A Dotar

20 • A Dotar

Torbat-e Jam, Khorasan, Iran, circa 1900
100 cm long
Bowl & soundboard: mulberry wood
Neck: apricot wood
Inlays: glass and bone

Named after the Persian for two (do) and string (tar), dotars were used by shepherds from as early as the 15th century. Their lightweight, portable, simplistic form made them a popular nomadic instrument and as a result they have been found in every corner of Central Asia, delivered through the tributaries of the Silk Road.

These instruments are travelling companions, crafted from whatever material is locally available and created to accompany their owner’s songs and words, echoing his voice along his journey. Often traded or passed on, the instruments themselves will roam far and wide, oblivious to borders, initiating friendships, relationships, marriages. When plucked, their strings will often sing of freedom and so they symbolize it too.