of active intangible cultural heritage elements


1.1. Registration number in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: IV.48.1.
1.2. Name of the element in the National Inventory: The art of playing cobza.
1.3. The name of the element in the locality, including local variants (instrument): căpus, cobuz, copus, lăută, alăută. 

2.1. Characterisation and brief description

         “Cobza” is a traditional musical instrument, with pinched strings, affined to lute. In the series of traditional musical instruments of the Republic of Moldova, “cobza” holds a special place, determined by its important contribution for the creation and transmission of the traditional “melos” (music style). The tradition of playing “cobza” belongs to a wider cultural area, that of the Carpatho-Danubian area, where it is considered the oldest instrument of accompaniment and not only. While it provides the proper maintenance of harmony, it also fulfills other functions such as rhythm, dynamics, partially the melodic function.

         The harmonic expression in their implementation is launched in a specific form - of chord’s figuration, consisting of several distinct ways of filling the harmonic style with harmonic and melodic elements, transposed by the respective “ţiituri” (tunes). From the technical point of view, “cobza” consists of a pyriform resonance box with a convex back (often called in the traditional environment as „burduf” (means bellows) or „bârdan” (means paunch)), consisting of several „staves” of walnut or maple, and the plane front made of spruce wood. The neck of the instrument is short and broad, made of hardwood, without keyboard, ending with a „peg” - place of installing the pins, bordered in an obtuse angle at the back. The front resonance is the most intense vibrational field, its center being decorated with pane holes or in the rosette form, while in some versions the holes take the form of a pierced triangle, placed near the heel of the instrument. Cobza is equipped with 8-12 strings, divided transversely into four choirs by two or three, forming 3-4 choruses, which in their turn are attached directly to the bottom of a wooden tongue and in the opposite part fitted in the nails place of the "peg". Each group of strings can have one thicker, usually called "burdoaie" which are attuned to an octave below the thin. The tuning of the strings may vary by region or even by interpreter. The most common tuning is the fifth and fourth: re – la – re – sol. The strings are clenched with all the fingers of the hand and pinched with a plasticized pick or a goose quill. In the instrumental music, “cobza” adopts the rhythmic-harmonic-melodic formulas such as “țiituri”.

          The “cobza’s” accompaniment technique (in its essential reconfiguring, metro-rhythmic and melodic components) denotes, in a large part (literally and figuratively), several similarities to that shown in the cymbal’s performance. The loud resources of the accompaniment are greatly enriched due to doubling, tripling or quadruplicating of the “cobza’s” chords, the acute sounds of that choir, in turn, being reinforced by their lower octaves. At the same time, “cobza’s” specific timbre is also actuated by the particular way of implementing the vibration of strings by pinching. The constructive nature of the pinched string instruments implies a high degree of damping of oscillations, so that once transmitted to the strings, the vibrating energy is consumed rapidly, producing a dry, rough sound. The mano-digital technique and the range of material means at the disposal of the cobza singers allow developing and playing a relatively low color-expressive nuances. During the accompaniment, the first three or the final three groups of strings are required, by which from a single moving the stringed choirs in different fractions of time are activated.

          The “cobza's” primary purpose of the accompaniment is the rhythmic arrangement of the chord. Currently provided with keyboard split by metallic cases identical to the guitars, the instrument determines, in general, a sounding like that resulted on open chords - strong, but with a slightly metallic tinge, slightly biting, sharp. The outlined harmonic configuration around cobza is discriminated from that of the cymbals by the melodic position of the tenaciously uncompromisingly sounds (usually tonic). These, mostly occupies an intermediate position between the harmonic sounds of the dispersed chord, depending on the preferred overthrow. In the harmonic material of the uncompromisingly sound building is situated at the top of the vertical sound. According to the estimation made by Ovidiu Papană, “the current model of Romanian cobza keeps, to a large extent, the acoustic and musical coordinates, as well as partially the constructive ones, which were possessed by a music instrument from a remote historical period, an instrument that became traditional in the Romanian oral culture. (…) Among the (current) instruments that resemble cobza one can notice such constructive developments: a longer and thinner neck heel, the presence of ..., the presence of nut, one less massive soundboard, built with a more developed sonorous efficiency” [23, p. 224]. In the 80s of the 20th century, the organophone has undergone to some interesting upgrades and modifications with a technical nature. In order to improve the technical and expressive qualities, the instrument followed the path of extending its neck and fitting its tongue with metal cross cases, conditioning the loud-chromatic effect of the free chords. The strings are stretched over the resonance box by means of metallic pegs situated at the end of the neck.

