Khushtar, meaning Lilting Strings, is a bowed-string instrument played by the Uyghur people. It is commonly found in Urumqi of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, western border of China and Turkestan.
Khushtar is named for the bird that is carved on top of the handle. Khush means bird, and tar means strings. The sound of a Khushtar is very clear and resonate, reminiscent of a birdsong.
The pear-shaped instrument is made up of six ribs of mulberry or apricot wood. The face board is made of soft pine. The neck is relatively short, with the fretless fingerboard glued to the front.
Khushtar has 11 strings, four are for playing, as with a normal violin, and the others are that resonate along with the bowed strings. The four playing strings are tuned to the normal western scale (G D A E), so if you can play a Violin or Viola, you can learn to play Khushtar in no time. The four strings stretched from four tuning pegs made of walnut wood, and another seven sympathetic strings on the side of the neck. The instrument is supported at the base with a movable foot. The bow is stretched with horsehair, and is not attached to the strings like the Chinese Huqin family.
In performance, the Khushtar is placed on the left knee, and the left hand presses the strings while the right hand bows. The body of the instrument can swivel and turn to facilitate bowing.
The Khushtar is tuned and bowed like the professional Ghijek, but its tone is lower and softer, since the whole instrument is made of wood. It is also found in soprano and tenor versions.
The Khushtar’s beautiful form and resonate sound has made it a mainstay of Uyghur Orchestras. In recent years, it has also gained in popularity among mainstream Chinese as well as with many Westerners.
Amazingly, this musical instrument was actually lost for some generations. However, after meticulous research, the Khushtar has been brought back to the forefront and is crafted once again according to tradition. It was invented by Tuer Xunjiang of the Xinjiang School of the Arts in the early 1970’s, based on the ancient ‘Ashtar’ (or ‘eight strings’ in the Persian language). Because in ancient times during the heyday of the Silk Road, the Khushtar was called Ashtar. Khushtar modeled its shape on instruments depicted in Xinjiang’s early Buddhist cave murals.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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