Technical description: The body consists of a gourd, depth 90, width 125, in which there are two holes, covered with a sound-table of parchment; wooden neck; 3 melodic strings on top of neck and body; 8 sympathetic strings inside hollowed out neck.
Performance technique: The performer rests the instrument vertically on their knee, turn it to meet the bow, rather than guiding the bow across the strings, as is commonly done with Western musical instruments. The strings, three silk or four metal depending on whether the instrument is traditional or modern classical, were originally tuned in fourths in Armenia, but are now tuned in fourths and fifths.
Historical sources and dispersal: The kamancha, Persian for ‘little bow’, is documented beginning in the 10th century, originating in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It reached Byzantium between the 11th and 12th centuries. It is known as the rabab in Turkey and Egypt, the joze in Iraq, and ghichak in Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia. The classical kamancha dates from the 15th century or earlier in Iran and is the only bowed instrument in Iran’s classical tradition. The kamancha is known for its soft timbre and technical possibilities, which make it suitable as a solo or ensemble instrument.
P.R. Cooke, 1995.
Purchased with assistance from the Government's Local Museums Purchase Fund and the University's General Council Trust, 1983.