Kobza – it is an ancient string instrument of the lute family. Of eastern origin, it was known in Ukraine as early as the 11th century, but became popular only in the 16th century, when it was used to accompany the recitation of dumas by the kobzars. Eventually, it was supplanted by the bandura, which has a larger body, longer neck, and more strings. Today ‘kobza’ and ‘bandura’ are often used synonymously.
The term kobza is of Turkic origin and is related to the terms kobyz and komuz, thought to have been introduced into the Ukrainian language in the 13th century with the migration of a sizable group of Turkic people from Abkhazia settling in the Poltava region. It was usually played by a bard or minstrel known as a kobzar (occasionally in earlier times a kobeznik), who accompanies his recitation of epic poetry called duma in Ukrainian. The term kobza first appeared in Polish chronicles dating back to 1331 CE. In popular parlance the term kobza was applied to any regional lute-like instrument used by court musicians in Central-Eastern Europe.
The Ukrainian kobza was a traditionally gut-strung, lute-like stringed musical instrument with a body hewn from a single block of wood. Instruments with a staved assembly also exist. The kobza has a medium-length neck which may or may not have tied-on frets, which were usually made of gut. It was single-strung (sometimes also double-strung) and the strings were played with fingertips or occasionally with a plectrum threaded through a ring placed on the middle finger. There are currently two different approaches to kobza construction: authentic fretless reconstructions, produced by adherents for the recreation of authentic folk traditions, and modern stylised fretted instruments based on a modified domra design. To date, there have been no attempts to reconstruct earlier fretted kobza of the 18th century.
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