigation are from Sheikh Ali and
Deï Zangi (Waras/Panjao,) where most of the songs are intimately
related to the solo songs.
The entertainer: Theatrical and
may have percussive and theatrical elements integrated in the musical
performance. It seems that performers often have been on their own,
and have added these elements for the sake of entertainment as
spectacular effects or musical means adding to the general sound. The
percussive and clearly audible downstrokes on the strings are among
such features but also sophisticated attachments of bells on the
stroke hand or around ankles may contribute to the total sound. These
effects are encountered in the Aimaq documentation but is absent in
Hazarajaat. A truly theatrical effect is employed a damburachi, who
had small puppets whose dance-like movements could be controlled by
strings attached to the strumming hand as described by Sakata9.
dance boys – batchas 10
– is an old tradition connected with instrumental music. The
Pashtuns also have this tradition. It was widespread in the north
back in the 1930s but was declining in the 1960s when Slobin did his
investigations. In the olden days boys were kidnapped and kept in a
cellar and trained to this profession. They were dressed in women’s
clothes and performed at parties of men. It was generally regarded as
leisure time entertainment (as a sort of a hobby activity within the
realm of the so-called sowqi
The music for
this kind of dance is to a great extent based on tempo changes which
are set by the damburachi. Characteristic strokes are signals to
certain dancing gestures; this means that the choreography of the
dance is determined by the damburachi, never the other way round.
Even when a damburachi plays a dancing tune without the dancer
present he still makes the tempo changes and signals as though the
dance would be performed.12
This is referred to in the account on the instrumental dambura tune
Living conditions for
As Ferdinand and
Edelberg supplies us with very little information about the
musicians, we have to look to other sources which give information
about the living conditions of musicians. The informations, if any,
are limited to brief statements like “this kind is called an
“an earring man”, which characterises a professional performer”14.
This information applies to a performer from the town, Maimana. For
the Hazara performers, we are in a single instance informed that the
musician is a driver.
First of all, for
other ethnic groups, the barber is often a musician as well; this
profession is absent in the Hazarajaat. The Hazara musicians are
semi-professionals who are often invited to other villages than their
own and paid in commodities rather than money. At private
celebrations, often amateurs also perform.15
For the Hazara
musicians, at least two performers seem to be travelling men; Ali
Ahmed recorded in Farakh Olum (208-01,02, 03, 07, see 4.2.*) was a
driver. The Hazara damburachi Moh. Nawi was recorded in Kabul the
and is thus also regarded as a itinerant performer.
Although the singing style my personal contact Daud Sarkhosh is
deeply influenced by Pashto singing style. Sarkhosh’s main domain
is contemporary Afghan pop music where the singing style in general
is characterised by the Pashto style. Thus, the main body of music
played on the internetradio Hazaragiradio.com represents this
singing style. Songs are composed to Western influenced chord
structures and orchestral arrangements made on midi keyboards and
See 2.2.3*. Musical events. Referred from Sakata 1968: 26.
For medleys, Slobin proposes the term ‘quodlibet’ (Slobin 1976:
169, adapted from Apel’s History of Western Music 1961: 621-2;
Slobin’s usage of the term points to a variant - the successive
quodlibet, when melodies are quoted in succession, like a
poutpourri) from Middle Age European music, to imply a practice of
paraphrasing the tunes from memory as opposed to a rendering of
tunes true to the original.
Sakata 1978:71. “The puppet usually in the form of a wild, male
goat known as teke, and the practice is known as teke
bazak.” Further description by Slobin in “Buz-baz: A musical
Marionette of Northern Afghanistan”, Asian Music, VI (1975)
Slobin 1976: 116ff. The instution as such is called bachabazi.
Slobin 1976: 119. See also 2.2.2.*, footnote 9.