From the term zurna (pers.-tur.-arab.)
German shalmai, Persian zurna, Arabic zamr, Hindustani surnai and nagasvara, Chinese so-na, Italian piffero.
Zurla is an aerophonic instrument with oboe-type double reed.
The basic parts include: funnel-like shape pipe with eight playing holes (seven in the front and one on the back of the pipe), seven sound holes (“glasnici”), “slavec” (beak), and the “mednik” (mouthpiece).
The pipe is made of walnut, and the mouthpiece of barberry.
Length: Small – up to 35 cm, Large– up to 60 cm. The large and small pipes have the same shape, the difference is in the number of the sound-holes (the small pipe has two holes in the front and two on both sides, the larger pipe has three holes in the front and four on both sides). The zurlas are also divided into categories of male and female, the larger zurlas are named “mashki” (male) because of the deep “pokaba” sound, and the smaller are named “zhenski” (female) because they have a clear “podzhira” voice.
The part named “slavec” is a specific, short pipe which is put in the upper part of the main pipe. The lower end of the “slavec” is doublecut, and this is where the “mednik” is placed. The “piska” (beak)goes through the mouthpiece (“mednik”).
The small zurlas (“dzura zurli”) are played mostly near Gostivar and Kumanovo. The larger zurlas (“kaba zurli”) are played near Tetovo, Skopje, Veles, Prilep, Bitola and Kratovo. Besides Macedonia, this instrument was also played in Kosovo and Bosnia.
There are two main theories concerning the origin of the zula. First, the “zurla” was brought by the Gypsies to the Balkan Peninsula from Persia. Second, the Turks brought the zurla to this area during the period of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Macedonian zurla is connected with the Midle East.
Untempered scale with ambitus of ninth;
Playing the instrument:
The instrument is held straight and horizontal while the player’s lips touch the circle tile of the “mednik” and the beak lies freely in the mouth cavity. While the first zurla player plays the melody, the second player accompanies the first one with one tone (either basic tone or its fifth). There is a special “Eastern” manner of breathing while playing, the player blows without a pause with this special technique. The player takes air periodicly through nose and blows in the instrument constantly through the mouth, and for all that time an equal quantity air is released through the mouth.
Players and repertoire:
The “zurlas” are always accompanied with one or two bass drums named “tapan” (plural: “tapani”).This ensemble is called “zurladziska tajfa”, and is often made of members of one family. The oldest member is also leader of the ensemble. Although there were a lot of zurla ensembles in Macedonia in the past, today the Gypsies are the only ensemble performers.
The repertoire includes dances, often with oriental elements (as a result of the instrument’s oriental origin). The most performed dance is “Teshkoto”, aimed for seeing off the emigrants.
Dzhura zurla–small zurla; from the Turkish word “dzhura” – a Turkish musical instrument with two or three strings.
Jaram kaba zurla– medium zurla; “jaram” – medium
Kaba zurla-big zurla; from the Turkish word “kaba” – rude, rough, raw,
Piska, Pizga (beak)
Surla, Surli, Surna, Zurna (zurla, the instrument)
Zurladzija, Zurnadzija (zurla player), Zurladzija, Zurnadzii (zurla players), Zurladziska tajfa (zurlas and tapani ensemble), Majstor (1. zurla player, leader of the ensemble; 2. zurla-maker)
re-published from MMC