Origins of the bouzouki instrument

The beautiful muse playing the pandoura, one of the Mantinian marbles, is one of the main sources that provide evidence about pandoura, the bouzouki’s ancient Greek ancestor. It is very probable that the word bouzouki comes from the Persian word "tambur-e bozorg" (“big tamboura”, evolution of the word pandoura).

image
The bouzoukis’ history, as that of the majority of all musical instruments, has been a constant journey from the East to the West and vice versa.

It is said that the ancient pandoura was introduced to Greece from the East. Its great success, despite the stormy reaction on behalf of the Greek aristocracy and scholars, was due to the fact that it produced very rich and varied sounds in proportion to the small number of its strings (three, in the beginning).

In Byzantine times, it seems that it gained some popularity among scholars too, as the Archbishop Chrysanthos stressed the appropriateness of the pandura (as well as of the kanonaki) for the teaching of Byzantine music. There are plenty of illustrations and mentions of the pandoura both in folk and in scholar poetry of that period.

Despite the mistaken belief that the name bouzouki appeared only when fixed frets were applied on the instrument, in the 19th century, the term bouzouki was already used along with the terms Tambouras, Thambourin, Pandoura.