Zournas

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The Greek clarinet “zournas”

The Greek clarinet, the zournas, belongs to the family of oboe instruments with a double reed. It is regarded as the same to the ancient flute which existed since the time of Homer according to historical, philological and conjectural evidence. According to the composer Pavlos Karrer, the zournas was considered as the national flute of the Greeks until the regular clarinet took its place. In his memoirs he mentions that: “I saw them singing and dancing while playing their national flute and the tambours (daouli)”. In the whole country but especially in Macedonia there are many wall-paintings and hagiographies of the Byzantine or post-Byzantine era where the zournas and the daouli are represented. No one of the philhellenes or the foreign travelers like Pouqueville, R. Chandler or Lord Byron liked the zournas. In Foivos Anogeiannakis’ research about the traditional Greek instruments it is mentioned that: “If we take into consideration their different musical education it is very hard for those foreigners to feel the melody of the Greek folk music. Pouqueville thinks that the zournas is a terrible musical instrument”.

But when you have nothing to do with the Greek culture in general how could you not find these instruments terrible?

In Imathia and generally in Macedonia the zournas is of two types. The first one is shorter (35 cm.) and is played only in Naoussa. The second one is long (65 cm.) and is common in central and eastern Macedonia (Herakleia Serres). The longer the zournas, the deeper the sound produced.

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