Two instruments which stand for the Persian Gulf

Two instruments which stand for the Persian Gulf

 The ney-anban and ney-jofti

Two instruments which stand for the Persian Gulf

All known and recognized regions in the world bare many signs of human and cultural identities in addition to their geographical features without which we cannot define any identity for these regions. How can we tell about the North Pole, if we ignore the role of the Eskimos? Similarly, how can we talk about Persian Gulf, if we ignore the peoples live in its coasts? Due to the important role of this region in the world economy and politics, all aspects of its people's life and culture have found specific characters. This unique and complicated character is seen in the music of this region as well. Two of the especial instruments played in the coasts of the Persian Gulf are ney-anbān and ney-jofti. These instruments always stand for the Persian Gulf.



Persian Gulf



The ney-anbān also called the ney-hanbān, ney-anbun, hanbun, hanbuneh, is a type of bag pipe which is popular in southern Iran and all coasts of Persian Gulf. The term ney-anbān literally means "a wood wind instrument plus storage". We have another instrument similar to ney-anbān that called ney-Jofti. The term ney-Jofti literally means double ney. In fact, the ney-anbān was drived from ney-jofti.


Historical Background of ney-Jofti

 The ney-Jofti is an ancient instrument and has been played for several thousands years in the Middle East. Because of its two pipes, it has a very ample and attractive sound. Abunaser Farabi, a great Persian philosopher and musician (d. 950), classified two kinds of this reed and depicted them in his book, Musiqi al-Kabir.



ancient ney-jofti


ancient ney-jofti


The ney-Jofti is mostly played in the south and southwestern Iran. Shushtar, Bushehr, and Hormozgan are the main birthplaces of this instrument. Like its counterparts in Khorasan and Kurdistan, the qoshmeh and dozaleh respectively, the ney-Jofti is usually played in the happy ceremonies.




Tulum player


We don't know that where exactly the main birthplace of ney-anbān is. We just know that the ney-anbān with a little difference in shape also exists in Europe especially in Scotland where it is known as the bagpipe. Many varieties of bagpipes can be found in Europe, Northern Africa, the Persian Gulf region, and the Caucasus. For instance, a painting from the thirteenth century clearly depicts a European bagpipe player. Another painting from the seventeenth century Netherlands verifies this theory that the bagpipe was a well-known instrument for the European masses during that period of time.


A painting from the thirteenth century

A painting from the seventeenth century



The ney-anbān and ney-jofti are used in all festive ceremonies of southern Iran especially in the coast of Persian Gulf. No groom touches his bride unless they hear attractive sound of these instruments. Arabs also love the sounds of these instruments especially when it is accompanied by the oud.



This instrument is a wind wood type with a mouth piece. The ney-jofti is made out of reeds and is a double piped-reed. Additionally, the reed can be single. If so, it is called ney-taki. If the reed is double, it is called ney-jofti.



the ney-anbān


The structure of the main body of the ney-anbān is the same as the ney-jofti which is attached to a tank air. This tank provides the player with the needed air for blowing. The most common method of supplying air to the bag is by blowing into a blowpipe. Modern blowpipes are usually fitted with a non-return valve which eliminates this need. In fact the bag is an airtight storage which can hold air and regulates its flow while the player breathes or pumps with a bellows, enabling the player to maintain continuous sound for some time. In Iran, the air tank is usually made of goat skin.  


Playing and players

 The ney-anbān and ney-jofti are usually accompanied by percussions like damam, timpo, tombak, kaser (a kind of damam) and dayereh (small frmae drum). The importance of ney-anbān and ney-jofti for those living in the coast of the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea is the same as the importance of karna for Bakhtiari people, the sorna for Lor people, dozaleh for Kurds, and qoshmeh for Kormanj people.


 Listen to Ahmad Alisharafi on the ney-anbān


احمد علیشرفی

Listen to a wedding song by Ahmad Alisharafi performed by the ney-anbān 


قنبر راستگو

Listen to Qanbar Rastgu on the ney-jofi accompanied by percussion 


Saeid Shanbehzadeh

Watch Saeid Shanbehzadeh playing the ney-jofti 



Mohsen Sharifiyan

Listen to the ney-anbān solo by Mohsen Sharifiyan


Listen to song of Sito (for you) by Mohsen Sharifiyan on the ney-anbān


Because of the existence of two pipes in both instruments, the player actually can use one of them as the drone sound and the other as the melody. The pipes are usually toned in the third, fourth and fifth interval.


Listen to the ney-anbān solo and its drone by Mohsen Sharifiyan 


New experiences

In the recent years, some Iranian composers have become interested in using the ney-anbān in orchestras, either Western or Iranian. One of the most well-known examples in this regard is the accompaniment of the ney-anbān and a Western orchestra experienced by Majid Entezami.


Majid Entezami

Listen to ney-anbān and western orchestra by Majid Entezami 


In the southern coats of the Persian Gulf and Hormozgan, a province in Iran, the ney-anbān is usually accompanied by the oud. It should be mentioned that in the case of Hormozgan, the usage of the oud is completely native.

Listen to ney-anbān accompanied by the oud. The piece is composed by Mohsen Sharifian

Use of ney-anbān in Iranian Pop music is a new phenomenon. Undoubtedly, most of pop music around the world is played with instruments such as the guitar, piano, drum, violin and etc. The native instruments are not usually played for this purpose. But, there are always exceptions.

Listen to ney-anbān used in the genre of Iranian pop style music by Mohsen Sharifian

Another example is my own experience with ney-Jofti and an ensemble of Iranian instruments such as the tar, santur and oud. Mohsen Sharifian, have played ney-Jofti in this short piece. Since the ney-jofti has its own tuning which could not be matched with the Persian ensemble; therefore, so we inevitably changed the tuning of the whole piece by software, something about half-tone.  

Listen to ney-jofti and Iranian ensemble played by Mohsen Sharifian


 Special thanks to Aryan Rahmanian


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