2.2. Date, time and place of performance

        Cobza is an instrument that is present within several folk music orchestras or ethno-folkloric ensembles; it is preferred as well in other professional or amateur bands from the republic. Among the current bearers of the tradition of playing cobza count musicians from professional musical and artistic groups, students and pupils from musical and artistic educational institutions of all stages. Cobza is encountered in the Folk music Orchestra “Mugurel”. During the shows of the “Folklore” Orchestra, there regularly appear cobza players, though not always employees of the orchestra. Most frequently, we encounter the cobza in amateur folk bands from the republic. The soloists and bands perform during concerts, festivals, and contests, at various cultural events and private parties.

2.3. The characterisation of the element from the perspective of age, spreading, and typology

          “Cobza” and “cobzarii” (its players) have been a constant presence in the musical landscape from the eastern side of Prut, with different intensities, in close connection with the way how the traditional music was perceived. Already in the 19th century, playing “cobza” was institutionalised through the band of “lăutari”. The movie “Lăutarii”, made at the Moldova Film Studio (producer - Emil Loteanu), is a good illustration of the phenomenon of “lăutari” from the late 19th century. Through the formula of “lăutari”, cobza remained also during the 20th century, including early 21st century. The “lăutari” once designated a traditional form of organization for musicians. It continues to be used nowadays in the title of ensembles and bands, expressing a cultural reality that is familiar to the inhabitants of the Republic of Moldova and Romania (see the National Orchestra of Folk Music “Lăutarii”, led by Nicolae Botgros; the bands „Lăutarii Măgdăceștilor”, „Art-Lăutarii”, „Lăutarii de la Nord”, „Barbu Lăutaru” from Bălți, „Lăutarii de la Dondușeni”, „Lăutarii de la Sud” etc.). Meanwhile, the instrument experienced small adjustments due to the intentions of “lutieri” (stringed-instrument makers) and of “lăutari” to make it more accessible as technique of musical performance and more expressive as sound. Being an instrument par excellence of “lăutari”, cobza manifested itself and spread in the traditional environment from Moldova, Muntenia, and Oltenia.

         The instrument has many resemblances to the Arab aud and l’ud, as well as with the Oriental kopuz. Following the assertion of Ovidiu Papană, “among the Romanians, “cobza” has the statute of an autochthonous traditional instrument. The penetration of this kinf of instrument in the Romanian cultural area happened in the context of cultural contacts between the Romanians and the neighbouring Balkan nations” [22, p. 75]. The existence of such organological (instrumental) types is demonstrated to us from the most remote times by the iconography of churches, reflected in the ancient murals of various Christian churches (particularly the churches and monasteries of North Bucovina) from the 16th century. Several icons depict David playing “cobza” for King Saul. The same instrument is represented in the frescoes of monasteries Humor (1535), Voroneț (1547), Sucevița (1606), Horezu (1692) [25, p. 134-137] etc. (More recently, the researcher Eduard Rusu considers that, in the mural paintings from Moldova and in book illuminations, is represented the “lăuta” (luthe), which he esteems an instrument different from “cobza” [24, p. 65-66]).

         With the name of “kobuz” the instrument is attested in the ancient writs. For example, in the Prophet David's Psalter (1673), its translator in Romanian, Metropolitan Dosoftei, mentions: "Lăutele, cobuzele, la veselii de giocuri”. Cobza is also mentioned in the creations of oral origin: in poems (Ăl cobuz de soc,/mult zice cu foc;/ăl cobuz de os,/mult zice duios;/ăl cobuz cu fire,/mult zice subţire; or După cobză şi vioară/Să scoatem hora afară.), riddles (Ciupercă uscată/În cui spânzurată, solved by the folk wisdom through cobza), idioms (răcit cobză, meaning he got cold and coughs loudly; a-i cânta din cobză, a duce cu cobza, a-i face pântecele cobză, a lega cobză, a fi gras ca o cobză) [14, p. 608; 19, p. 447] etc. Written historical, geographical, legal, and literary sources also provide sufficient data to confirm the presence of “cobza” in the area of instrumental music in our culture at various rural and urban events (parties, weddings, christening parties, and other community ceremonies), which is recorded in the journeys memoirs of the foreigners who passed through Moldova and Wallachia in the XVI-XVII centuries: the Pole M. Stryjkowski (1574), the Swede P. Strassburgh (1632), the Italian N. Barsi (1633), the Russian V. Gagara (1634), the German  A. Adersbash (1652), the Syrian Paul of Alep (1653), etc. Also, the presence of the instrument in the national culture is attested in 1774 in the constitution of an ensemble that was expected to arrive at the imperial palace of Czarina Catherine II from the Russian capital. In the comprehensive work History of transalpine Dacia (1781-1782), the Austrian historian Fr. J. Sulzer provides more information regarding popular organology, outlining the profile of the instrumental band designated for playing at dances, in which “cobza” is recaptured.

