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By "TBL"

What are Tamburitzas or Tamburitza instruments?

TAMBURITZA/TAMBURICA is rooted in the word TAMBURAS (Serbian or Croatian)and are a family of fretted steel acoustic stringed instruments used primarily in Southeastern Europe or areas of The Balkan States (The former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia).The instruments are played in other Eastern European areas and groups as well. The word “TAMBURA” originates from the Turkish word “TAMBUR”a similar type of stringed instrument. “TAMBURA” may have also originated from “TAMBURU” a Persian word for “string”.Another possibility is a derivation from the Buddhist God “TAMBURU”-who according to Buddhist Mythology is the protection of music and musicians. Others believe that “TAMBURA” may also have come from the ancient Sumerian “PAN-TUR” meaning “SMALL-BOW”. From “PAN-TUR” came “PANDURA” and then “TAMBURA.”

It is believed historically that the tamburitza goes back more than 5000 years to Persia and the Assyrians of that time. Tamburitza instruments have a relationship to the 14th and 15th century Turkish long necked lutes.

The first recorded appearance of tamburitza in the Balkan area was Bosnia approximately 500 years ago.(Following the Ottoman Turkish Empire invasion). Historical and poetry records the existence of tamburitzas in the 16th century.
Walter Kolar-Tamburitza Association Hall Of Fame Recipient and former director emeritus of The Duquesne University Tamburitzans gives what he feels is the earliest idea of when the tamburitza instruments came to be:

“In the year 591 A.D. the Byzantine King Mauricius was contesting the Roman Empire in Thrace. Here he captured three Slavs . To the astonishment of Mauricius he found these Slavs carrying with them only a Cithara. With surprise he asked these Slavs “What was that in their hands”? They replied “We are Slavs and we live along the Western Seas (Adriatic). We play the Cithara because in our country there is no iron and we live in peace. We do not know the meaning of war bugles.”

As stated earlier the first known appearance of the tamburitza was in Bosnia and from there it quickly spread to the regions of Slavonia, and Backa. Tamburitza heritage was passed down from generation to generation.

The first known amateur tamburitza orchestra of six tamburitza players was formed in 1847 by Pajo Kolaric who was also the first well known tamburitza composer. In 1872 a student of Kolaric-Mijo Majer formed the first tamburitza choir. The first tamburitza concert was given by Ivan Sladicek with a group of four players in 1879. Majer was the first composer and arranger of concert works for tamburitza orchestras.

Soon after-the formation of amateur tamburitza orchestras spread throughout Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia , Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, and Austria.
The tamburitza instruments are related to the Turkish lute, Russian balalaika, Ukrainian Bandura, Italian mandolin and the Greek bazouki.

The first known American tamburitza ensemble as a result of massive immigration from Eastern Europe to North America occurred between the years 1870 and 1910. The Hoffer Family Tamburitza Orchestra of Steelton Pennsylvania was active in the 1890s. Ilar Spiletek of Dubrovnik founded various tamburitza orchestras in San Francisco beginning in 1902.

By the 1920s tamburitza music was well established in American- Slavic communities and The Duquesne University Tamburitzans of Pennsylvania was founded in 1937. It is the only United States university at present with a scholarship program and global concept music program that is developed around tamburitzan instruments. Its students travel globally with their creative and inspiring music concerts and programs to the delight of fans wherever they appear. Duquesne continues to entertain, preserve and elevate tamburitza music throught the talents of its administrators, leadership, instructors, and outstanding student performers.

On a personal note Empire State College (www.esc.edu) in New York has given college credit for life learnings and as part of my degree program I received the equivalent of several courses worth of college credit for writing my life studies tamburitza education and experience into course equivalents with the recommendation and expertise of Vlad Popovich, Duquesne University Tamburitzan graduate and member of The Balkan Serenaders founded by Tillie Klaich). I have no doubt that students pursuing careers and education in various fields of study today (at participating colleges and universities with life studies credit programs) have the opportunity to claim their life learning education in tamburitza music as course credit).

Today at Duquesne University The Tillie Klaich Endowment program has been established in honor of his outstanding contributions to tamburitza music. The scholarship program was developed to help finance students education while participating in the tamburitzan program at Duquesne.

www.tamburitzans.duq.edu/ (With many thanks for the efforts of Vlad Popovich and Alex Machaskee for making this program possible) . The Eastern European Folklife Center (EEFC) www.mindspring.com/~ginbirch/eefc has also had programs where partial college credit (by participating college programs) may be received as part of camp participation. and study.

The Tamburitza Association Of America was established in 1966/67by Lou Cavic www.tamburitza.org/TAA/ In later years from 1975 to 2000 under the superb management of Mr. Alex Machaskee (TAA Hall Of Fame) the TAA has grown in stature and prominence with several thousand members throughout the United States and Canada. The TAA has a list of 185+ groups nationally and the names of 600+ performers.

The TAA site also has a complete list of Hall Of Fame Inductees, Presidential Award recipients and a Scroll Of Recognition for deceased tamburashi. The TAA is working on biographical information and more. Today Mr. Rich Krilich is the President of the TAA which has an executive board of directors and board members to govern its program. Annually the TAA sponsors a Tamburitza Extravganza with approximately 25 groups featured giving concert performances and much more. It is also where they give out their annual awards to those tamburitzans for outstanding contributions made.

Other tamburitza organizations in the US are the Arizona Slavic Music Association, The Croatian Fraternal Union and the Slavic Cultural Center. The Croatian Fraternal Union has a large well organized tamburitza program within the United States and Croatia has tamburitza festivals on an annual basis. Only within recent years has mid-west tamburitza mini-festivals become organized and more as tamburitza music continues to evolve and grow within the US.

Today it is said in the United States that tamburitza music is claimed to be the single most prevalent ethnic instrument transplanted to America from a foreign land.


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