People associate the cobzã with a famous Romanian musician from the beginning of the 19th century, Barbu Lãutaru (Barbu the fiddler). It seems that during one of his tours in Moldavia, Franz Liszt met him in the house of a rich land owner. After hearing him, Liszt told him, "My dear Barbu, you are greater than me!". Barbu Lãutarul actually played the violin, but, like all good popular musicians, he could also handle the cobzã as a melodic instrument.

Through almost two centuries, the cobzã – a plucked stringed instrument of Eastern origin related to the Turkish tamboura – has had a surprising history. First of all, it was rejected by the nobility who began to prefer European music. At the same time, it was adopted by the middle class and ordinary townspeople. Later, the cobzã travelled to the villages where rural people took it up with pleasure and played it at intimate family gatherings. Singers often played it to accompany themselves. In the early part of the century, professional musicians from villages in Wallachia and Moldavia made it their main accompanying musical instrument. But, as the cobzã Read More
People associate the cobzã with a famous Romanian musician from the beginning of the 19th century, Barbu Lãutaru (Barbu the fiddler). It seems that during one of his tours in Moldavia, Franz Liszt met him in the house of a rich land owner. After hearing him, Liszt told him, "My dear Barbu, you are greater than me!". Barbu Lãutarul actually played the violin, but, like all good popular musicians, he could also handle the cobzã as a melodic instrument.

Through almost two centuries, the cobzã – a plucked stringed instrument of Eastern origin related to the Turkish tamboura – has had a surprising history. First of all, it was rejected by the nobility who began to prefer European music. At the same time, it was adopted by the middle class and ordinary townspeople. Later, the cobzã travelled to the villages where rural people took it up with pleasure and played it at intimate family gatherings. Singers often played it to accompany themselves. In the early part of the century, professional musicians from villages in Wallachia and Moldavia made it their main accompanying musical instrument. But, as the cobzã was not very loud, it was quickly replaced by the zimbalon (tambal) and this is how the real decline of this marvellous instrument began.

You rarely see a cobzã these days. Although large national folk groups have promoted it for a considerable period, the cobzã remains an instrument for nostalgic elders or a few youngsters with a taste for a more glorious past.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Cobzã (Folk Lute)

The cobzã (folk lute)

Doina factory
Museum of the Romanian Peasant
c. 1960
Wood, metal strings
50 cm x 28 cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


Cobzã (Folk Lute) 2

The cobzã (folk lute)

Doina factory
Museum of the Romanian Peasant

Wood, metal strings
50 cm x 28 cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


The cobzã or folk lute, a cordophone instrument of the Eastern lute family, has existed in the southern and eastern provinces of Romania (Moldavia, Wallachia and southern Oltenia) for several hundred years. As early as the 16th century, it was depicted in church murals. Widespread in cities and towns up until the beginning of this century, it has gradually been replaced in traditional popular groups (tarafs) by the cimbalon (tambal) or Hungarian dulcimer.

There are very few cobzã or cobzã players today. They usually belong to large national folk groups who have taken over the instrument to "preserve" it for posterity. These groups are "customers" of a few stringed-instrument makers in northern Moldavia who still produce the instrument.

The cobzã is made from a fairly large pear-shaped soundbox that extends into a fairly short, wide, thick neck. The neck bends inwards almost at right angles. The cobzã’s eight strings are grouped in twos and tuned in a major tuning (usually D, F#, A). The player plucks the strings with a goose-feather plectrum or small comb using supple up-and-down movements of the Read More

The cobzã or folk lute, a cordophone instrument of the Eastern lute family, has existed in the southern and eastern provinces of Romania (Moldavia, Wallachia and southern Oltenia) for several hundred years. As early as the 16th century, it was depicted in church murals. Widespread in cities and towns up until the beginning of this century, it has gradually been replaced in traditional popular groups (tarafs) by the cimbalon (tambal) or Hungarian dulcimer.

There are very few cobzã or cobzã players today. They usually belong to large national folk groups who have taken over the instrument to "preserve" it for posterity. These groups are "customers" of a few stringed-instrument makers in northern Moldavia who still produce the instrument.

The cobzã is made from a fairly large pear-shaped soundbox that extends into a fairly short, wide, thick neck. The neck bends inwards almost at right angles. The cobzã’s eight strings are grouped in twos and tuned in a major tuning (usually D, F#, A). The player plucks the strings with a goose-feather plectrum or small comb using supple up-and-down movements of the right wrist.

Today, the cobzã is used as an harmonic accompanying instrument. Only a few good musicians (like Marin Cotoanþã from Wallachia, recorded here) can include two or three simple dance melodies in their repertoire. Two kinds of accompaniment have evolved for the cobzã , one in non-arpeggiated tuning and the other in figured tuning based on one of several melody-rhythm forms (tiituri).


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Cobzã: Audio

Cobzã: Audio

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiques arabes et méditerranéennes Ennejma Ezzahra, Musée de la musique, Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde, Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université d'Antananarivo, Musée ethnographique Alexandre Sènou Adande, Musée national du Mali, St. Boniface Museum, Lycée de langues étrangères Alexandre Dumas, Museum of the Romanian Peasant

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand that music is an expression in all cultures
  • Understand that the relationship between personal feelings and music transcends borders and cultures
  • Develop respect for music from a variety of cultural contexts
  • Examine traditional music practices in selected Francophone countries
  • Demonstrate geographical awareness by identifying Francophone countries
  • Be aware of the musical contributions of various cultural groups in their own community
  • Understand that all world music can be organized within a standard classification system

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