         In the documents concerning the part of Moldova situated to the East from river Prut, we encounter several persons who played “cobza”: “Gavril, cobzar” (Olișcani, 1772, 1773-1774) [3, p. 466], “Nistor cobzar” (a slave of the Căpriana Monastery, 1813), “Savin Cobzar” (father of the aforementioned Nistor, 1813) [1, p. 313, 328]. In the town of Chișinău, in 1813, was registered the existence of a group (guild?) of “meșteri lăutari” (“musicians masters”) [1, p. 328]. It is known that, in 1819, the guild of “lăutari” consisted of two groups of musicians, including “cobzari” [9, p. 19]. The band (“taraf”) of the boyar Bartolomeu, who worked in Chișinău in the 20s of the 19th century, comprised “cobza players” too [9, p. 19]. 

         The family name “Cobzar” [cobza player] is mentioned in a fiscal census from 1835, for several Rhoma persons from the villages of Frăsinești, Țigănești, Șișcani and Horodiște, Orhei county: Tudor Cobzar, Andrei Cobzar, Simion Cobzar, Vasile Cobzari, Ivan Cobzari, “Emanuil Lupov, son of Cobzar” etc. (National Agency of Archives General Direction National Archive, F. 134, inv. 2, d. 72; the information was offered by dr. T. Candu). The perpetuation of this name may be regarded as a witness of the practice of playing “cobza” music in Basarabia, during that age.

         The historian Gheorghe Bezviconi wrote that some famous “lăutari” (fiddlers) (Barbu Lăutaru among them) and their bands performed on both banks of Prut, during the 19th century [6, p. 114].

         In the 19th century, the instrument is mentioned in the German magazine Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (No. 30, July, 1821) as one of the components in the composition-backing of popular music assemblies. The traditional instrumental model as specifically Moldovan and Wallachian (violin, “cobza”, “nai”), will still be required for a long period of time. The presence of “cobza” in the bands of such configuration is documented, during the 19th century, in the Basarabian folk music bands of the Varfolomey’s boyars (Lăpușna county), Țambal, Crușevanu (Orhei), T. Krupenski (Chișinău), I. Pruncul etc. “Cobza” was also a part of the Moldovan and Bukovinean folk assembly led by Barbu Lăutarul, Angheluță, Năstase, N. Picu. It is maintained in the folk music bands from Moldova from the left of Prut (in bands led by I. Perja, C. Marin, C. Parno) up to the end of the 19th century. The period documents have preserved the names of several cobza-performers such as Stan Cobzarul, Ivanița cobza-playing brothers, Barbu Lăutarul, Țâru Cobzaru etc. The folklorist Teodor T. Burada mentions in his study “Researchers about the Romanian dances and music instruments”: “nowadays the most famous fiddler that plays cobza (…) is Țirul Cobzariu, he lives in the region of Basarabia”; “I had the opportunity to listen to him in Cahul”, “admiring very much his talent” [11].

         At the turn of the 19th – 20th centuries (“half a century ago, during the Russians’ time”), according to the folklorist Gheorghe V. Madan, in the Trușeni village (nowadays, in the district of Strășeni), at Easter, Saint George, Ascension Day and Pentecost, “they organized folk dances (joc) with fiddlers, with violin and cobza” [2, vol. 1, p. 49, 58]. Moreover, a field informant (Zaharia Cupeț, 67 years old, from Cristești) bore witness in 1938: “when I was a lad, during folk dance (joc), they played violin and cobza” [26, p. 127]. A photo from the album of Pavel Kondrațki, Images of Chișinău and its neighbourhood (1889), displays a band of fiddlers, one of its members playing cobza (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Romanian orchestra. Photo by P. Kondrațki, 1889.
From the archive of the New York Public Library.

         For the interwar period, there are witnesses confirming that the traditional bands (tarafuri) of fiddlers, organized in “cumpănii”, were hired to sing during the village “hora” (traditional round dance), at calendar feasts (Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, Easter). Speaking about the fiddlers’ instruments in the Iurceni village, Petre V. Ștefănucă remarked on the tendency to substitute the Romanian traditional instruments with modern ones (trombone, clarinet, flute etc.) [26, p. 127]. On the other hand, the folklorist observed the existence of bands of “first category” (who know “the most modern dance melodies”) and bands from the “second category” (who “play at peasant hore and weddings and in the inns from the Nisporeni town”) [26, p. 125, 126]. One may suppose that especially the bands from the “second category”, more closely tied to rural areas, could perpetrate the art of playing “cobza”, as well as of other folk instruments.

