Irish instrument of the week – bouzouki

the irish bouzoukiThis week’s Irish instrument is the Irish bouzouki.

“Bouzouki?”, you may be asking, “is that an Irish word?”

No, it’s not. The bouzouki is actually a Greek instrument. In fact, the bouzouki is the first known fretted instrument in the world, acting as a precursor to the lute.

In the 1960s, Johnny Moynihan (you remember him from my Moonshine post, right?) introduced the bouzouki to Irish music. While it might seem an odd choice, the bouzouki fits very well into an Irish session, occupying a perfectly mid-range pocket below the mandolin and the reedy sound of flutes, uilleann pipes, accordians and whistles but above that of a guitar.

Andy Irvine picked it up from Johnny, making it quite famous in Irish music and coming up with alternate tunings, but it was Donal Lunny who invented the Irish bouzouki as a distinct instrument. Doing away with the ornate, round-backed Greek shape, he created a small-bodied flat-backed bouzouki with more of a punch for its application in Irish music.

Here is a guitar/bouzouki duet from one of the Brideswell sessions.

The photo above is the bean’s new bouzouki . . . .ooooooo, lookit!