Sound file of zurna

The zurna (also called surnay, birbynė, lettish horn, surla, sornai, dili tuiduk, zournas, or zurma), is a wind instrument played in central Eurasia, ranging from the Balkans to Central Asia. It is usually accompanied by a davul (bass drum) in Anatolian folk music.

Characteristics and history

Karna, one of the ancient Persian musical instruments, 6th century BC, Persepolis Museum.

The zurna, like the duduk and kaval, is a woodwind instrument used to play Anatolian, Middle Eastern and Central Asian folk music. The zurna is a conical oboe, made from the fruit tree Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), and uses a double reed which generates a sharp, piercing sound. Thus, it has historically been played outdoors during festive events such as weddings and holidays. It has eight holes on the front, seven of which are used while playing, and one thumbhole which provides a range of one octave.

It is similar to the Mizmar. Zurnas are also used in the folk music of the countries in the region, especially in Iran, Armenia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Assyria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and the other Caucasian countries, and have now spread throughout China and Eastern Europe. In the Slavic nations of the Balkans it is typically called zurla (зурла).

The zurna is most likely the immediate predecessor of the European Shawm, and is related to the Chinese Suona still used today in weddings, temple and funeral music.[1] The Japanese charumera, or charamera, traditionally associated with itinerant noodle vendors is a small zurna, its name derived from the Portuguese chirimiya. Few, if any, noodle vendors continue this tradition, and those who do would use a loudspeaker playing a recorded charumera.

There are several different types of zurnas. They all share one and the same sound inductor—the so-called kalem—which is actually a very tight (and short) double reed, sometimes made out of wheat leaves. The longest (and lowest) is the Kaba zurna, used in northern Turkey and Bulgaria. As a rule of thumb, a zurna is conical and made of wood.


Turkish lore says that Adam, who was moulded from clay, had no soul. It is said only the melodious tuiduk-playing of Archangel Gabriel could breathe life into Adam. According to a Turkmen legend, the devil played the main role in tuiduk invention (note the term ″devil openings", şeytan delikleri, in Turkish for the small apertures on the bell).

Etymology and terminology

The name is derived from Persian سرنای surnāy, composed of سور sūr “banquet, feast” and نای nāy “reed, pipe”.[2] The term is attested in the oldest Turkic records, as suruna in the 12th and 13th century Codex Cumanicus (CCM fol. 45a)

See also


  1. http://arts.cultural-china.com/en/94Arts11121.html
  2. Picken, Laurence. Folk Music Instruments of Turkey. Oxford University Press. London. p. 485
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