         In a photo with “folk bands from Chișinău and Bucharest”, taken in 1938 in Chișinău, we remark on a singer at the traditional “cobza” [2, vol. 2, p. 261] (Fig. 2). Following the assessment of Victor Botnaru, “in the bands from Moldovan, Muntenia, and partially Oltenia, cobza had dominated undisputable until about 1920s, when the cembalo started to undermine its authority. However, in parallel with groups of folk music, developed as number and types of instruments, there rested also older instrumental and vocal-instrumental components; within them, a melodic instrument, not necessarily the violin, was supported by the cobza accompaniment” [9, p. 20].

Fig. 2. Folkloric bands from Chișinău and Bucharest, Chișinău, 1938.
From the collection of Mr. Daniel Siegfriedsohn – Arhive istorice (Facebook).


         Another stage in the history of “cobza” started after the Second World War. In 1945, there was created an instrumental band beside the Republican House of Folk Creation. Since 1945, it worked under the auspices of the State Philharmonics from Chișinău, bearing the state of folk music orchestra. Within this band, cobza and other instruments were promoted [9, p. 20]. Later, the instrument was included in the Orchestra of Folk Music “Fluieraș”.

         Between 1957 and 1963, Anatol Davâdov (graduate of the Music school, of the Municipal Conservatory from Chișinău, as well as of the “G. Musicescu” Conservatory) worked as a “cobzar” in the Chișinău Radio Orchestra [11a, p. 157-158].
After the “Folclor” Orchestra had been founded (1968) within the State Committee for Television and Radio broadcast, “cobza” became a permanent instrument within orchestras of popular music. The option for it manifested too in other bands with professional status or of amateurs from the republic.

Fig. 3. Aurica Țurcanu, cobza player, “Fluieraș” Orchestra, 1970.
From the collection of Mr. Victor Ghilaș.

         Since 1978, in the “Ștefan Neaga” Music College, in the class of teacher Isaac Solomon, they have begun to teach the art of playing cobza. In the next decades, they started to train future “cobzari” in other educational institutions of different ranks too – the “Ciprian Porumbescu” Republican Lyceum of Music (teachers Ion Negură, Elena Negură, Violeta Grecu-Botezatu), the School of Music from Tiraspol (teacher Liubovi Mihaloșina), the Music College/Centre of Excellence in Art Education “Ștefan Neaga” (teacher Pavel Țurcanu), Academy of Music, Theatre and Fine Arts (teacher Victor Botnaru), the School of Arts “Valeriu Poleakov” from Chișinău, the School of Arts from Strășeni (teacher Sergiu Diaconu) etc.

         From 1980 on, the Ethno-Folkloric Band “Tălăncuța” allotted a privileged status to “cobza”. The band was formed by musicians born in different localities of the Republic of Moldova, aiming to revitalize the originality and authenticity of the traditional local singing. 

Fig. 4. The Ethno-Folkloric Band “Tălăncuța”, c. 1994.
From the collection of Ms. Silvia Zagoreanu.


Fig. 5. The cobza player Gheorghe Afroni.
From the collection of Victor Ghilaș


         Cobza is used both within the small traditional band (micul taraf), where cembalo lacks, and individually, to accompany singers that promote the repertory of the heroical epos and of the old ones’ song. A frequent and exemplary form of using the instrument is practised by several folk singers, young or older ones, who sing with their voices and accompany themselves at “cobza” (Ștefan Popescu, Marin Ganciu, Viorica Ciubotaru, Stela Botez, Pavel Țăranu, Suzana Popescu).

Fig. 6. The Band “Haiducii” from Rezina. Ion Purice – cobza player.
From the archive of the National Centre for the Conservation and Promotion
of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (CNCPPCI).

Fig. 7. The singer Suzana Popescu. From the archive of CNCPPCI.

Fig. 8. The singer Tudor Ungureanu.
From the archive of CNCPPCI.

Fig. 9. The teacher Victor Botnaru delivers a workshop of playing “cobza”.
From the archive of CNCPPCI.

         Like in former times, the nowadays bearers of the tradition of playing “cobza” are singers that act traditionally in folk groups or in professional orchestras of popular music or individually. The virtuosos in performing “cobza” are artists from musical-artistic groups from Chișinău, students and pupils from educational institutions of different ranks. Those singers that work in rural communities adapted to the local repertory, promoted by the ethno-folkloric bands, where persons fond of music sing. In this way, the two musical tendencies complement and stimulate each other. Following the assessment of Victor Botnaru, “the rhapsode “cobzar”, as a soloist or in a band, together with other instruments, is the typical bearer of the traditional folkloric performance; he sums in a syncretical unity the functions of singer, instrumentalist, poet, composer, and actor” [9, p. 21]. The affinity between the performer and his/her instrument is rather big. For this reason, some of them prefer to manufacture independently their instruments, sometimes assisted by string instruments makers (lutieri). Others use “cobze” created by folk craftsmen. In the current cultural practice, are used both the old Moldovan “cobza” and the adapted one. Performers are those who choose what instrument they wish to play. Performers play on the “cobze” made by the following string instruments makers: Jan Vizitiu (the Factory for making musical instruments from Chișinău), Ion Borș (Cricova, Chişinău municipality), Nicușor Mardari (Anenii Noi), Nicolae Dron and his sons – Ștefan, Nicolae, Eugen, Mihai (Gura Galbenei, Cimişlia district), etc.

