Baglamas / Tzouras

The baglama and the tzouras are small, long-necked lutes derived from the bouzouki. The three instruments make up the typical ensemble associated with rebetiko music and songs.

The tzouras is very similar to the bouzouki. Their main difference lies in their size. Both the soundbox and the neck are smaller and that accounts for the deeper sound that the instrument gives. It is also tuned in D-A-D, although the even shorter tzouras is tuned in G-D-G.

baglamasThe baglamas is the smallest instrument in this group. It has three double-course strings and is tuned an octave higher than the bouzouki. It originated at a time when the rebetes were persecuted by the authorities and their instruments and music were forbidden. It is known as the bouzouki of the prison, where the rebetes started making bouzoukia small enough, so that they could easily be concealed in the cells.

The baglamas was often favored in the early part of the 20th century as a solo instrument for men in jail or for a small group of "rebetes" to play for singing and dancing. It is a smaller version of the bouzouki and is tuned re, la, re (D, A, D), but an octave higher than the bouzouki's tuning.

The baglamas can be used as a melody instrument and can be easily made from wood or other material for the back (including tortoise shells, gourds, or carved solid wood).

A saying that the old "rebetes" used to quote was: "Eho to baglamadaki, kato ap' to sakaki." "I have my baglamadaki under my coat." This refers to the fact that they would carry the small instrument tucked into the back of their belt, under the back of their coat tail so that it did not show. If they found the occasion to play for their own expression, or for some friends, they could take the baglama out. However, if the situation was not appropriate for a good "kefi" (mood), they could keep it out of sight.

It also has been used as a chord and rhythm instrument in small "bouzouki" bands. In this role, it is often played with a simple, driving rhythm giving a high pitched, insistent beat to back up the lead bouzouki. It thus rounds out the sound of the bouzouki band.