Tamburica, Tamburitsa, Tamburizza, Tambura, Tamburica Orchestra

TAMBURICA, the Instrument

A tamburica (tahm-boor-EET-sah) “little tambur” is one name for a musical instrument of the tanbur family (see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/tanbur-family-of-instruments/ ). Over time it has evolved to become the Croatian and north Serbian national instrument, and expanded into a whole family of related instruments that combine to become tamburica orchestras.

Some legends have it that the tamburica arrived in the Balkans via the Ottoman occupation of Bosnia. Here’s a Bosnian Muslim playing a simple 2-string tamburica in a traditional style.
More scholars agree that the tamburica was introduced by the Greeks (Byzantines), who ruled the area hundreds of years before the Turks. Here’s a 3-string Greek tambouras or saz. Wikipedia says “Until the Great Migration of the Serbs at the end of the 17th century, the type of tamboura most frequently used in Croatia and Serbia had a long neck and two or three strings (sometimes doubled).[citation needed] Similar string instruments are the Czech bratsche, Turkish saz and the sargija, çiftelia and bouzouki.
A more modern (musically and technically) 4-string tamburica.
Another 4-string, yet more modern music.
By the mid 1800’s, the tamburica had evolved into its current 5-stringed, fixed-fret form.
Joso Stric in Lika, Croatia
Marko Jovanovic in Sremske Mitrovice, Serbia

TAMBURICA, the Orchestra

Quoting Wikipedia: “Pajo Kolarić (1821–1876) was an early Croatian composer for tamburitza. Kolari formed the first amateur tamburitza orchestra in Osijek in 1847… The variety of tamburica shapes known today were developed in Croatia and Serbia by a number of indigenous contributors near the end of the 19th century.[1]

A basic tamburica combo.
  • The oval shaped ‘Prim’ or ‘Bisernica’ is the smallest of the five and plays the melody and harmony in the highest octaves.
  • The tenor guitar shaped ‘Brac’ or ‘Basprim’ is the next largest and plays the melody and harmony in the mid range octaves.
  • The Guitar shaped ‘Celo’ is approximatly the size of a folk guitar and plays counter melody in the lower octaves, much like a cello in a symphony.
  • The ‘Bugarija’ or ‘Kontra’ is simlar in size and shape of the celo and plays only chords for counter rythm.
  • The double bass shaped ‘Bas’ plays the bass part of the rythm in the lowest octaves. Like the other instuments in the tamburitza family, the Bas is fretted, has wire strings, and is played with a pick.
The area where tamburica is played
This extended performance has good examples of what each instrument can do.
1976 TV tribute.
Tamburitza orchestras often include accordians and/or violins.

An excellent source of tamburitza music in the USA is Festival Records, still run (since 1949) by John Filcich. http://www.mermaidsofvenice.com/festival/tamburitza.html. From the website: “The tamburitza family of plucked-string instruments comes from the Pannonian region of Southeast Europe, flourishing today among Serbs, Croats, and fellow enthusiasts. Basic components of a tamburitza orchestra are the bisernica (1 double string, 3 single) or prim (2 double strings, 2 single), brac (2 double strings, 2 single), bugarija (1 double string, 3 single), čelović (2 double strings, 2 single), and bas or berda (bass fiddle with 4 strings).

LADO, Croatia’s national dance toupe, always has a tamburica orchestra on stage.
American Zagreb Jr. Tamburitzans, Cleveland, Ohio
It’s not just performing groups enjoying tamburica! St. George Croatian Home Lodge 66
Youngstown, Ohio.
On the Pannonian plain, tambura orchestras are taken seriously! Subotica, Serbia. For more on Pannonia, see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/culture/ethnicity-history-geography/pannonnia-carpathian-basin-hungarian-plain/
Zagreb, Croatia

TAMBURICA – Beyond Pannonia

The tamburica orchestra has become a global phenomenon, like ukulele orchestras.

As the above map shows, tamburica popularity extends into Hungary, where it is sometimes adapted to more Hungarian music.
A current trend in tamburica is tango music. There are tango festivals in Belgrade and Novi Sad.
Russian style
American Big Band as played in Germany by tamburica!
Broadway musical ‘Sweet Charity”.

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