3.1. Representative bearers (person, group or community) for the traditional folk repertoire for “cobză”.

         Victor Botnaru, born in 1961, Chișinău. Studied at the “Ștefan Neaga” Music College and at the “Gavriil Musicescu” State Conservatory. Since 1982, member of the Folk Ensemble “Tălăncuța”. He participated in the return to the artistic environment of several traditional instruments (“cavalul”, “tilinca”, “cobza”), as well as of the music repertoire that characterizes them, by making use of melodies collected during folkloric expeditions on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. He identified several samples of old “cobze” (at the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History, as well as at old “cobzari” from Romania). He studied thus the peculiarities of the traditional “cobza” (without frets) and created a system of tuning this type of “cobza”. To reconstruct the structure of the traditional “cobza” and provide the making of this instrument, he cooperated with the string instruments maker Nicolae Mardare from the Factory of Folk Instruments from Chișinău, as well as with the string-instruments maker Nicolae Dron. Basing on folk melodies, he reconstituted the style of singing used by old “cobzari”. For about four decades, he has contributed to the promotion of the old pattern of “cobza” and of the Romanian folklore from Basarabia. He teaches at the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts. In his opinion, “within the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts, the study of the folk vocal art, of the Moldovan folk song, of the art of playing the traditional “cobza” can be considered a sequel of learning traditions encountered in the traditional environment, related to the current requests of the contemporary musical-artistic teaching and practice” [9, p. 21]. The range of melodies for “cobza”, used in his didactical activity, comprises a great diversity of folkloric species. He valorizes thus the possibilities of the instrument and the vocal qualities of the singer: dance melodies (“hore”, “sârbe”, “hostropăț”, “hangul”, “șaierul” etc.), proper songs (“doina”, shepherd’s song), carols, “bocete” (wailings), ballads (The song of the shepherd who lost his sheep, Miorița), etc. [9, p. 32 and passim].

        Among the disciples of Victor Botnaru are famous singers (Gheorghe Afroni, Marin Ganciu, Alexandru Galiț, Viorica Ciubotaru, Ștefan Popescu, Stela Botez), together with many more graduates. He founded a band of cobza players within the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts. He leads the Band “Țărăncuțele” from the same institution. At different cultural events, he accompanies (on “cobză”, “caval”, “cimpoi” etc.) the members of the “Tălăncuța” Ensemble, as well as other groups. In 2023, within the National Centre for the Conservation and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, he led a master class. Representatives of many places, persons willing to learn the techniques of playing “cobza”, participated in it.

         Pavel Țurcanu, b. 1961, Costești, Ialoveni district. Originates from a family of “lăutari” (traditional folk music players). Education: the “Eugen Coca” Republican School of Music, the “Ștefan Neaga” Music College, the “Gavriil Musicescu” Art Institute. He worked at the State Philharmonic from Chișinău, in the orchestras “Mugurel” and “Lăutarii”. He cooperated with the “Tălăncuța” Ensemble. He organized the Ensemble of cobza players “Barbu Lăutaru”. He also created a band of “cobzari” consisting of pupils of the Music College/Centre of Excellence in Artistic Education “Ștefan Neaga”, where he teaches “cobza” and mandolin. Disciples who became famous singers: Cristian Marinescu and Ion Popescu.

         Suzana Popescu, b. 1950, Obileni village, Hâncești district. Education: the “Ștefan Neaga” Music College. In the “Tălăncuța” Ensemble, a member of which she became in 1983, she manifested through her special vocal qualities, as well as by singing old and rare creations (formulas of calling sheep, carols, “doine”, and ballads). Especially in the field of ballads, she brought back into the public space long-size creations (having hundreds of verses) that disappeared from the stage repertoire, such as Balada Badiului, Balada Codreanului, Bătălia de la Plevna, Mihu copilul, Vidra, Meșterul Manole, Soarele și Luna, Balada Mareșalului Averescu. She proves herself as a soloist singer. Some songs are accompanied by her on “cobza”. In this way, she highlighted the qualities of “cobza” for playing traditional epic creations.

