Rabab, the Arab fiddle is the earliest known bowed instrument and the parent of the medieval European rebec.
Rabab, it is said could be the oldest musical instrument around (since 8th century) and its evidences have been traced in the archeological excavation at Nangarhar, the Harrapan and Mohojendaran civilizations. This instrument may have originated either in Northern Afghanistan or Iran.
Rabab has been around for years and has evolved since. Now there are two main types or Rababs – the ones that are plucked with a striker or plectrum, and the spike fiddles played with a bow.
The Rabab has a membrane belly and, commonly, two or three strings. There is normally no fingerboard, the strings being stopped by the player’s fingers. Besides the pear shaped or boat-shaped bodies they could be flat round, trapezoidal, and rectangular shapes.
The Rebab is used in a wide variety of musical genres, because of its wide presence. It’s built and playing technique and style varies for different areas. In Southeast Asia, the Rebab is a large instrument whereas as we go further west it tends to get smaller and becomes a high-pitched instrument.
The rabab has no frets unlike the sitar but has four strings, one or two of brass and two of gut with sympathetic metal strings attached to the side. All the strings could also be of gut.
The body of Rabab, as already mentioned varies. In some parts of the world it is ornately carved, while in some it could be a simpler model with 2, 3, or 4 stringed instrument and may have a body made of half a coconut shell. The more sophisticated and evolved versions have a wooden sound box and the front part may be covered with beaten copper & goatskin in two halves.
Rabab has a easily recognizable rich thick sound, a combination of high & low tones. The Rabab has now been superseded by the Sarod in classical music performance.