Salamuri (Georgian Folk Instruments)

Salamuri is widespread wind musical instrument in all regions of Georgia (especially in Kartli, Kakheti, Meskheti, Tusheti, Pshavi, and Imereti). Relics obtained from archaeological excavations prove the existence of Salamuri in Georgia from the ancient times. Among the relics found by an archaeological expedition in Mtskheta (Eastern part of Georgia), one thing very interesting for Georgian musical culture attracts out attention. This is a bone pipe, found in 1938 at the northern section of Samtavro’s sepulcher. This “Salamuri” is made of swan(shin) bone. It is unreeded and has only three small keys on the front side. The surface of the instrument is well polished. Its length is 19,9cm. The size of blowing part is 1,1cm and the bottom’s part is 1,8cm. It has been put with 14-15 year old dead boy into the grave. Many other things were also put there: earthenware, crockery, arms, clothes, a talisman and so on. It is worthy of note that there were sheep bones, bull’s head and feet bones there as well. On account of this the guide of the expedition the academician Iv. Djavakhishvili called it “The grave of a little shepherd”. The examination of sepulchre showed that it is dated back to XII-XI century B.C. and if we take into consideration the instrument’s well developed design, it should have been widely spread in Georgia a long time before the mentioned date. Bone-pipes (Salamuris) were also found in “Uphliscikhe” (monastery) among the things contributed to the God of Beauty.

At present this Salamuri is kept in “Simon Djnashia State Museum”. Researchers once have tried to make sound from it and have issued only four sounds. What they considered to be sufficient for their archaeological researches also have counted sufficient. It was understandable as no one expected anything greater. It is necessary to note, that the researchers did not pay adequate attention to these four sounds. This instrument has an absolutely perfected and correct tetra chord that outstrips by thousands of years Greek tetra chord formation. But this Salamuri keeps much more secrets in itself! It appeared, that it is possible to issue 10 sounds from it not by the over-blowing, but by inclining the instrument under different angles, and in this way we get seven different tetra chords that, as the final result, it represents sound system.

In Georgia, there are two kinds of Salamuri preserved till the present day: reeded and unreeded Salamuri. These two kinds of Salamuri differ in their timber, form, sound range and resonance. The unreeded Salamuri represents a pipe of approx. 380-400mm in length. It has 8 front keys and sometimes one key on the back side. The first front key is placed 13cm. apart from the head, but the other 6 front keys are separated by equal distance (3cm). It is often made from cane, apricot-tree, reed and elder. It becomes slightly narrower towards the end, to blow in comfortably. The unreeded Salamuri has a diatonic scale of one octave. By overblowing, its compass increases. The unreeded Salamuri is mainly used in parts of east Georgia (Kakheti, Kartli, Meskheti, Tusheti and Pshavi). But the reeded Salamuri represents a wooden pipe of 23-36cm. in length with a cut-off head. As usual, it has 8 front keys and one back key (between front first and second keys). The reed of Salamuri is a small tap (1,2-1,5cm) inside the pipe. Reeded Salamuri is more often made out of walnut and apricot trees. Despite the fact that the reeded Salamuri is smaller than the unreeded one, its technical abilities are considerably higher (richer sounding and larger sound range). It is more difficult to design the reeded Salamuri and requires master’s experienced hand. The salamuri has a diatonic scale of one octave. By overblowing, its compass increases. The wood material for Salamuri should be proportionally grown up, straight, carefully cut down and drilled from the beginning to the end. The hollow and surface should be well polished. Then they would cut the pipe’s head and attach the instrument’s reed to this place. On the surface, the area of reed is a bit cut off. Only from this air way the air should be emitted, that is why the blowing part (neck) is entirely closed. Then they cut 8 oval front keys along the instrument’s reed. They should be separated from each other by equal distance (2cm). The 9th key is cut out on the opposite side of the pipe (between first and the second keys). Thus, Salamuri is divided into three parts: the head or neck part, body or the key part and the ending. Each of them has its own size and a certain interrelation. The closer the first key is to the reed of the instrument the more high-pitched sound is produced. Men usually play Salamuri. Reeded Salamuri is widely spread all over Georgia. Salamuri started its existence in pastoral atmosphere. Consequently, Salamuri’s repertoire mainly consists of shepherd melodies. It was often accompanied combined with “Doli” (drum). The reeded Salamuri seems to be originated a bit later than the unreeded one and it was the widest spread folk instrument all over Georgia. That is made evident not only by the legends but also by the monuments of classical literature. According to the people’s belief, the sorrows of human being were the reason of creating Salamuri. The legend says that when the first reed grew up on the orphan’s grave, the wind blew and the reed moaned in a sad voice. Salamuri was an inseparatable close friend of a farmer that cheered him up in times of sorrow and sweetened his merriments. According to people’s belief, nothing can destroy a reed pipe; even fire cannot damage it. The parents’ faces are seen through its ashes and even the broken parts emit sweet tunes. According to some of the legends, people were presented with this instrument by God. That is why it is considered to be a divine musical instrument.

Georgian people, when creating each musical instrument tried resemble the nature’s sounds with them. For instance, Salamuri’s tunes sounds like birds’ song. According to the legends, Salamuri’s tunes cheered people up, tamed animals, makes birds sing, its sad tunes relieved human sorrows. According to one tale, Salamuri’s sad tunes could even make the grass cry.

Professional Salamuri players say that there is a difference between techniques of performance on these instruments: the reeded Salamuri is more difficult to play than the unreeded one. However, one can play any melody he/she wants on reeded Salamuri. The technical abilities of unreeded Salamuri are limited.

When designing Salamuri, masters take into account with which instrument it is going to be played. According to this, they define the octave range of the instrument. The masters can design two kinds of Salamuri: I-part and II-part (deep-voiced Salamuri is also produced).

Today this instrument has a stable place in Georgian folk ensembles. It has been traveling all over the world together with the spirited Georgian dances and has been spreading the sweet tunes of Iberian Salamuri.

When covering Salamuri by our fingers while slightly blowing we get C of the first octave. We pronounce the sound “T”. When lifting one low finger completely we get the sound D and if we lift the finger partly from C we get C. If we lift a finger from D completely we get E and lifting finger partly from E we get E. Then comes F when completely lifting the finger from E and when lifting a finger partly from F we get F. The G comes, partly lifting G, then A, B, completely lifting, H- lifting partly. When covering by all the fingers and blowing strongly we get C of the second octave. The sounds of the second octave we can get by lifting the fingers and blowing stronger.

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