Rubab - Uzbek traditional musical instrument

“I miss the days when I was young and strong.
I miss the time when life was like a song.
And still I hear the sounds of rubab,
Which fairy lady arrowed straight to heart.”

 (Abu Ali Ibn Sino
translated by Olga Kulidi)

Have you ever heard the extraordinary flashes of Uzbek rubab? The richness of the finest shades of melody, nobility and purity of sounds elicited from this instrument, fascinate and pacify at the very first chords. Like a waterfall, they wash the soul from the superfluous husks of everyday life and small worries, taking it to the sources, where the harmony of spirit and the creative beginning of the universe reigns. As it turned out, this ancient instrument hides a lot of amazing secrets and mysteries. Modern researchers try to solve them.

Rubab or rubob (from Arab "rabab") in the classical sense is a stringed bow instrument of the Arab origin. It has a wooden convex case of round or oval shape, a leather deck, 4-6 intestinal, silk or metal strings, usually tuned in quarters, and resonating strings. The most common are rubabs of 800-1000 mm long. The sound is usually elicited by a plectrum. The orchestra of Uzbek folk instruments includes three varieties of rubobs: prima, alto, tenor.

There are varieties of rubabs in different peoples of the East: Afghan, Dulan, Kashgar, Pamir, and others. The most popular are Tajik (Afghan) and Kashgar rubabs. In Uzbekistan, the Afghan rubab got accustomed, or it is also called the Bukhara rubab. It is difficult now to determine the time when this instrument appeared in Uzbekistan. But it was depicted in miniatures of the XVII century. It is known that the Afghan rubab was used on the territory of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kashmir, Iran, Pakistan and partly on the territory of India. It was also widely spread in Bukhara, the capital of the Bukhara khanate, located on the Great Silk Road.

As Sylvain Roy, the author of a number of books and articles on musical instruments in Central Asia, notes, probably, the Afghan rubab had taken root in Uzbekistan, since it was made from the mulberry tree, which is common in this area. And, as studies show, several varieties of rubab were used. So, if the classical Afghan rubab has four frets, then in the territory of Herat, which is closer to Iran, for example, one could find its variations with five or six frets. Everything depended on the repertoire in this or that region. So, for example, in Ferghana the traditional wedding melody "Yer-yer" is performed with the help of one octave, in Bukhara - one and a half octaves, and in Khorezm only five notes. It turns out that in accordance with the musical traditions of the local population, the musicians adapted this instrument for themselves.

Uzbek rubab

Types of Uzbek rubab and their differences

The Afghan rubab stands out from the group of plectrum instruments, both by its external form, and by the unique timbre properties. The Afghan or Bukhara rubab in Uzbekistan is wedge-shaped, its case is large and deep with recesses on the sides and a short neck with a rounded head. The body and neck are hollowed out from one single piece of wood (most often mulberry). On the neck there is a fretboard, the lower end of which comes into the deck and closes the top of the case. The rest of the body is tightened with a leather membrane. The total length of the instrument is 70-80 cm. On the short and thick neck of rubab, there are 4 tie frets, and on the fretboard there are 6-7 additional frets, called khas-parda. Rubab has 5 main and 10-11 resonant strings. The basic strings are veined and are tuned in quarters as follows: the first and the second are in unison, the third and fourth - in unison and the fifth - independent. All the main strings are melodic. The resonant strings are located below the melodic; they are tuned in seconds and constitute a diatonic scale.

The Afghan rubab is a melodic instrument and the plays on it are performed monodically. The instrument is complex and difficult to assimilate, the Afghan rubab, like the tanbur, is an instrument of folk-professional performers and it is used both as a soloist and in ensembles.

The other Kashgar rubab is especially popular among Uzbek music lovers. This is connected, apparently, with a simple technique of performance and good sounding qualities.

Kashgar rubab has a round form, it is tightened on top with a leather membrane with a long neck (dasta), ending with a bent head bent. At the base of the neck above the body there are 2 protrusions (8-10 cm long), resembling the animal's horns and thus giving the instrument an original form. The veined frets tied on the neck are in the number of 19-23 and constitute a chromatic scale. The number of strings on the Kashgar rubab is 5-3 silk and 2 copper. The main melodic string is the first (1-2), which is used as a melodic string, and the third one is tuning.

The diapason of the instrument is more than two octaves. In Uzbekistan Kashgar robab is the instrument both soloing and accompanying singing. It is also used for accompanying dances.

Kashgar rubab has a bright, light timbre of the first two metal strings and a little "mat", baritone - in the third, vein strings. In the upper register, the rubab sounds sharply, with a touch of nasal and very similar to the Caucasian tar.

The Uzbek legend of the rubab

If you look at Uzbek rubab in profile, you can see that the head of the instrument resembles the head of a peacock. An ancient legend says that a daughter of one Bukhara emir fell ill. Every day the young girl grew paler, the smile vanished from her face, and the best doctors from all over the country struggled in search of the cause of the ailment of the princess. And once the emir knew that an unusual musician came to Bukhara from Balkh. His music, people said, was able to heal any disease. The musician was called to the court and told about the misfortune that happened to the princess. After listening, he asked to give him a little time to make an instrument capable of extracting the music that could heal the soul of the princess. The master set to work in the palace garden, where there was a large and beautiful pond with peacocks walking nearby. Occasionally, a princess came out of the rooms and fed the birds from her hands. The birds proudly flapped their luxurious tails and walked leisurely around their beautiful mistress. From afar watching it, the musician did not notice how he fell in love with the princess. To please her, he made rubab, which in elegant forms was somewhat like the beloved birds of the princess. When the instrument was finally ready, the young man played it. The princess also heard the song of the soul, sitting in an arbour in the garden. She began to come to the arbour every day, to listen again and again to the music she loved. Soon the emir noticed that the princess's cheeks blushed again, her eyes sparkled with a flicker, and more often the emir heard the happy laughter of her beloved daughter in the palace. On the occasion of the recovery of the princess, emir decided to arrange a lavish holiday. He invited a talented musician to reward him and once again to hear the virtuoso play. Modestly located at the end of the palace hall, the young man played, looking for his beloved. She was sitting at the screen, but looked out curiously. Their eyes met for the first time, and the princess's heart beat in the rhythm of a melody pouring from the depths of the musician's soul. It was rumoured that this story was crowned by a magnificent wedding in the palace, which the loving father of the Bukhara princess arranged for lovers.

In the times of Abu Ali Ibn Sino (Avicenna), ae well as today in Uzbekistan rubab was considered an instrument of lovers.

It is curiously enough, but it is known that rubab is played in North Africa and in the southern provinces of Spain. It was borrowed to Europe in the 12th century under the name of rebek. In Turkey there is a three-stringed rubab. The Persians call rubab "rabet barbitus".

Today the connoisseurs of beauty can play Uzbek musik rubab. They are few, but if you want to hear a truly beautiful melody performed on rubab, travel to Uzbekistan. The company Peopletravel will be glad to assist in this.

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