My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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12/18/2006

Setar or Rebab from Uzbekistan

Sound clip of me playing this (Setar (or) Rabab)


My brother went to Kazakhstan recently, and bought a Setar (or Rubab, or maybe it's a kashgar rabab) when he crossed through to Uzbekistan for a part of his trip. I think he got it in the city of Samarkand. It's a small rounded mandolin sized instrument, with four strings - which seem to have very different tunings, not mandolin like at all. From looking at Wikipedia, it looks like some of the strings are sympathetic strings, i.e. drone strings. Two drones and two strings that play mostly solos, punctuated by some fast strikes of the drones. In gamelan music it's the only free instrument, that only has to abide by the rule of stopping on the beat. As a rebab it's played with great style in the afghan city of Herat, in slowly reawakening musical traditions. It is played with a bow in general, and is considered to be the precursor of the violin. In the tradition of Uzbek and Kazakh people it's an instrument of great improvisation, which is only starting to show - as an actual forgotten classical tradition. It's a music which is of the same calibre as Hindustani classical at least - they share the same origins and this has also had the influence of Persian invasions and of the trade route through to other parts of Asia. It even ended up in andalusia and then came back - when spain was re-taken and many muslims moved east. It was really in the right place for a long time!

But how to tune it. I've settled for C, F, E, A - the last two being quite a bit higher than the others. This is because of a description of the modern afghan version and because of another site talking about the tuning of the Rebec, it's medieval sister instrument. This page on the other hand says there's something weird about it.

On TV there would be shows where these people would improvise songs about the lady in the third row or about what you could text in to the show, and improvising musicians would make songs up on the spot. This follows a tradition of improvised storytelling and music, and a lot of horse riding. Now though, in Kazakhstan at least, they ride 4 by 4s. Oh and they wouldn't be very nice to Borat, so I wouldn't expect a reality tv program for him there any time soon.

Here's some more info on uzbek music

On his way across the border back to Uzbekistan my brother said there was general chaos and loads of people trying to get through. The Rebab got a bit damaged then. I have to see a friend's friend who knows a lot about strange instruments apparently, and take it to hobgoblin music or somewhere in bristol that repairs and fixes these kinds of things.


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