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The Dotar: A Traditional Instrument in Central and South Asia

Last Updated on 2023/11/23

Stringing Together Cultures: The Story of the Dotar.

The Dotar (Chinese: 都塔尔; Persian: دو تار‎, dotār; Uzbek: dutor), also known as Dutar, is a member of the lute family of plucked string instruments. This long-necked instrument, typically with two strings, is prevalent across Central and South Asia. Its name derives from the Persian words “do” (دو), meaning “two,” and “tār” (تار), meaning “string,” indicating its characteristic two strings. However, an Afghan variant known as the Herati Dotar boasts up to 14 strings.

In Western China, the Uyghur community predominantly plays the Dotar using a plucking technique. Similarly, Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, Afghan, and Uyghur musicians often employ both plucking and strumming methods to play the instrument.

In West Bengal and Bangladesh, the instrument is referred to as the Dotara, often played by the Bauls, a group of mystic minstrels. Some versions of the Dotara in these regions are equipped with four strings, deviating from the traditional two-string setup. The origins of this instrument trace back to the 15th century, initially crafted by shepherds using animal intestines. Following the Silk Road’s influence, which introduced silk to its birthplace, the strings evolved to be made from silk threads. In contemporary times, Dotar strings are typically made of silk or nylon.

The Dotar is known for its warm and pleasant sound. It features a pear-shaped body and varies in length from 1 to 2 meters, showcasing the diverse cultural influences and musical traditions of the regions it inhabits.

Featured image: wikimedia

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