         Marin Ganciu, b. 1973, Anadol village, Reni district, Odesa region. He studied music at the Art College of Odessa and at the Moldova University of Arts. He was active in the Folk Music Orchestra “Fluieraș”. Is a music teacher at the Creative Studio “Iedera” from the Republican Centre for Children and Youngsters “Artico”. He recorded a variant of the “Miorița” ballad from his native village, performing it partially on “cobza” and pipe. He promotes a repertoire consisting of folk (carols, Christian popular songs) and popular melodies.

         Tudor Ungureanu, b. 1963, Căpriana village, Strășeni district. He studied at the “Gavriil Musicescu” Art Institute from Chișinău (specialty “methodologist in cultural events”) and at the “Ion Luca Caragiale” National University of Theatre and Cinema Art (Bucharest). He had been a member of the “Tălăncuța” Ensemble (1980-1984), afterwards, he founded the Folk Ensemble “Ștefan Vodă” from Căpriana, leading it up till nowadays. He accompanies the bands “Sânzienele” from Căpriana village and „Voloșeni” from the Pănășești village, both in the Strășeni district. He plays several folk music instruments – pipe (different types), “caval”, “ocarină”, bagpipe, and “cobza”. His musical repertoire includes various genres: proper songs (Cântec haiducesc, Păstoreasca, Foaie verde fir de grâu), carols, and ballads (Ilinca, Arnăutul). The ensemble privileges songs with a patriotic message, participating with them in many concerts, contests, and cultural events in our country and abroad. As a “cobza” performer, he promotes the qualities of this instrument for soloistic performance. He promotes the idea of founding the Museum “Cobzar’s Hearth” in Căpriana, wherein will enter the collection of popular music instruments of the “Ștefan Vodă” Ensemble. 

         Ștefan Popescu and Viorica Ciubotaru. Both studied “cobza” at the Academy of Music, Theatre, and Fine Arts (teacher Victor Botnaru’s class). Active in the “Ion Creangă Theatre” (previously, for several years, the institution bore the name the “Ion Creangă” Epical Theatre of Ethnography and Folklore). Ștefan Popescu and Viorica Ciubotaru accompany on “cobza” the musical folklore recitals and the troupe’s performances. Over time, the team of the theatre became specialized in staging performances inspired by popular traditions (Andrei, cap de iarnă; Șezătoarea de Crăciun, Focurelul, Duminica Mare, etc.). They promoted thus simultaneously musical and choreographic folklore, musical instruments, and traditional costumes. The audience thus has the opportunity to learn about “cobza” in the context of other forms of the traditional culture. Viorica Ciubotaru led the folkloric bands “Urmașii” and “Floare de Dor”. She is currently the leader of the “Doina Dorului” Ensemble from the “Ion și Doina Aldea Teodorovici” Theoretical Lyceum from Chișinău.

Bearers of the techniques of manufacturing the “cobza”

         Nicolae Dron, Gura Galbenei village, Cimișlia district. His father was a woodcutter. He studied the craft of making stringed instruments from craftsmen Ion Borș and Nicolae Mardare. At the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts he learnt how to play “cobza”. Together with Victor Botnaru, he examined several samples of old “cobze”, that are traditional for the Republic of Moldova and Romania. To gain professional experience, he traveled to Ukraine and Hungary too. After several researches, he chose the model of “cobza” from the Botoșani county, Romania, as the most representative for the area between Prut and Nistru. He constantly improves each instrument, adapting it to individual singers and acoustic requirements. He makes them in his workshop in Gura Galbenei. At different stages of making “cobze”, he cooperates with his sons Nicolae and Ștefan. The latter have workshops in the same place, where they restore and make various musical instruments, including “cobze”. He runs demands of instruments for clients from the Republic of Moldova, Romania, and other countries (USA, Canada). Possessing a rich collection of “cobze” and other folk instruments, aiming to promote them, he intends to open a museum called “Casa Cobzarului” [House of the “cobza” player].

        Individual cobza players or members of folkloric bands, who valorize different “cobza” types and different musical genres

         Igor Iachimciuc, Anatol Sârghi, Ion Lipceanu, Iurie Secu, Ion Popov, Leonid Nenescu, Alexei Tătaru, Leonid Țăranu, Sergiu Diaconu. In different periods, they accompanied on “cobza” the members of the Ethno-Folkloric Ensemble “Tălăncuța”.

         Sergiu Diaconu, a graduate of the “Ștefan Neaga” Music College (Professor Isaac Solomon’s classroom). Active as a music teacher at the Art School from Strășeni. He is currently a member of the “Mugurel” Orchestra. He accompanies the “Ștefan Vodă” Ethno-folkloric Ensemble, other ensembles, and soloist singers. More recently, he has started to restore “cobza” instruments.

