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Origins of balalaika Print E-mail
Written by Micha Tcherkassky   
jeudi, 15 novembre 2007
The origins of the balalaika (балалайка) are not precisely known. It is thought that they may have been inspired by an instrument imported into Russia by the Mongols of Central Asia at the time of the 12th century invasions. The first recorded evidence of the existence of the balalaïka dates from 1688, written in a daybook, that guards on one of the doors of the Kremlin in Moscow stopped two serfs who were playing the balalaika, for drunk and disorderly behaviour. The word balalaïka probably comes from the Russian verbs "balakat", "baltat", which mean to chatter, to joke. Up until the end of the 19th century, the balalaika`s form and size were variable, depending upon the ideas of the peasant who designed it; its case could even be made out of a hollow pumpkin and a handle without hoops.
Luthier inconnu début du XIXème
Anonymous balalaika maker beginning 19th century

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Balalaika maker Simon Nalimov begining 20th century  

The transformation of the balalaika into a classified instrument dates from the end of the 19th century and is due to Vassili Andreev (1861-1918),an accomplished musician, impassioned by the instrument, who defined its form, size, tuning, playing technique and family as similar to that of violins. It belongs to the lute family and has a triangular belly whose strings are plucked and strummed, the sounding board made of pine, the neck comprising the frets. The balalaika family consists of the prima, a solo instrument that has two nylon strings, both tuned to the key of E and one steel string tuned to A (440hz); the secunda or second (A,A,D); the alto (E,E,A); the bass (E,A,D); the double bass (the lowest pitched– E,A,D) and the piccolo (the highest pitched - A,A,D). The prima balalaika is played with the fingers, which lends it its particular sound. All the other instruments in the family are played with a leather or plastic plectrum.

Vassili Andreev created the first orchestra of balalaikas in 1888, initially called "the Circle". As the orchestra grew in stature it became the "Velikoroussky Orchestra" or "Great-Russian". Today, it still exists under the name of its founder: The Andreev Orchestra. Vassili Andreev was also the first person to compose for the balalaika. Now, the repertoire is rich with original compositions inspired by Russian folklore, contemporary compositions and recordings of traditional repertoire. Since the time of Vassili Andreev the balalaïka has been taught in every Russian academy, giving rise to many orchestras and virtuoso soloists, mainly in Russia but also in the rest of the world.
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Balalaika maker Marc Koupfer 1991

  famille balalaika
Balalaika family
Contrabass, Bass, Alto, Secunda, Prima (the most played) and the Piccolo

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by vanessa, 14 février 2009
i have one!!! i bouth it from russia last year (summer 200smilies/cool.gifsmilies/cheesy.gif smilies/grin.gif
j'ai un!!! je l'ai achete de la Russie l'année dernière (l'été 200smilies/cool.gif smilies/cheesy.gif smilies/grin.gif smilies/smiley.gif
written by STIEVENART EDGARD, 29 novembre 2014
J'ai acheté (12 €) une balalaika prima sur une brocante (je suis belge) que j'ai restauré avec placement d'un sillet de tête fabriqué "maison" en meranti et nouvelles cordes.
Cet instrument porte une étiquette à l'intérieur qui certifie sa fabrication en Russie ; dans cet intérieur est peint un oiseau sur une branche, le bec ouvert, de couleur bleue et il est entouré de texte en langue russe, je suppose et que je ne comprends pas !
Je suppose que j'ai fait une bonne affaire.
Je vais essayer de m'initier à en jouer (je pratique la guitare en auotdidacte), ce qui pourra m'aider.

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