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Persian ney player. Detail from a mural depicting a banquet scene with music and dance in the Qajar era. Dining room in the Abbasi Hotel , Isfahan, probably painted between 1957 and 1965.

Nay or Ney , also Nai and Nej ( Persian نِی, DMG ney , and Arabic ناي, DMG nāy  'reed, reed flute; Reed '), denotes a group of end edges flutes without a mouthpiece. They essentially consist of a tube of the pile tube that is open on both sides (botanical name Arundo donax L. ) and are played as a longitudinal flute in Central Asian music. In some of these musical traditions, ney are the only wind instruments. It has been proven that they have been played for at least 4,500 to 5,000 years. That makes them the oldest musical instruments still played in the world. The Persian and Turkish ney are mostly reserved for traditional art music.


Mouthpiece of a ney
Turkish ney with mouthpiece

The end-edge flute nāy consists only of an open tube without an actual mouthpiece , but the edges are ground to produce sound. End-edge flutes are held at an angle downwards and sometimes a little sideways when playing. The designs and played scales differ depending on the region.

The Turkish ney has mainly been equipped with a mouthpiece made of horn since the 11th century , but also made of bone , ivory or wood , today also made of plastic . It is differentiated according to purpose and material from the shepherd's flute made of turned wood kaval .

The Persian ney is common in Iran and Afghanistan and is made in various sizes from around 50 to 75 centimeters in length. It is usually made from a six-knot piece of pipe, has a mouthpiece (Persian sari ) that is usually made of brass (but in practice it is often cut from X-ray film ) and differs from the Arabic and Turkish instruments mainly in the enormous technique of sound generation as well the total of six instead of seven finger holes. The ney was praised by Rumi in the 13th century as an instrument for elevating the human soul to the divine principle of love.

The 60 to 70 centimeters long ney of Azerbaijan can be made of wood, pipe, brass or copper. It used to be a shepherd's musical instrument and is rare today. The Romanian fluier fără dop ("without mouthpiece") are held diagonally downwards and a little sideways when playing. The fluier dobrogean, also caval dobrogean, ("Dobruja flute"), consists of a plant tube with six finger holes at the top and a thumb hole at the bottom.

In folk music in the Maghreb , the Arabic form of the nay is known as gasba or guesba , among other things . The instrument with six, rarely seven to nine holes at the top and a thumb hole at the bottom is a popular instrument with cattle herders and is used in the ceremonies of Sufi brotherhoods together with the frame drum Bendir . A corresponding longitudinal flute in the Arab countries of the Middle East with a lower range is played only in folk music schabbaba .

The narh ( nar ) of the Pakistani province of Sindh , like the nel of Balochistan, has adopted the name, play style and form of the ney . The 60 to 100 centimeters long narh occupies the eastern border of the distribution region.

Style of play

Mevlevi dancers (1887), two ney players in the foreground
A set of different neys exhibited in the National Museum of Ethnology in Cairo
Turkish ney with six tone holes on the front and a thumb hole opposite, with a mouthpiece ("başpare")

Since the required tuning of the nay depends on the oriental tone system used ( maqam or dastgah ), it is built in different lengths and thus in different pitches, but also at different intervals. Many nay players therefore have a whole set of different flutes, which usually consists of six flutes.

The nay (with the exception of the Iranian variant) is blown directly at the end of the open pipe. The pitch is adjusted by covering and opening holes with your fingers with forked handles, i.e. H. not opening consecutively from bottom to top, generated. As a characteristic peculiarity of this type of blowing and flute, the pitch can also be influenced by changing the oral cavity and the lips without changing the finger position, up to about a whole step up or down. This allows for a variety of nuances. Most nay are held at an angle (to the left or right) in front of the mouth and blown so that the airflow hits the opposite edge of the tube opening. Different octaves are created in an overblowing technique by blowing in different degrees of intensity.

Today, the nay plays an important role both in the classical music of the cultures mentioned and in modern “pan-Arab” pop music. Their existence is up to the 3rd century BC. In the Egyptian cultural area, for the Assyrian up to the 5th century BC Proven.

Their sound, warm to penetrating, depending on the octave, is usually perceived as plaintive or wistful. Just as the pipe was cut from its "home", the reed bed, its sound symbolizes the longing of the soul of the spiritually seeking person, separated from solitude, for their original home. In music, mainly of the Turkish Sufi orders ( Tariqas ) ( e.g. the Mevlevis and Jscherrahis ), it plays a central role. It is therefore also called "the extended breath of God" by the Sufis.

The instrument should not be confused with the Romanian pan flute nai or the Turkish short oboe mey .

The pitches of the nay

As standard there are flutes in seven pitches, which have the following names in Arabic:

  • 1. Rāst راست (C)
  • 2. Dukāh دوكاه (D)
  • 3. Būsalīk بوسليك (E)
  • 4. Ǧahārkāh جهاركاه (F)
  • 5. Nawā نوا (G)
  • 6. Ḥuseini حسيني (A)
  • 7. 'Aǧam عجم (Bb)

In Turkish they have the following names:

  • 1. Bolâhenk (C)
  • 2. Dâvud (D)
  • 3. Şah (E)
  • 4. Mansur (F)
  • 5. Kız (G)
  • 6. Yıldız (A)
  • 7. Sip load (Bb)

Well-known ney players (selection)

  • Nayeb Asadollah (19th century), Iran
  • Nava'i, disciple of Asdollah
  • Niyazi Sayın (* 1927), Turkey
  • Aka Gündüz Kutbay (1935–1979)
  • Hassan Kasa'i (* 1928), Iran, student of Nava'i
  • Hossein Omoumi (* 1944), Iran
  • Ahmed Şahin (* 1964), Turkey
  • Aziz Şenol Filiz, Turkey
  • Sadreddin Özçimi (* 1955), Turkey
  • Pasha Hanjani (* 1978), Iran
  • Yavari, Iran
  • Halil Ibrahim Dogan, Turkey

Other forms with similar names

The ney ( nej ) of Uzbekistan , Tajikistan, and Karakalpakistan is a transverse flute that can be made of different materials, often indicated by a prefix in the name. The agach-nai is a wooden flute, the garau-nai a bamboo flute, the misnai a flute made of sheet iron and the brindgzhi-nai a brass flute .

The Romanian pan flute nai consists of at least 20 to over 30 pipes closed at the bottom, which are connected to each other in a slight arc.


  • Jean During, Zia Mirabdolbaghi, Dariush Safvat: The Art of Persian Music . Mage Publishers, Washington DC 1991, ISBN 0-934211-22-1 , pp. 44 f. and 134-137.
  • Scheherazade Qassim Hassan, Jean During: Ney. In: Grove Music Online , 2001
  • Nasser Kanani: Traditional Persian art music: history, musical instruments, structure, execution, characteristics. 2nd revised and expanded edition, Gardoon Verlag, Berlin 2012, pp. 171–173.
  • Lloyd Miller: Persian Music. Salt Lake City (Utah) 1991, p. 31.
  • Ella Zonis: Classical Persian Music. An Introduction. Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1973, pp. 162-164

Web links

Commons : Nay  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Nasser Kanani: The Persian Art Music. History, instruments, structure, execution, characteristics (Mussighi'e assil'e irani). Friends of Iranian Art and Traditional Music, Berlin 1978, esp. P. 21 f.
  2. Ella Zonis, p. 164
  3. ^ Nasser Kanani: Traditional Persian Art Music: History, Musical Instruments, Structure, Execution, Characteristics. 2nd revised and expanded edition, Gardoon Verlag, Berlin 2012, p. 172