Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Yoke.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Country: Egypt, Nubia & Ethiopia.
Region: & North Africa & Horn of Africa
Description: The kissar [also spelled kissir] Gytarah barbaryeh, the ancient Nubian lyre, this musical instrument is still in use in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The 19th-century description of the five string kissar conforms to that of a tanbura. Though it is smaller, about 70 cm in length. Some examples of the kissar from Central Africa are held there, at Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. They show the use of animal horns and monkey sculls forming the body.
Travellers notes from the 18th to 19th century document a lyre like instrument ‘I saw among the Barbari from Dongola, a sort of … five stringed harp in their language they call kisser, five string tambura of the Arabs C. Niebuhr voyage in Arabia, Amsterdam, 1776] I, 145.
Construction: It consists of a body having instead of the traditional tortoise-shell back, a shallow, round bowl of maple wood the Nubians call “goussa”. The goussa or sound bowl covered with a membrane of goat skin completing the body, in which are three small round sound-holes.
The arms, set through the soundboard at points distant about the third of the diameter from the circumference, have the familiar fan shape. Five gut strings, knotted round the bar and raised from the soundboard by means of a bridge tailpiece similar to that in use on the modern guitar, are plucked by means of a plectrum by the right hand for the melody, while the left hand sometimes twangs some of the strings as a soft drone accompaniment.
Citations: Bibliography: J. B. De La Borde: Essai sur la musique ancienne et modern [Paris, 1780 / R1972] i, 382 ; Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music Volume Two, G-O Pages 437 ; Chisholm, Hugh, ed. 1911. “Kissar”. Encyclopedia Britannica. 15 [11th ed.]. Cambridge University Press. p. 837 ;