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Salamuri is most widespread wind musical instrument in all regions of Georgia and is considered indispensible to shepherds. Relics obtained from archeological excavations prove the existence of Salamuri in Georgia from the ancient times. Among the relics found by an archeological 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 sepulchre. This “Salamuri” is made of swan(shin) bone. It is unreeded and has only three-front holes. 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.

“The grave of a little shepherd”
It is worthy of note that there were sheep bones, bull’s head and feet bones there as well. On account of this the head 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. So, this is the first documented evidence of a salamuri. Later, bone-pipes were also found in “Uphliscikhe” (monastery) among the things contributed to the God of Beauty.

Swan (shin) Bone unreeded Salamuri (XII-XI century B.C.)
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 archeological 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 kinds of Salamuri differ from each other by the material they are made, form, sound range and diapason.

Unreeded wind instrument - Salamuri

Salamuri Samples

Reeded wind instrument - Salamuri
The unreeded Salamuri (to the left side) 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 (sambuca) 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 sound range increases. The unreeded Salamuri is mainly used in parts of east Georgia (Kakheti, Kartli, Meskheti, Tusheti and Pshavi).

Salamuri Samples

But the reeded Salamuri (to the right side) 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).

Reeded wind instrument - Salamuri
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 sound range 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.

Shepherd and his flock
Reeded Salamuri is widely spread all over Georgia. Salamuri started its existence in pastoral atmosphere. Consequently, Salamuri’s repertoire mainly consists of shepherd melodies and is primarily played by men. It is usually accompanied by a Panduri and Doli. 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. The salamuri has a long history in Georgia, and is the subject of many legends. 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.

The salamuri is played with both hands. The musician touches the upper holes with right hand fingers and the lower part with left hand fingers. The right thumb touches that hole in the back of the instrument. 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. Georgian Salamuri is unique in its own way. It is a diverse instrument: a musician can play any composition he/she wants. The technical abilities of unreeded Salamuri are limited.

Unison Salamuries

Salamuri Samples

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 (unisonic tuning).

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.

One of the most important melodies played on a reedless salamuri is a tune known as "drive the sheep out". This melody is performed during gathering sheep, driving them out to pasture. Traditionally the flock is led by several shepherds, with the lead shepherd playing the melody on his salamuri while the other shepherds follow him, paying attention to the sheep. According to legend, the melodies played on the salamuri are so powerfully connected with bringing in the flock that when robbers came to steal one man’s flock of sheep, he simply played the traditional “bringing in the sheep” melody and his sheep turned away from the robbers and came right back to him.

Unreeded Salamuri sample tuning
Tuning of the unreeded salamuri with 5 finger holes: a1 – h1 – cis2 – d2 – e2 – f2
Tuning of the unreeded salamuri with 6 finger holes: e1 – fis1 – g1 – a1 – h1 – c2 – d2.

Reeded Salamuri sample tuning
Tuning of the reeded salamuri with 7 finger holes: h – c1 – d1 – e1 – f1 – g1 – a1 – h1
(c2 – d2 – es2 – f2 – g2 – a2 – h2 – c3 when overblowing)
Tuning of the reeded salamuri with 6 finger holes: e1 – fis1 – g1 – a1 – h1 – c2 – d2
(e2 – fis2 – g2 – a2 – h2 – c3 – d3 when overblowing)

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.

Salamuri Samples

Here you can listen some sample recordings of Unreeded and reeded Salamuri:
1. A.Khizanishvili - "Tushetian Song" (Reeded Salamuri)
2. A.Khizanishvili - "Mtiuluri Song" (Unreeded Salamuri)
3. Ensemble "Georgika" - "Tushetian Melodies pot-pourri"
4. Ensemble "Urmuli" - "Melodies of Georgian Mountains"
5. Ensemble "Lashari" - "Tushetian Melodies pot-pourri" (Folk Panduri, Unreeded Salamuri)
6. Ensemble "Urmuli" - Tushetian Song - "Shepheards Thoughts"
7. Ensemble "Urmuli" - "Georgian Melodies pot-pourri" (Chuniri, Salamuri, Bass-Panduri)
8. Ensemble "Urmuli" - Song about Georgia - "Motherland"
9. Ensemble "Urmuli" - "Pot-pourri"
10. Ensemble "Urmuli" - "Dance Melody"
11. Omar Kelaptrishvili - "Tushetian Song"
12. Omar Kelaptrishvili - "Dance Melody"

 

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