Syrian Qanun (musical instrument)

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Syrian Qanun (musical instrument)

The qanun is a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument. It has a long history, possibly descended from the ancient Egyptian harp, and is related to the psaltery, dulcimer and zither.

My qanun consists of a trapezoid-shaped hollow sound box made of walnut wood, and 78 strings (26 sets of 3). The holes in the sound box are finely decorated with carved filigree patterns of white material (ivory or plastic?). The strings are stretched over a bridge supported on fish-skin, and attached to wooden tuning pegs. They pass over metal levers which can be adjusted for fine tuning (quarter tones). The strings are nylon (traditionally would have been animal gut).

The qanun is played by plucking the strings either with the fingers or with flexible plectra attached to finger rings. It rests on the player's lap or on a table.

I bought my qanun in a little shop in the Old City of Jerusalem a few years ago. I was told it came from Syria, but I don't know its age or maker's name. I don't know how to play it, but i enjoy listening to qanun music, which evokes ancient Middle Eastern culture and tradition passed down through the centuries.

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