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Chonguri is widespread in the western part of Georgia (Samegrelo, Guria, Adjara). Usually, in different regions this instrument has different constructions. In general, it accompanies the performance of solo, two- and three-part vocal songs. Mostly dance melodies and merry songs are performed on it. Chonguri and doli (a drum) are often played together in the region of Adjara. In this case only one Chonguri and one doli are involved in the performance of a melody. More than one Chonguri is generally never used while performance. Since the distant past Panduri and Chonguri have always played an important role in the lives of Georgian people and it still takes an honorable place in their daily lives.

Women sang songs with the accompaniment of Chonguri during work process. In the old times, having dealt with house work a group of women musicians called “Nadi” gathered late in the evening and performed songs with the Chonguri accompaniment. More usually Panduri and Chonguri were played by women what made them more attractive. People knew well when, where and on which occasion to use these instruments. In each Georgian family this instrument was kept in a visible place (it was usually hung on the wall).

Chonguri stands on a higher level of development than Panduri. is due not only to the excellent design of the Chonguri (which includes the capacity of the resonant body, its refinement, wall thickness and string material) and the high tone quality connected with it, but the possibility of emitting various harmonious sounds (due to the large number of chords) and the ways of performing melody on it.

Chonguri Samples

Chonguri and Panduri differ in the number of strings. Panduri has three strings and Chonguri - four. In general, Chonguri’s length is 978-1156mm. Instrument’s main parts are body, neck and accessories (tuners, a nut, a bridge and a button etc.). The body consists of an abdomen (1) and an upper board (2). The neck consists of a head (3) and a finger-board (4). The subsidiaries are tuners (5), a nut (6), a bridge (7) and a button (8). Chonguri does not have frets. The abdomen (1) of a chonguri is made up of 7-8 thin (2-3mm) mulberry slabs, glued together and fastened with a narrow plate. The outermost slabs have 6 sound-holes, each 3-5mm in diameter. The abdomen is glued onto a 2-3mm thick plate. The upper board (2) comprises three parts glued together. The main (middle) part is made of fir. The two crescent-shaped mulberry plates are glued on both sides of the upper board. In the middle of the board there are 2-3mm-wide sound-holes forming a rhombus. The depth of the body is 160-170mm. The chonguri’s neck is made of walnut. On the head (3), there are three holes for tuners and one for a strap to hang up the instrument. The finger-board (4) is flat from one side and round on the other. It has a hole for straining the fourth (“Zili”) string. The neck and body are united by 7 small slabs of the same material as the slabs in the abdomen. The chonguri has four strings. Three ones are equal in length and the fourth (or “Zili”) string is shorter by about one-third than the other three. Long strings are attached to the tuners from one side and to the button of the Chonguri on the other. The “zili” string is attached to the tuner on the neck from one side and from the other side - to the button of the Chonguri, together with the other strings. The “zili” string is between the 1st and 2nd long strings, so it is the second string from the bottom.

Formerly, the strings were made of horsehair (silky), but nowadays such strings are rare. Today it is mostly used nylon strings. The range of notes of a chonguri lies between the lowest tone of the 3rd string and the highest tone of the “zili” string (very similar to banjo). Depending on the tune, the range of notes on the chonguri is either an octave, a seventh or a ninth.
The tuning of Chonguri: f-a-c 1-f 1; f-a-c 1-e 1; f-g-c 1-g 1.
Chonguri sample tuning

Chonguri Samples

In general rule, Chonguri (and sometimes Panduri’s) is cut out from the whole core of wood, also there is a different manner of designing this instrument, when the instrument body is glued part by part, by attaching thin wooden plates together. This enables us to make the walls of the body as thin and perfectly shaped as possible. This results in the deep resonant sound of the instrument. The sound of the instrument is also conditioned by the special strings made of silk thread. Chonguri differs from Panduri in ways of performance as well. The former is played by moving fingers from the lower strings to the upper, but Panduri is played by moving fingers from the upper strings to the lower. Though Chonguri and Panduri differ from each other they are similar in their functions. Both are used for accompaniment. But in the region of Adjara Chonguri is often played together with another Georgian folk instrument “Doli” (drum).

According to the evidence of the best instrument designers to design a high-quality instrument, the chosen wooden material should be without stumps, “clean”; preferably taken from a windy places. The best part of wood for Chonguri material is the part between the tree branches. Rough parts are not used for this purpose. The timber is split in two parts. Both are called “Deda” (mother). They are kept indoors, away from sunlight and wind for about thirty days. During this time the material must completely dry out, or it will crack.

The “Deda” (mother) should be made in the following way: at first, a deep hollow is cut out of the specially prepared timber, then it is cleaned with sandpaper, afterwards a breastplate is attached to it and kept for a while. Then at the end of the handhold they attach small wooden plate (a bridge) with 4 notches. There are some holes made in the middle of the hollow part to emit and enhance a clear sound. Then maker place the bridge with 4 notches under the strings to separate strings from one another. The process of designing a chonguri takes three days. The body is usually made from pine or mulberry wood, which gives the instrument its characteristic sound. The chosen wooden material should be without knots, unblemished, and preferably taken from windy places. The best wood for making chonguris comes from the trunk of the tree.

Though, Panduri and Chonguri are different instruments, they are quite similar by design, sound-producing and functions. The similarity between the designs of Chonguri and Panduri is well reflected in the appearance: both are string instruments, both have round-bellied bodies and narrow necks, they are played by striking fingers on strings. The similarity of functions of these instruments is reflected in the following: 1) Both are used for accompaniment and mainly dance melodies are performed on them. 2) Both are used by women during work process (“Mchechloba” and “Nadi”). 3) Both are connected with certain ancient customs (such as songs directed to the protective spirits, known as “Batonebi”’s worship). These are the main signs that make resemblance of Panduri and Chonguri evident.

All this enables us to conclude that these two musical instruments should have been one instrument. Today Chonguri and Panduri stand on different levels of development. As the research shows, The panduri is more ancient than the chonguri. In fact, the chonguri actually has evolved from the panduri. This obviously happened by adding the fourth string to the three-string panduri. Judging by the historical records this change probably took place no later than the 16th century. We should note that in the eastern part of Georgia, especially in lowlands, the three-string panduri is called “Chonguri,” but near the mountainous parts, it is called “Panduri” as well as “Chonguri.” According to the evidence of the mountain inhabitants, it would be logical to assume that Panduri is the old name and Chonguri is the new one.

Chonguri Samples

Here you can listen some sample recordings of Chonguri:
1. David Nemsveridze - Megrelian melody
2. Ensemble "Lashari" - Megrelian Love song
3. Maizer Gazdeliani - "Aba Darujan"
4. Maizer Gazdeliani - Gurian Song - "Shalva Chemo"
5. Maizer Gazdeliani - "Khorumi"
6. David Kipiani - Adjarian Dance Melody
7. Archive - Adjarian Dance Melody (Chonguri, Doli)
8. Ensemble "Rustavi" - "Mival Guriashi"
9. Ensemble "Adila" - Song - "Aba Darujan"

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