Tamburica music is popular in cultural traditions across Central and Southern Europe, and is a symbol of traditional Croatian folk music. Tamburica, or tamboura, refers to a family of wooden lutes—stringed instruments with long necks, frets, and deep, round, hollow bodies. The original tamburica body was pear-shaped, but today there are also guitar shapes. The tamburica is plucked or strummed, by hand or with a plectrum. Legends of the origins of this type of instrument vary: some say it derives from the ancient Greek pandoura; others say it was brought by the Turks to Bosnia and then to Slavonia with the spread of the indigenous Šokci people. The music may be instrumental or accompanied by singing that traditionally tells stories of love and village life.
Many varieties of tamburica instruments were made in Croatia and Serbia, including the samica, also called dangubica, which is said to be the original tamburica from Croatia. Its pear-shaped body is carved from a single piece of wood with one small, round sound hole. It has either two or four single strings or two double strings, which are played by hand; one string may play the melody while the others are strummed as drones. The samica is normally played solo, and not as part of a tamburica orchestra.
The prima, also called prim or bisernica, is a smaller instrument with small, decorative sound holes in the body. It has three or four double strings, which are plucked and strummed rapidly with a plectrum. The prima plays the main melody, and can be played solo or as part of a tamburica orchestra.
A tamburica ensemble may consist of three to forty players with a variety of instruments, from the tiny prima to the hefty berda, which resembles an upright bass, each playing different parts and harmonies. There seem to be differing opinions on whether the first ensemble in Croatia was formed in 1842 in Đakovo or in 1847 in nearby Osijek. Since 1961, Osijek has hosted the International Tamburica Music Festival to promote performance and original composition.
Here’s a fascinating video of an artist who built primas in Indiana: