technique
Gallery
A voice modifier or swazzle used in traditional puppetry of Iran. Photo courtesy of Poupak Azimpour

Safir

A voice modifier or swazzle used in traditional puppetry of Iran. The safir is inserted into the puppeteer’s mouth to alter the sound and give voice to the puppet. The whistling, chirping, otherworldly sound of the safir distorts the human voice to create a puppet language in the kheimeh shab bazi, the puppet plays Pahlavan Kachal (in Fars) and Bibi jan (in Kurdistan).

The word “safir” means whistle or a continuous sound or the sound of birds. Because of this chirping sound, Pahlavan Kachal is also called jiji viji and the puppet play is named Bibi jan after the high-pitched, “womanish” sound produced by the safir.

The safir, about 1 centimetre wide and around 2 centimetres long, traditionally consisted of two thin gold sheets but brass or another metal is currently used. A piece of cloth or hide is placed between the two metal sheets and the three pieces are bound with string.

(See Iran.)