‘Arṭaba [‘arṭab, ‘arṭāba, ‘urṭuba]
- Christian Poché
[‘arṭab, ‘arṭāba, ‘urṭuba]
Abyssinian drum, lyre, or lute of the early Islamic era. The word sounds foreign to the language and has no known derivation in it, but an Ethiopian origin remains plausible. Some Arab lexicographers have identified the instrument as an Abyssinian drum, similar to the kūba, but there is no solid evidence for this. Others have identified it as a ṭunbūr, which might be a lyre or a long-necked lute. Evidence presented by the 9th-century historian al-Hamdān (Iklīl, viii, 160–65) suggests a lyre as the more likely, but the possibility of a lute cannot be rejected. Since the classical era (9th and 10th centuries) the instrument has been classed with the ‘ūd, as have other types such as the kinnāra, barbaṭ, muwattar, and mizhar. Andalusian writers specify the quality of the instrument’s strings, which they call maḥbad (‘bow string or string of a wool-carder’), but Abbasid authors are more general in their descriptions. The instrument was finally integrated into the lute family and the name transformed by metathesis into ‘atraba’, as mentioned by the 16th-century writer Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythamī (...