Divan The Kurdish Long-necked Lute

Mehmet Erenler Master of Baglama and Divan Sazi

Mehmet Erenler Master of Baglama and Divan Sazi

Divan the Kurdish Long-necked Lute

by Peyman Nasehpour

Abstract. The divan is a long-necked lute belonging to the so-called "baglama family of musical instruments". This is an introduction to the divan which is becoming popular among Iranian Kurdish people.

Introduction. The "divan دیوان" is a long-necked lute most popular among Kurdish-speaking people in Turkey. It is becoming popular among the Kurdish-speaking people in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. On this note, we first introduce the so-called baglama family of musical instruments, and later, we discuss the divan in some detail.

Baglama family of musical instruments. The baglama family of musical instruments is a family of pear-shaped long-necked lutes having movable frets, all similar to each other but different in size. They are played by plectrums or fingertips depending on the performing style of the musician. In the following, we briefly discuss the different types of baglama.

Iranian Kurdish people, in particular, Kurdish musicians living in Bukan, Kermanshah, Mahabad, and Sanandaj cities have shown some interest in the musical instrument "divan دیوان". Note that while tanbour is quite popular in the Kermanshah province of Iran, the only long-necked lute that has been popular in Kurdish music performed in the Kurdistan province of Iran is the "tar تار". For example, the tar and other instruments were used to accompany Ali Asghar Kordestani (1881- after 1944) who was a famous vocalist singing Persian dastgah music though in the Kurdish language which was unique of its kind. Note that he recorded his vocal music while accompanied by Persian tar and other instruments in 1929 and the gramophone disks of his voice were released one year later. The instrument "oud عود" (Persian lute) has been also used in Kurdish music, for example by Arsalan Kamkar who is a member of the Kamkars Ensemble, though the use of the oud in Kurdish music of Iran is very rare. 

The etymology of the word divan. The Persian word "div دیو" which originated in the Avestan term "daeva" is a particular sort of supernatural entity with disagreeable characteristics. In the "Gathas گاتاها", the oldest texts of the Zoroastrian canon, the daevas are "wrong gods", "false gods", or "gods that are (to be) rejected". Based on this, one can imagine why in "Shahnameh شاهنامه" which is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, the name "div دیو" is used for "bad people":

تو مر دیو را مردمِ بد شناس     کسی کو ندارد ز یزدان سپاس

هرآن‌کو گذشت از رهِ مردمی     ز دیوان شُمر، مَشمُر از آدمی

Note that "divan دیوان" is a plural of "div دیو". However, a divan, also spelled as "devan" or "diwan", was also a high governmental body or its chief official in ancient Persia. For example, the phrase "divansalari دیوان‌سالاری" is still reserved for bureaucracy in today's Persian language.

Finally, let me add that the word "divan", in Perian literature, means "a collection of poems of one poet" like "Divan-e-Hafiz دیوان حافظ" which means the collection of the poems of Hafiz (world famous Persian poet). Those who are familiar with the German writer and statesman, Goethe, might have perhaps heard of his book "West-östlicher Divan".

It is still not clear to me why this large-sized baglama is called "divan sazı".


[A] Shahu Abdi: Seyed Ali Asghar Kordestani, Mahoor Music Quarterly 73, pp. 41-69, 2016. 

[F] Abolqasem Ferdowsi: Shahnameh (The Persian Book of Kings), 1010. [Republished by efforts of Jalal Khaleghi Motlagh and Translated from Persian into English by Dick Davis in 2006]

[G] Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: West-östlicher Divan. Createspace Independent Pub., 1819.

[Re] James W. Redhouse: A Turkish to English Lexicon, Librairie du Liban (New Impression, 1987), Beirut, 1890.

[Sa] Cemsid Salehpur: Türkçe Farsça Genel Sözlügü, Tehran, 1996.

[Se] Mehdi Setayeshgar: Vazhe-Name-ye-Musighi-ye-Iran Zamin, Tehran, Vol. I (1995) & Vol. II (1996).

[T] Mohammad Taghi Massoudieh: Saz-ha-ye-Iran, Zarrin-va-Simin Publishers, Tehran, 2004.

For more on the other musical instruments, see the following notes:

Persian Drums

Persian Musical Instruments 

Azerbaijani Musical Instruments 

Persian Percussion Instruments