Most popular in the 13th-16th centuries, then largely replaced by the viol and violin, yet this beautiful wooden gut- and nylon-stringed instrument has a distinctive sound and still appears in some music today. It may have even had parallel form in the 9th century Byzantine culture as the Arab rebab, the small, lightweight usually round-bodied rebec has been played on the shoulder like a violin, but also upright and between the knees like a cello. It has variously had between one and five, but mostly commonly three, with intervals of a fifth like the violin, at various tunings, but has a slightly different timbre to its nearest musical cousin.
It was particularly popular in in Arab classical music and Morocco, favourite instrument in the tea houses of the Ottoman Empire, as well as in formal western compositions, and yet can be found in folk music around the world. Here are a few examples.
First, here's a sample from a medieval dance piece played by instrumentalist Ernst Stolz:
And here's another piece, a Hungarian dance dating back to the13th century, inspired by St. Elisabeth of Thuringia, played on violin and rebec by Susanne Ansorf:
Perhaps the greatest living rebec player is the Bulgarian virtuoso, Rosen Genkov, stirring up heartstrings with his playing and singing in this demonstration of traditional folk music:
The rebec featured regularly on the folk albums of sisters Shirley and Dolly Collins. Here's a sample, the song Geordie from 1970s Love, Death & The Lady, with the instrument played by Eleanor Sloan.
The rebec plays a part in many medieval music groups, such as the American ensemble group Hesperus, with player Tina Chancey:
The instrument also appears in other guises and styles. On the Brazilian dance group Mestre Ambrósio, fronted by the singer-songwriter Sergio Veloso, also known as Siba, it appears on many songs of a more upbeat nature, such as on Mestre's self-titled album of 1996:
The rebec is popular in the north-east of Brazil, with notable players who are also violinists, such as Antônio Nóbrega:
And lastly, more recently, and more widely known, a rebec is played by Shira Kammen, American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. on the song Kingfisher by harpist and singer Joanna Newsom from her 2010 album Have One On Me:
There are other rebec players and pieces out there, but do any more come to mind? Feel free to share other examples in songs or instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts in comments below. You can also get in touch the contact page, and also visit us on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. and Song Bar Instagram. Please subscribe, follow and share.