Kobza

     The kobza (Ukrainian: кобза) is a Ukrainian folk music instrument of the lute family (Hornbostel-Sachs classification number 321.321-5+6), a relative of the Central European mandora. The term kobza however, has also been applied to a number of other Eastern European instruments distinct from the Ukrainian kobza.

   Construction

     The Ukrainian kobza was traditionally gut-strung, with a body hewn from a single block of wood. Instruments with a staved assembly also exist.The kobza has a medium length neck which may or may not have tied-on frets, which were usually made of gut. It was single-strung (sometimes also double-strung) and the strings were played with fingertips or occasionally with a plectrum threaded through a ring placed on the middle finger.

   History

     The term kobza is of Turkic origin and is related to the terms kobyz and komuz, thought to have been introduced into the Ukrainian language in the 13th century with the migration of a sizable group of Turkic people from Abkhazia settling in the Poltava region. It was usually played by a bard or minstrel known as a kobzar (occasionally in earlier times a kobeznik), who accompanies his recitation of epic poetry called duma in Ukrainian.

     The Kobza acquired widespread popularity in the 16th century, with the advent of the Hetmanate (Cossack state). From the 17th century the term bandura was often used as a synonym for the kobza. The term bandura has a Latin pedigree and reflects the growing contacts the Ukrainian people had with Western Europe, particularly in the courts of Polish gentry. Ukrainian musicians that found employment at various German courts in the 18th century were called "pandoristen". One of these musicians, Timofiy Bilohradsky, was a lute student of Sylvius Leopold Weiss and later became a noted lute virtuoso, a court lutenist, active in Königsberg and St.Petersburg.

     In the 18th century the kobza's upper range was extended with an addition of several unstopped treble strings, known as "prystrunky", meaning: strings on the side, in a psaltery-like set-up. In the early in the 20th century the kobza went into disuse. Currently there is a revival of authentic folk kobza playing in Ukraine, due to the efforts of the "Kobzar Guild" in Kiev and Kharkiv. The kobza revival however, is impeded by the absence of museum specimens: with the exceptions of a unique surviving 17th century kobza at the Muzeum Narodowe in Kraków and a 19th century kobza, which has been refurbished as a bandura, at the Museum of Theater and Cinematography, in Kiev; almost all evidence is entirely iconographic and some photos from the 19th century.
      Etymology

     The term kobza first appeared in Polish chronicles dating back to 1331 CE. In popular parlance the term Kobza was applied to any regional lute-like instrument used by court musicians in Central-Eastern Europe. The term was occasionally used for other musical instruments of several unrelated types. The term kobza was also used in historical sources and folk song as a synonym of bandura in the 19th and early 20th century in Ukraine. The term was occasionally used for the bagpipes and occasionally for the hurdy-gurdy in Eastern Poland, Belarus and the Volyn region in Ukraine.

The unfretted "starosvitska" bandura (a variant of gusli, developed ca. 1700 appropriated the bandura name, but was commonly referred to as a kobza, because of the name's historical cachet while the Romanian kobza or cobza is a different type of plucked lute.

    Other instruments known as kobza

     The term kobza was also used as a synonym in historical sources for bandura in the 19th and early 20th century in Ukraine and was even used for bagpipes and occasionally for the hurdy-gurdy in Eastern Poland, Belarus and the Volyn region in Ukraine. Eventually the unfretted "starosvitska" bandura (a variant of gusli, developed ca. 1800) appropriated the bandura name, but was commonly referred to as a kobza, because of the name's historical cachet. The Romanian kobza or cobza is a different type of plucked lute.