Tamburica (pron.: // or //) or Tamboura (Bosnian: Tamburica, Croatian: Tamburica, Serbian: Тамбурица, meaning "little Tamboura"; Hungarian: Tambura; Greek: Ταμπουράς, sometimes written tamburrizza) refers to any member of a family of long-necked lutes popular in Eastern and Central Europe, particularly Hungary, Serbia (especially Vojvodina), Slovenia, Croatia (especially Slavonia). It is also known in Burgenland. All took their name and some characteristics from the Persian tanbur but also resemble the mandolin, in that its strings are plucked and often paired. The frets may be moveable to allow the playing of various modes.
There is little reliable data showing how the tamboura entered Central Europe. It already existed during Byzantine Empire, and the Greeks and Slavs used to call "pandouras" (see pandoura) or "tambouras" the ancestor of modern bouzouki. The instrument was referred to as θαμπούριν, thambourin in the Byzantine Empire (confer Digenis Akritas, Escorial version, vv. 826-827, ed. and transl. Elizabeth Jeffrey).
It is said it was probably brought by the Turks to Bosnia, from where the instrument spread further with migrations of Šokci and Bunjevci above the Sava River to all parts of Croatia, Serbia and further. The modern tamburica shape was developed in Hungary (Budapest) in the end of 19th century.
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). Similar string instruments are the Czech bratsche, Turkish saz and the sargija, çiftelia and bouzouki.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia (especially the Pannonian plain: Slavonia, Serbia), Slovenia and Hungary the tamboura (often referred to by the diminutive tamburica) is the basic instrument of traditional folk music, usually performed by small orchestras of three to ten members, though large orchestras capable of playing even classical pieces arranged for tamboura also exist.
The number of strings on a tamburica varies and it may have single or double-coursed strings or a mixture of both. Double-coursed strings are tuned in unison. The basic forms of tamburica are (Serbo-Croatian name is given with Hungarian name in the parenthesis, if different):
There is a view that the first tambura orchestra was formed in Hungary in the 19th century. The instruments' names came from the Hungarian names of the musical instruments of the symphony orchestra ("cselló" meaning cello, "bőgő" meaning contrabass) and from the Hungarian Gipsy bands (bőgős, prím, kontra). These orchestras soon spread to what is now Bosnia, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The tamburica is made in three parts; body, neck and head. The body (sound box) was pear-shaped until the middle of the nineteenth century CE, and was built by scooping out the log. Today they are mostly built in the way of the guitar and even the smallest, the bisernica, has a constructed box. The fingerboard has frets (Serbo-Croatian: prečnice, krsnice, pragovi). The head (Serbo-Croatian: čivijište, Hungarian: fej) usually had a sharpened form, which can be found still on some bisernicas, but the "snail" design later got the supremacy.
Tamburica orchestras can have various formats from a trio to a large orchestra. A basic trio consists of a prim, a kontra and a čelo. Larger orchestras also have bas-prims and bass-prim-terc tamburas.
The first major composer for the tamburica was Pajo Kolarić, who formed the first amateur tamburica orchestra in Osijek in 1847. Kolarić's student Mijo Majer formed the first tamburica choir led by a conductor, the "Hrvatska Lira", in 1882. Croatian composers for the tamburica include Franjo Ksaver Kuhač, Siniša Leopold and Julije Njikoš. The instrument is associated with Croatian nationalism. Vinko Žganec, an associate of Béla Bartók, collected more than 19,000 Croatian folk songs.
The Grand Tamburica Orchestra of Radio Novi Sad was founded in 1951 under the leadership of Sava Vukosavljev, who composed and arranged many pieces for tamburica orchestra and published a comprehensive book Vojvođanska tambura ("The Tambura of Vojvodina"). There are also orchestras of Radio Belgrade and Radio Podgorica, Radio Kikinda etc. Janika Balaž, a member of the Radio Novi Sad orchestra who also had his own octet, was a popular performer whose name became synonymous with the tamburica. Famous tamburica orchestras of Serbia include those of Maksa Popov and Aleksandar Aranicki.
The village of Schandorf in Austria, whose Croatian-speaking inhabitants are descended from 16th Century Croatian immigrants, is the home of a tamburica orchestra, a reflection of its ethnic heritage. The orchestra performs frequently, often outside the village.
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