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This article is about the Persian/Azeri kamancheh. For the related but different Turkish instrument see Kemenche.

Template:Infobox instrument

Palace in Isfahan Persia, 1669.]]

The kamānche or kamāncha (Persian: کمانچه ) (violinette) is a Persian bowed string instrument related to the bowed rebab, the historical ancestor of the kamancheh and also to the bowed lira of the Byzantine Empire, ancestor of the European violin family. The strings are played with a variable-tension bow: the word "kamancheh" means "little bow" in Persian (kæman, bow, and -cheh, diminutive). It is widely used in the classical music of Iran, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with slight variations in the structure of the instrument.

Traditionally kamanchehs had three silk strings, but modern ones have four metal ones. Kamanchehs may have highly ornate inlays and fancy carved ivory tuning pegs. The body has a long upper neck and a lower bowl-shaped resonating chamber made from a gourd or wood, usually covered with a membrane, made from the skin of a lamb, goat or sometimes fish, on which the bridge is set. From the bottom protrudes a spike to support the kamancheh while it is being played, hence in English the instrument is sometimes called the spiked fiddle. It is played sitting down held like a cello though it is about the length of a viola. The end-pin can rest on the knee or thigh while seated in a chair.

Famous Iranian kamancheh players include Ali-Asghar Bahari, Ardeshir Kamkar, Saeed Farajpouri, and Kayhan Kalhor.

The Turkish and Armenian kemenche or kemençe is a bowed string instrument with a very similar or identical name -- but it differs significantly in structure and sound from the Persian kamancheh. Other bowed string instruments akin to the kamancheh, yet differing more than slightly from it, include the kemenche of the Pontic Greeks of the black Sea, the old Russian Gudok, the Persian Ghaychak, and the Kazakh Kobyz.

Persian traditional classical music also uses the ordinary violin with Persian tuning. The kamancheh and the ordinary violin are tuned in the same way and have the same range but different timbres due to their differing sound boxes.

A kamancheh is depicted on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 1 manat banknote issued since 2006.[1]



kamanjeh performer in Jerusalem, 1859. From Thomson.]]
Other names Kamanjah
Classification *Bowed string instrument
Related instruments

The kamanjah (Arabic: كمنجة‎; plural كمنجات, kamanjāt; pronounced kamangah in Egypt, and also known as jose) or kemençe (Turkish) is an Arab violin made from half a coconut and covered with sheep hide or fish skin). This instrument is played holding it in the lap, sitting on the floor cross-legged. One to four strings pass down a long, un-fretted neck and over a small, spherical, wooden body covered with skin (sheep hide or fish skin). It is one of the predecessors of the medieval lute, and is part of the spike family of instruments (so named for the spike that originates from the bottom of the sound-box and props on the floor.). The term kamanjah may also be used to refer to the violin.

See also


  1. National Bank of Azerbaijan. National currency: 1 manat. – Retrieved on 25 March 2009.

External links

Kamanche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


A kamancheh

Alternative spellings


Persian کمانچه (kamânče).




kamancheh (plural kamanchehs)

  1. A Persian stringed instrument with three metal strings, played with a bow.


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