         Stela Botez (born in the village of Pleșeni, district of Cantemir). “Cobza” helps her promote herself as a soloist, by accompanying folk songs and other music genres. She is also active at private parties.

         Violeta Grecu-Botezatu, “cobza” player, “cobza” teacher at the “Ciprian Porumbescu” Republican Lyceum of Music.

         Ana Sârghi, the “Țărăncuța” Ensemble, Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts. She sings popular songs, accompanying herself on “cobza”.

         Ana Onica. Sings popular songs.

         Priest Anatol Sârghi. Active in the Costuleni village, Ungheni district. Sings at family events.

         Alexandru Galiț is a performer and head of the “Răzeșii” Folkloric Ensemble, Palace of Culture from Ungheni. Graduate of the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts (teacher Victor Botnaru’s classroom).

         Nicolae Ciobănică, the “Altița” Folkloric Ensemble from the town of Cahul, and the “Mierla Prutului” Folkloric Ensemble from the same town. He accompanies melodies that are sung individually vocally and in groups.

         Luminița Stoianov – she taught the art of playing “cobza” at the Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts. She accompanied the “Etnos” Group (which gained esteem in the whole Romanian area), together with Zinaida Bolboceanu and Maria Stoianov. She performs currently together with Maria Stoianov’s group at the “Buciumul Moldovan village” Centre, Chișinău.

Igor Botnari, village of Fundurii Vechi, Glodeni.

Sergiu Răileanu (moved to USA).

The “Busuioc” Folkloric Ensemble from Șolcani, district of Soroca.

Serafim Bondari (active in Chișinău).

Eugeniu Straistă, the “Doina” Ethno-folkloric Ensemble (active in Chișinău).

Nicolae Botnaru, the “Crenguța de iederă” Ensemble, Faculty of Fine Arts, Moldova State University.

The ensemble of the “Sunflower” Children’s Creative Centre.

The Ensemble of the “Ion Inculeț” Cultural House, the village of Răzeni, district of Ialoveni.

Svetlana Titică, Sergiu Titică, the folkloric ensembles “Răzeșii” and “Doruleț”.

Anatolie Cojuhari, Coşniţa, Dubăsari.

Dorin Belous, Chişinău.

Gulîi Mihai, village of Slobozia Duşca, district of Criuleni.

Diancenco Vitalie, village of Lozova, district of Străşeni.

Dumitru Triboi, village of Vorniceni, district of Străşeni.

Artiom Caziuc, Străşeni municipality.

Sochircă Andrei, town of Soroca.

Leonid Prodaniuc, town of Făleşti.

Ganuşciac Iulia, Chişinău municipality.

Ganuşciac Ion, Chişinău municipality.

Vişnevschii Valeriu, town of Floreşti.

Plăcintă Ion, village of Chişcăreni, district of Sângerei.



         In the present time, playing “cobza” bears a distinct place in the musical practice of the Republic of Moldova. The country asserts its cultural identity through music too, by protecting the traditional, original, and authentical music style. They are active in various groups that either recover local songs and interpretation styles from the social memory of folklore bearers or focus on some valuable techniques for the entire Moldovan and Romanian area. The recovery started in the groups who acknowledged the value of “cobza” accompaniment, originating from different places of the republic, who have a certain local music experience. Later, from the urban environment of the formation of instrumentalists, the “cobza” accompaniment gradually entered communities with a strong artistic memory. Thanks to institutionalized actions of the state, that started in the 60s of the past century, “cobza” started being manufactured at the “Workshop (later Factory – n.n.) of Moldovan popular music instruments” from Chişinău. It was later included as a study discipline in the curricula of the institutions of music education from the republic (roughly at the turn of the years 70-80s of the 20th century). It started to be frequently used in the concert practice both of professional groups and of amateur ones from the villages and towns of the Republic of Moldova. There have recently been observed attempts to extend the functions of the instruments; it has been used in the version of “cobza”-jazz and in the position of soloist. 

         At the beginning of the 80s of the last century, in the music culture of the republic, there was the tendency to create small instrumental groups that represent the return of preexistent traditional models, in a non-folkloric setting, by means of stage. These groups were created by social groups of vulgarizers (young students, some categories of intellectuals, etc.). Cobza counts among these instrumental formulas. Among the means of increasing the visibility of the art of playing “cobza”, we mention the organization of the first festival contest of “cobza” players, bearing the title “Cobza dorul îmi alină” (Chișinău, April 26, 2023), at the initiative of the singer and composer Sergiu Răileanu.

         Along with other traditional instruments, “cobza” acquired a certain visibility thanks to the project “Old popular musical instruments” (2022-2023), initiated by Gheorghe Șova (representative of the public association “Alianța între generații”, Fălești). The goal of the project was to map and conduct interviews with players on popular instruments from both banks of Nistru.

