The musical instruments of Badakhshan in many respects are unique and diverse. The set of instruments includes; strings,bow,wind and percussion instruments.
The Pamiri Rubab:
The rubab is the archetypical instrument of the Pamiri region. Similar forms are also encountered in Tibet, Hunza, and Xingjian. It is 70-75cm in length and is carved from a piece of apricot wood. Its sounding board consisting of thick horse or goat skin. The six strings are made of lamb gut, nylon or silk, and are plucked with a wooden plectrum. The rubab's range is two octaves. It's shape emulates the human body: the sounding board like a head, two protruding things from the side like arms, and the fingerboard like legs. Its symbolic meaning is related to the prophetic cycle and cosmological doctrine of the micro- and macrocosm of the Ismaili adepts of the Panjtan, the "Five" (i.e. the holy family of Islam).
There is a legend relating the heavenly origin of the rubab to Archangel Gabriel. The legend tells that when the strings of the rubab first sounded, the soul was so intoxicated by the music that it came down from the celestial world and entered a human body. Finding this new location pleasant, it refused to leave. After the second sounding of the rubab, the soul returned to its origin in ecstasy.
The Pamiri Nay:
The Pamiri nay is an end-blown flute made of wood or, in Eastern Badakhshan, eagle bone. It is used for solo melodies as well as with orchestras and for vocal accompaniment. One of the main uses of the nay is for the most original form of the traditional performance falaki. These are brief melodic sessions which can express complaints against destiny, the injustice of heaven or exile to distant places, and sentiments such as the sorrow of a mother separated from her daughter or the sorrow of a lover torn from her/his beloved.
Another typical Pamiri instrument is the setar, a large, long-necked lute with a sounding box, which is carved from the trunk of the mulberry tree. Originally, the setor had three strings, which were later tripled. The tuning of the strings varies depending on the pieces which are to be played. In contrast to the rubab, the setor originally had thirteen frets. Mr. M. Tavalloev, a famous setor player from Badakhshan, added another thirteen frets. The setor now has twenty-six frets, providing a chromatic scale which covers three octaves. With the exception of metal-stringed setars, all lutes have gut or nylon strings. The setar is usually plucked by a metal plectrum; some masters use five plectrums, one on each finger, during performance.
The ghidjak, or violin, is the only bow instrument found in the Pamirs. The ghidjak is very popular throughout Central Asia. Its sound box is metal or wooden, and it has three or four metal strings and a neck made of willow, apricot or mulberry wood. It is tuned in intervals of fourths.
The Pamirian Tanbur:
The Pamiri tanbur is considered to be a more solemn instrument. Its tone is deeper and it's tuning more complex than that of the rubab. The tanbur is 80-85cm in length, and is carved from the trunk of a mulberry or apricot tree. Its sounding board is made of goat or sheep skin. Its unfretted fingerboard is hollow to create a more powerful voice, and its top is shaped like a half moon. It has seven nylon strings and an eighth-string, which duplicates the highest note.
The daf, a Pamiri drum, is the most common percussion instrument in the Pamirs. It is made of a willow wood frame covered with calf or goat skin. It has a circular frame with standard size of 45cm. The daf is played by men and women at weddings, celebrations and other religious occasions. Traditionally, between six and nine women come to welcome the family of the young bridegroom with their songs at weddings. On these occasions, three kinds of dafs are used. The main daf, or gardounak, introduces the first part of the performances; the second daf, or zibodaf, joins in when the gardounak's part ends. Last comes the third daf, or davoul, which plays a shorter, more rhythmic part. After the individual parts, all three dafs play the rhythm together loudly, so that the metal rings inserted in the frames jingle.
The playing technique is different for men and women. Women play standing up, holding the instrument in the left hand and playing with the palm or fingers of the right hand, while the men set the daf vertically in front of them and play with both hands.