Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies

Abstract: Dulcimer (Santour) is an Iranian musical instrument which for the first time was recorded in Assyrian and Babylonian stone inscriptions in 669 B.S. Santour was christened dulcimer in English literature since 1400 A.D. and nowadays more than 10 types of Iraqi, Egyptian, Indian and Turkish dulcimers and are made and played in other countries.

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Dulcimer was considered an Ilamite musical instrument in Iran in the past because they owned two types of harps and flute and an instrument that resembled the dulcimer. The Ilamite interest in dulcimer can be noted from stone inscriptions in Izeh. Dulcimer has been named with various appellations during the Iranian history. At times it was called Qanoon (in other words the Qanoon and dulcimer were called under a single appellation) whereas beside the fact that they were both string and beating instruments, they had many differences in appearance and in method of playing.

Santour or dulcimer is a string instrument and played by beating in the Iranian music with very ancient history. The first time that dulcimer made its appearance in the ancient times was in Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions in the year 699 before Christ. In some ancient texts the invention of dulcimer is attributed to Farabi but considering the names of musical instruments being used during the Sassanian period as related by Masoodi in which dulcimer is also listed, this attribution does not appear to be logical.

The term Santour has been recorded by different spellings in various sources such as Sontour, or Santir (Arabic) or Santour. In fact this is a peaceful and soothing word and was employed by the Jewish tribe also. In the beginning of the middle ages the Santour became popular and was renamed according to the tribal and linguistic behaviors. As of 1400 A.D. Santour was christened dulcimer (or dalcimer) in the English literature.

The Oxford Companion to Music says in 1660 A.D. Pepy registered the dulcimer and reported that its sound was heard many years in Britain and in London streets or in dramatic plays. According to that report Hungarian, Romanian or Bohemian gypsy dulcimer players used to play different types of dulcimers.

Meanwhile in the English translation of the Music of the Bible a dulcimer known as Yangkin which is a Chinese manufactured instrument has been portrayed. This dulcimer resembles the present day dulcimer with slight differences. Meanwhile its German name is reported to be Hack Bret. Fabrication of piano was inspired by dulcimer. The dulcimer was gradually changed into the original piano and after a series of modifications it emerged into the present shape. Nowadays more than ten types of Santours or dulcimers such as Iraqi, Indian, Egyptian and Turkish Santours are played in other countries.



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