Recently, I’ve been indulging myself into the study of sounds and how different instruments have different means of expression even if they happen to be of the same family and/or share a common ancestor. I’ve been interested in more ancient instruments and some of their sounds that may have been lost in the evolution of music. That is when I came across Markus Wach.
Three things struck a chord about Markus (no pun intended)
1. His passion and curiosity for unearthing ancient sounds and restoring forgotten instruments
2. His humble nature and willingness to collaborate and interact
3. His diverse knowledge in this domain not only within a specific locality but across countries, territories, and even time
Thus, I thought it would only be apt to take a deeper dive into his research and work especially since there is inadequate literature in this front. His study primarily stems upon how one can pursue traditional techniques and methods to play music on authentic medieval instruments.
In this article , I aim to touch upon the Kamanceh and the Sato and share how Markus not only plays them but also improvises on them with contemporary conventional scales. Further, I want to also show how these instruments sound when played with other sounds and instruments!
Kamancej is an Iranian bowed string instrument commonly used in the classical music of Iran, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The word means ‘Little Bow’ in Persian. It is interesting in the sense that it is played like a cello even though it is about the length of a viol. Actually, the currently used 4 metal strings in the Kamancheh can be tuned like a violin (G, D, A,E). They have the same range but due to the differences in their sound boxes, they have different timbres.
Here is Markus playing the Kamanceh:
Really enjoyed the drop to some microtones in the piece (e.g. between 1:31 – 1:33) . Additionally, I’ve come to realize that predominantly minor scales are used when playing this instrument! I think it is also very important and nice to see how such instruments sound when they are played with other types of sounds.
Here is the Kamanceh played along the Oud as well as some vocals:
This is a recital known as Abun d’bashmayo which is the lord’s prayer in the Aramaic language. Here we see Maria Kaplan on the vocals, Mustafa Kakour on the Oud and Markus Wach on the Kamancheh.
The Sato is an ancient form of lute predominantly played in Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) that was only restored/revived in the middle of the 20th century. Although the Sato is mostly used as a bowed instrument despite its long neck, it can also be plucked using a wire fingerplectrum. When plucked, the top string is used to produce the melody whilst the other four serve as drone strings.
Watch Markus demonstrate both techniques here:
The frets of the Sato are made of thick gut or nylon string and tied on to the instrument in a diatonic scale. Interestingly, the frets are raised using small strips of wood which are placed underneath and this offers that bending tone to the sound.
It evokes a very different mood when bowed and I find that fascinating! Watch Markus play the Sato alongside Hakan Tugrul who plays the Santoor:
The Santoor is a percussion-string instrument of Iranian/Mesopotanian origin! You can really hear the bending sound of the Sato here.
Part 2 coming soon!