4.1. Name of the institution involved in maintaining visibility

         Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts. Within the Chair of Folk Canto, is taught the art of playing “cobza”. It is taught as well within the course on “Folk Ensemble”.

         The Public Institution the “Ștefan Neaga” Excellence Centre in Art Education, within the chair of popular instruments, is taught “cobza” as a study discipline. The institution trains young musicians as “cobzari”.

         The National Centre for the Conservation and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (CNCPPCI). Between July and December 2023, it organized 20 workshops dedicated to the study of playing “cobza”. CNCPPCI organizes as well seminars and informative sessions concerning playing “cobza”. The institution stimulates and promotes the traditional “taraf” (music band) wherein “cobza” is present. In the regulations of events it organizes, CNCPPCI imposes requirements concerning accompaniment on traditional instruments, including “cobza”.

         The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. It organizes systematically folklore performances, thus offering the possibility for ensembles, bands, and individual singers to manifest themselves by playing “cobza”.

4.2. Date and year when it was practiced last time

         The “cobza” interpretation continues to be practiced at community feasts (on the Day of the Patron Saint, at anniversaries or jubilees of localities), folkloric shows, organized within localities, according to the cultural calendar, with the participation of representatives of communities; family gatherings (weddings, birthdays), big concerts in the localities of the Republic of Moldova and abroad, where its citizens are active. Among the most recent public events, where “cobzari” performed, we mention: the Festival “Colindăm din sat în sat” from the Slobozia Mare village (22 December 2023); the Festival of Carols from Bălți (11 January 2024); the International Exhibition “Iubirea înflorește primăvara” (“Nicolae Sulac” National Palace, Chișinău, 16 February 2024); the Show “De la Iași la Chișinău”, organized at the “Nicolae Sulac” National Palace, within the “Mărțișor” International Music Festival.

5.1. Safeguarding measures of the element in the next 3 years

         Within the National Centre for the Conservation and Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will be continued the workshops for learning the techniques of playing “cobza”, addressed to those willing to master this instrument. CNCPPCI will conclude agreements with some leaders of folkloric bands, representatives of local public authorities, and directors of regional cultural institutions, regarding the implementation/revitalization of “cobza” etc.

         There will continue the activities of identification of information concerning fiddlers (“lăutari”) who were once active, and music groups that are active nowadays and prefer to sing on “cobza”.

         There will continue the valorization of the activity of “cobza” craftspersons in communities, aimed to discover the circulation of instruments, their specific, likewise who are the persons passionate about “cobza”.

         Will be registered “cobze” which are no longer in use, stored in families and in museums, to continue the inventorying of forms of the instrument, the materials of which they were made in different periods.

         As a result of the cooperation with communities, there will be accumulated and systemized, as copies, photos that present valuable information about the tradition of “cobza” in the Republic of Moldova.

         Based on the cooperation agreement concluded between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, regarding the protection of the intangible cultural heritage, for an increased knowledge of the phenomenon, there will be continued common seminars on the protection of the art of playing “cobza” and the craft of making “cobza”, meetings will be held in which both the virtuosos and the young people passionate about “cobza” will participate.

5.2. Institutions in charge with safeguarding measures (name, full address, telephone, post code, email)

         Academy of Music, Theater, and Fine Arts. Address: 111 Alexie Mateevici Street, Chișinău, MD 2009. Tel: (022) 24 02 13; [email protected]
         I.P. “Ștefan Neaga” Excellence Centre in Art Education. Address: 4 Hristo Botev Street, Chișinău, MD-2043. Tel.: (022) 56 00 58; [email protected]
         “Ciprian Porumbescu” Republican Music Lyceum. Address: 1 Kiev Street, Chișinău, MD-2068. Tel.: (022) 44 11 60; [email protected]
         National Centre for the Conservation and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Address: 50 Mihai Eminescu Street, Chișinău municipality. Tel.: (022) 22 15 40, e-mail: [email protected]
         National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. Address: 82 Mihail Kogălniceanu Street, Chișinău municipality, MD-2009. Tel.: (022) 24 40 02, email: [email protected]
         Municipal and district offices for culture.


         Ghilaș Victor, PhD hab., main scientific researcher, Institute of Cultural Heritage (chap. 2.1; 2.2; 2.3; 3; 4).

         Prohin Andrei, PhD, scientific secretary, National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. 

         Buzilă Varvara, PhD, head of the Ethnography Department, National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History.

         Zagoreanu Silvia, Master of Arts, director of the National Centre for the Conservation and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (information about cobza players and contemporary bands, recent photos, and video materials from the archive of CNCPPCI).

         English translation: Prohin Andrei.


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