Bouzouki #atozchallenge


The bouzouki is a string instrument that’s like a mandolin or a 12-string guitar in that its steel strings come in pairs, tuned either in unison or an octave apart. Like a lute, it also has a rounded back. There are two kinds, a trichordo, with three sets of strings, and a tetrachordo, with four. It’s the instrument that gives Greek music its familiar sound.

Trichordo bouzouki (source:Wikipedia, Public Domain)

The trichordo is the original bouzouki. It was introduced to Greece from Turkey around 1900. The pair closest to the player (on top) are tuned an octave apart, the other two pairs are tuned in unison. Here are Lakis Karnezis and Kostas Papadopoulos on trichordos, playing a familiar tune.

The tetrachordo was developed in the 1950’s and was made popular by Manolis Chiotis, who tuned it like a guitar, much to the chagrin of purists. Here are Mr. Chiotis with singer Mary Linda with “Laos kai Kolonaki” and “Pare me sto tilefono,” from the 1959 movie Laos kai Kolonaki.

Kind of reminds me of Django Reinhardt…

In the mid-1960’s, Johnny Moynihan introduced the bouzouki to Irish music, and soon the Irish bouzouki evolved, with a flatter back, four pairs of strings, and tuned differently than the original instrument. Here is YouTube user TijnB42, who appears to be Dutch, with the reel “MacArthur Road.” You can see how different from the original instrument the Irish one is.

So we have a Dutch player of a Greek instrument playing an Irish reel. Quite a mashup of ethnicities…

There’s plenty more bouzouki music out on YouTube, if you’re interested.

34 thoughts on “Bouzouki #atozchallenge

  1. Amazing how fast the guys fingers are moving! This is a wonderful instrument, and I like the sound of it in all 3 versions. Good 8 letter word to learn of. :)


  2. I love the cultural mashup here, and I’m fascinated at how the Greek instrument morphed into the Irish one, and yet both sound so perfect for their culture’s music. Music is indeed a fascinating and quite mysterious thing in my mind.


  3. Love this instrument and just had to watch the first one and see how well these men played the Balalaika so cleanly. I also love the 3rd one because that kid is amazing! Great choice for this letter


    1. It’s an interesting instrument, and kind of interesting that it’s such a late addition to the family of instruments, because Greek music is some of the oldest, and I’m positive some of the songs are based in those old melodies. Especially interesting was the fact that it was brought to Ireland and evolved into a quite different instrument.

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  4. I remember Zorba the Greek (Anthony Quin) dancing to this beautiful music. I must have been about ten years old when I saw the movie and it made a great impression on me. And then, of course, there was Demis Roussos – Die Bouzouki, die Nacht und der Wein! Beautiful memories.


  5. Hi John – I certainly didn’t know the name … the music of Zorba the Greek = yes!! But excellent mix of Dutch, Irish and Greek – fun .. while the film I’ve never heard of – so that was lovely to hear … cheers Hilary


    1. Never seen or heard the bouzouki? We have a Greek Orthodox church near us that has a festival every year, and there’s a lot of bouzouki playing there. The kids all know the traditional dances, too. It’s like the music is part of their DNA. After a while, you can’t get enough.

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  6. As I was reading this I was thinking of Zorba the Greek – I love how it speeds up. Real soulful music, thank you .. I wonder if it’s similar to the ukelele and instrument that my daughter-in-law plays …


  7. A beautiful sound. I wonder if the bouzouki and oud have any common ancestors?


  8. Now I am going to have the theme from Zorba the Greek running through my mind as I start my commute in the snow…


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