The Dotar, Dutar or Dutor (literally meaning "two strings" in persian), comes from a family of long-necked lutes, closely related to Setar and Tanbur, and could be found throughout Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, the Middle East and as far as in Eastern Turkistan or Xinjiang, China. In the today Republic of Turkmenistan, the Dutar is considered as a national instrument and is the instrument par excellence of the Bakhshis.
Its ancestor is probably the "Tanbur of Khorasan" as depicted by Farabi (10th century) in his essay Kitab AI-Musiqi Al-Kabir. Marâqi (15th century) in his Jâme Ol Alhân also describes two types of two-string Tanbur : one which he calls the Tanbur of Shirvân (a region in Azerbaijan) and another which is the Turkish Tanbur. The name of Dotar / Dutor is used for the first time at the beginning of the 16th century in Huseyni’s Treatise of Samarkand.
In Iran, the Dotar is played mainly in the north and the east of Khorasan as well as among the Turkmen of Gorgân and Gonâbâd. The instrument remains the same but its dimensions and the number of its ligatures vary slightly from region to region.
The Dotar (Iranian pronounciation) / Dutor (Uzbek/Tajik/Uighur pronounciation) or Dutar (Afghan pronunciation) has different forms as it has many different ways of pronounciation for its name. The Iranian Khorasan Dotar or that of the Turkmen Bakhshis are very similar. They have a very thin neck and a heavy compact sound box, but differ in the fact that the Khorsan Dotar has gut frets while the Turkmen steel frets. Both use steel strings. The Uighur Dutar is the largest in form (105 cm of string length) and still uses silk strings creating a bass, and incredibly delightlful and noble sound. The Uzebk/Tajik Dutor remains in between of the two formers in terms of size. The Hazara Dutar of Dambora is also a middle-sized instrument differing from other Dutars for being fretless. Two types of woods are used in the making of the Dotar. For the Iranian or Turkmen Dotars the pear-shaped sound box is carved out of a single block of mulberry wood while the Uzbek/Tajik and Uighur Dutors use ribs of mulberry wood. Its neck is made of either the wood of the apricot or the walnut tree. The sound board is also made of mulberry wood while contrary to other traditions such as the Uighur or Turkmen, Uzbeks generally « cook » the wood before using it.
The Dotar is tuned in fourth or fifth intervals and the frets are placed in a chromatic scale of twelve semitones. It is a perfect instrument to accompany folk songs, another instrument such as the Tanbur (which has generally a higher pitched sound like the Iranian Setar) or perfrm solo pieces of the classical repertoires (the Uzbek/ Tajik Shash Maqom or the Uighur Onikki Maqom).
The technique for playing the Dotar consists of plucking the strings without a plectrum, following a descending and an ascending movement which involves the index and often several other fingers. The music is ornamented by the rapid repetition of notes (tremolo). Often, in order to fortify the fingers, they are soaked in henna. The left hand at the same time needs much strength and dexterity to perform on the long neck of the instrument (particularly on the Uzbek/Tajik and Uighur Dutors). The thumb of the left hand is also sometimes used to create more colorful atmosphere by using octave, fourth or fifth intervals on the second string.
Uyghur Dutar performed by Abdurrehim Heyit
Turkmen Bakhshi Dutar
Khorasan (Iran) Dotar performed by the late Haj Ghorban Soleimani
one kind of Afghan Dutar : Hazara Dutar Dambora