Originally posted at http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Music/santur.htm
Abstract: Dulcimer (Santour) is an Iranian musical instrument which
for the first time was recorded in Assyrian and Babylonian stone inscriptions
in 669 B.S. Santour was christened dulcimer in English literature since
1400 A.D. and nowadays more than 10 types of Iraqi, Egyptian, Indian
and Turkish dulcimers and are made and played in other countries.
Dulcimer was considered an Ilamite musical instrument in Iran in the
past because they owned two types of harps and flute and an instrument
that resembled the dulcimer. The Ilamite interest in dulcimer can be
noted from stone inscriptions in Izeh. Dulcimer has been named with
various appellations during the Iranian history. At times it was called
Qanoon (in other words the Qanoon and dulcimer were called under a single
appellation) whereas beside the fact that they were both string and
beating instruments, they had many differences in appearance and in
method of playing.
Santour or dulcimer is a string instrument and played by beating in
the Iranian music with very ancient history. The first time that dulcimer
made its appearance in the ancient times was in Assyrian and Babylonian
inscriptions in the year 699 before Christ. In some ancient texts the
invention of dulcimer is attributed to Farabi but considering the names
of musical instruments being used during the Sassanian period as related
by Masoodi in which dulcimer is also listed, this attribution does not
appear to be logical.
The term Santour has been recorded by different spellings in various
sources such as Sontour, or Santir (Arabic) or Santour. In fact this
is a peaceful and soothing word and was employed by the Jewish tribe
also. In the beginning of the middle ages the Santour became popular
and was renamed according to the tribal and linguistic behaviors. As
of 1400 A.D. Santour was christened dulcimer (or dalcimer) in the English
The Oxford Companion to Music says in 1660 A.D. Pepy registered the
dulcimer and reported that its sound was heard many years in Britain
and in London streets or in dramatic plays. According to that report
Hungarian, Romanian or Bohemian gypsy dulcimer players used to play
different types of dulcimers.
Meanwhile in the English translation of the Music of the Bible a dulcimer
known as Yangkin which is a Chinese manufactured instrument has been
portrayed. This dulcimer resembles the present day dulcimer with slight
differences. Meanwhile its German name is reported to be Hack Bret.
Fabrication of piano was inspired by dulcimer. The dulcimer was gradually
changed into the original piano and after a series of modifications
it emerged into the present shape. Nowadays more than ten types of Santours
or dulcimers such as Iraqi, Indian, Egyptian and Turkish Santours are
played in other countries.