The chang, is one of the oldest Iranian instruments about which there are some notable historic evidences. The oldest sign related to the chang has been discovered in the province of Khuzestan. The cameo from 4000 B.C. shows a group of instrumentalists among whom there are a singer and a chang-player.
Since old times, the chang has been always favored by women. Perhaps, the reason for such an interest among women has been personal inclination. Even today when there is no pressure on women to choose a specific job, still we can see that most chang players in the world are women. There are two historic pieces from the Taq Bostan, close to Kerman Shah, which date back to the Sassanid period.
The chang which once was a very important instrument gradually lost its importance and totally disappeared from the scene of Persian music after the defeat of the Sassanid Empire in the seventh century. The last signs about playing the chang are from the early Safavid era, seventeenth century. It can be said that after that time, the chang became only a musical term in the later writings and has never been a representative of an instrument. But, by entering this instrument to musical culture of Europe, it became part of big orchestras and became known as the harp. The harp is well-known in all cultures affected by western cultures.
Figure 1: A raised stamp and its reverse on the paper from 4000 B.C
Figure 2: The hunting scene of the wild boars by a Sassanid king and the Harp -players
Figure 3: A Harp on a cameo from the Taq Bostan, Kerman Shah
In the contemporary Iranian musical culture, the chang is still a stranger and is not a member of any ensembles. However, some Iranian instrument makers have been trying to revive the chang base on the existing cameos and writings of the past. Although the harp entered Iran in the beginning of the twentieth century and was available to the Iranians, the difference between the ancient Persian chang and that of the harp in terms of their structure and shape, made it obvious for the Iranians that the harp could not be a right representative of the Iranian chang. Unlike the western harps which have a fixed structure, the ancient Persian changs had different shapes and structures. Abdol Ali Baqeri Nejad is a contemporary scholar who has revitalized an ancient chang based on the old hand writing documents and cameos.
In the past, the strings of the chnag were made of sheep’s gut, silk, or goats’ twisted hairs. Today, Abdol Ali Baqeri Nejad also uses the twisted goats’ hair. But, in the more modern samples, he uses special strings. In this method, a kind of hand-made strings are used which are different from those used for the guitar, violin, and piano. This special strings used for the revived changs don not have the resonance of the metal strings used for the other mentioned instruments. Therefore, these special strings sound different and give the revived changs an ancient character. However, some of the strings for these changs are made of nylon. The use of nylon in this case is for the fact that the structure of an instrument is not the only representative of the musical culture to which that instrument belongs. Beside the structure of the instrument, the way of tuning and playing also play an important role in characterizing a musical culture and the instrument related to it.
In the structure of some Persian changs a piece of sheepskin or goatskin is used. This skin intensifies the generated sound and makes it closer to Eastern music. Other kinds of changs are also made in Iran sharing more similarities with European harps, but their sound qualities are different and are not like the harp.
Figure 1: The reconstructed Harp based on the cameo in the Taq Bostan, Kerman Shah
Figure 2: Another reconstructed Harp based on the cameo in the Taq Bostan, Kerman Shah
Figure 3: Abdol Ali Baqeri Nejad is making the curved Harp
Figure 4: The revived curved Harp
Figure 5: A kind of revived Persian Harp given to the Louvre Museum
Figure 6: Another kind of the revived Harp based on the cameo of the Taq Bostan, Kerman Shah
Figure 7: Another revived Persian Harp
Figure 8: A Harp which is more similar to the present harp
Because chang is a new instrument in the filed of contemporary Persian music, it does not have as many players as the other Iranian instruments do. Moreover, because the playing style of the chang does not have any similarity with other Persian instruments, those who are interested in playing the chang should start from the beginning. As a result, the number of the chang players is so small. Among those who play the Iranian chang, we can refer to Mrs. Parvin Ruhi and her two daughters; Zaynab Baqeri Nejad and Masome Baqeri Nejad.
Since the chang is a common musical instrument of the Middle East, in the recent years when the Iranian scholars and instrument makers were trying to revive the ancient Persian chang, some of the Turkish musicians in Turkey were also reviving the ancient Turkish chang . Today, some revived Turkish changs are played in small Turkish ensembles.
Figure 1: The revived Harp
Figure 3: The revived Harp