Setar - Introducing an original Iranian instrument

Setar - Introducing an original Iranian instrument
ID : N-3602 Date : 2018/12/03 - 14:54

(Persia Digest) – The setar is one of the original instruments of Iranian classical music. It is played with a pick and is from the tanbour family. Although it has four strings, it is known as setar, or three strings. It started out as an instrument with three strings, but Master Moshtagh-Ali Shah (a well-known figure of Persian mysticism, poetry, and arts) added a fourth string to it. This is very close to the third one in sound and both are known as bass chords.

The setar has a very orphic sound, where the strokes of the pick on the strings takes you back to distant memory-filled years.

Many believe this to be a sad instrument for its tranquil sound. It is, in fact, a companion for the seclusion of its performers, taking them into a world free of hullabaloo to occupy their minds.

Contemporary Iranian musicians have combined the setar with other, at times non-Iranian, instruments to create a fusion of stunning music.


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Setar is also very close to the tar and setar performers can often also play the tar.

Walnut and mulberry wood is used to carve the different parts of the setar.

A prominent tar and setar musician in classical Persian music was Gholam-Hossein Darvish, aka “Darvish Khan”. Influenced by Moshtagh-Ali Shah, he added the sixth string to the tar to diversify the sound and music played on this instrument.

Gholam-Hossein Darvish, aka “Darvish Khan”

Darvish Khan was a master of “dastgah” in Persian music, performing with a very small, strong pick. As such, he was able to join his master in an ensemble who played at the court of Mozafar-e-Din Shah for his son.


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Darvish Khan’s work in music extended to staging charity concerts for Russian victims of famine, victims of the Amol fire in 1917, and much more.

He lost his life in an accident between his coach and a car. His tomb is in Zahir-e-Dowleh cemetery in Tehran.

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