ČAHĀRTĀR (lit. four-strings), a musical instrument belonging to the family of long-necked lutes. It is a variant of the modern Persian setār, which spread to Tajikistan sometimes in the past. Like the Persian, four-stringed setār it has two strings plus a doubled bass string in the upper octave. The term čārtār signifying a musical instrument occurs as early as the 8th/14th century in a poem by Salmān Sāvajī (Dehḵodā, s.v. cārtār), and Borhān-e qāṭeʿ (ed. Moʿīn, II, p. 609) defines čartār/čārtāra as a four-stringed tanbūr or robāb. The literal meaning and the present uses (see below) of the term čahārtār suggest that it may originally have denoted any type of instrument with four strings (cf. Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, s.v. čārtāra).

Today the term čahārtār is in use only among the Uzbeks and Tajiks of the plains (Grove’s Dictionary, pp. 417f.), where it is said to be applied to a variant of the five-stringed instrument called tanbūr by the Uzbeks and Uighurs, setār, sometimes also panjtār, by the Tajiks and the Hunzas of Karakoram. All these instru­ments are undoubtedly derived from the originally three-stringed Persian setār often depicted in minia­tures. They vary somewhat in shape and dimensions: The čahārtār, like the Central Asian tanbūr, is longer than the Persian setār (Vertkov, fig. 631), and its mul­berry-wood body is usually narrower and smaller. Its broad, high frets (parda) facilitate vibrato effects. It is played by plucking with the nail of the right forefinger, which is sometimes protected with a metal thimble.

In Afghanistan the term čahārtār is applied to the six-stringed (formerly five-stringed) Persian tār (q.v.), which belongs to a quite different family of lutes.



M. Slobin, “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics XI, 6: Central Asia, Tajiks,” in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1980, pp. 418f.

K. Vertkov, Atlas muzykal’nykh in­strumentov narodov S.S.S.R., Moscow, 1963.

(Jean During)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

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Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, p. 642