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The sound of the Pamirs

Music and dance in the Pamirs are inextricably linked with Ismaili Islam. The performance of both vocal and instrumental genres is intended as an act of devotion, and many songs are linked with specific rituals or prayers.

Traditional Pamiri instruments loosely fit into three categories: wooden or ceramic drums, stringed lutes, and flutes. Drums known as tavlak and daf provide rhythmic accompaniment to both songs and instrumental pieces. The rubob (of which many variations exist), sitor, komuz and tanbur are all multi-stringed instruments that are plucked, while the strings of a ghijak are played with a bow. The nay is a wooden flute, not dissimilar in appearance to a recorder or penny whistle.

A strong singing voice is prized, and both men and women will sing solo or as part of a group. Melancholic songs in minor keys describe feelings of separation and loss, while the Persian ghazal genre explores the highs and lows of being in love.

The cultural wing of AKDN has made numerous recordings of Pamiri music, samples of which are available online at