The tambal was reported in Romania at the end of 18th century as part of a chamber music ensemble in the court of the Wallachian prince, Alexandru Ipsilanti. Later documents no longer refer to it since, as it often happens, the moment it became popular the instrument was no longer of any interest to the intelligentsia. Nonetheless, after 1877, the year of Romanian independence, which included Wallachia and Moldavia, the tambal was seen in sketches and photos of national music groups sent abroad as ambassadors for the Romanian nation.

Later ethnological literature and documents tell us that towards the end of the century, the zimbalon was also played in city and rural taraf (traditional music groups). In the taraf, the zimbalon replaced the older cobzã (a kind of folk lute). The soft-sounding cobzã no longer met the needs of village communities. But the little tambal would soon meet the same fate. Around the time of the Second World War, the accordion substituted or doubled for the zimbalon. In its turn, the accordion is now giving way to the electronic organ...

Nonetheless, the tambal has not completely died out. It can still be heard at count Read More

The tambal was reported in Romania at the end of 18th century as part of a chamber music ensemble in the court of the Wallachian prince, Alexandru Ipsilanti. Later documents no longer refer to it since, as it often happens, the moment it became popular the instrument was no longer of any interest to the intelligentsia. Nonetheless, after 1877, the year of Romanian independence, which included Wallachia and Moldavia, the tambal was seen in sketches and photos of national music groups sent abroad as ambassadors for the Romanian nation.

Later ethnological literature and documents tell us that towards the end of the century, the zimbalon was also played in city and rural taraf (traditional music groups). In the taraf, the zimbalon replaced the older cobzã (a kind of folk lute). The soft-sounding cobzã no longer met the needs of village communities. But the little tambal would soon meet the same fate. Around the time of the Second World War, the accordion substituted or doubled for the zimbalon. In its turn, the accordion is now giving way to the electronic organ...

Nonetheless, the tambal has not completely died out. It can still be heard at country weddings in the south and east of the country because old country folk cannot do without its form of accompaniment (tiituri). On the other hand, musicians have recently found an ingenious solution to satisfy these country folk by recording the tambal tiituri and entering it into the memories of their electronic organs. They can thus play the tiituri during their "modern" renditions and "that is how everything old is new again", as they say.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Cymbalum (Tambal)

Zimbalon (tambal)

Museum of the Romanian Peasant
c. 1991
Wood, metal strings
Max Le:94cm, Le:57cm H:7cm, Strings:57-85cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


Cymbalum (Tambal) 2

The Zimbalon (tambal)

Museum of the Romanian Peasant
c. 1991
Wood, metal strings
Max Le:94cm, Le:57cm H:7cm, Strings:57-85cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


The tambal (zimbalon or cimbalon, a dulcimer or board zither struck with hammers or beaters) is a harmonic accompanying instrument that is very popular in Moldavia, Wallachia and Oltenia (eastern and southern provinces of Romania). The tambal belongs to the same family as the middle eastern santur and was introduced in Romania around the 18th century. It takes a number of specific forms: a) the small zimbalon (tambalul mic) of which there is a tambal tuned in Romanian style and another tuned in Hungarian style, and b) the large zimbalon (tambalul mare) or concert dulcimer.

The small zimbalon is used by traditional village groups (taraf), while the large zimbalon belongs to city taraf and "official" folk music groups. These are sometimes played by Transylvania and Banat taraf.

The small zimbalon is made from a thick trapezoidal board on which strings are stretched (the highest are grouped in twos and threes), attached by nails (cuie) and slightly raised by small bridges. The musician strikes the strings alternately with the right and left hands using two mallets or hammers. The musician tunes the instrument according to set melodic and rhythmic for Read More

The tambal (zimbalon or cimbalon, a dulcimer or board zither struck with hammers or beaters) is a harmonic accompanying instrument that is very popular in Moldavia, Wallachia and Oltenia (eastern and southern provinces of Romania). The tambal belongs to the same family as the middle eastern santur and was introduced in Romania around the 18th century. It takes a number of specific forms: a) the small zimbalon (tambalul mic) of which there is a tambal tuned in Romanian style and another tuned in Hungarian style, and b) the large zimbalon (tambalul mare) or concert dulcimer.

The small zimbalon is used by traditional village groups (taraf), while the large zimbalon belongs to city taraf and "official" folk music groups. These are sometimes played by Transylvania and Banat taraf.

The small zimbalon is made from a thick trapezoidal board on which strings are stretched (the highest are grouped in twos and threes), attached by nails (cuie) and slightly raised by small bridges. The musician strikes the strings alternately with the right and left hands using two mallets or hammers. The musician tunes the instrument according to set melodic and rhythmic forms called tiiturã (de horã, de sârbã, de geampara, nemteascã, etc.). If the sound of the instrument is too loud, the player smothers it using a handkerchief tucked between the strings. A good instrumentalist can play a number of simple melodies and accompaniment at the same time.

When it is equipped with a leather strap, the tambal mic may be played while standing or walking, which is why it is used as an instrument in wedding processions.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Cymbalum: Audio

Cymbalum: 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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