Also:       zummāra      zamr      

Title: The Music of the Arabs—Swihil; Karim Harbud, mijwiz. Label: Amadeus Press. Format: CD. Catalogue#: N/A. Track: 3.

Contextual Associations

The mijwiz is anidioglot single-reed aerophone. It is a folk instrument widely distributed throughout the Middle East from Turkey to Morocco, often played solo by shepherds and amateurs but occasionally in combination with a singer and a drummer. Numerous names (many with multiple spellings) for this and related instruments are found in the literature, and determining which amongst them are the most generic and widely used is a challenge. Here, mijwiz (sometimes spelled mizwij) will be favored, although zummāra/zummārah is also found in several sources as a primary name for this instrument. An important morphological distinction that one should be aware of when reading about paired reedpipes of the Middle East is that some have two melody pipes of the same length while others have one melody pipe and one drone pipe, the latter pipe often of a considerably greater length than the former. This second type of paired reedpipe goes by such names as argul and çifte.


The mijwiz pictured here consists of two pipes, each made of three interlocking segments of reed.  The longest segment is an open tube, has a cylindrical bore, and six equally-distanced fingerholes in a row (no thumbhole on the opposite side). These two pipes are securely bound together with tarred cotton cord at three points along their length so that their lines of fingerholes run parallel to one another. A short (about 2 inches in length) second section, likewise of two parallel tubes of cane (but with no fingerholes), is inserted into the top end of the fingerhole section. Separate 2-inch lengths of reed are then inserted into the top ends of the second section. These reed tubes, closed at their top end, have a deep back cut in them along much of their length to articulate a single flexible lamellae or idioglot reed (idioglot because the reed is not a separate entity attached to the tube, but part of the tube itself).

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer holds the mijwiz with both hands nearly horizontally in front of him with the fingerholes up. The bulk of the reeds are situated inside the mouth cavity with the player’s lips creating a tight seal abound them. The first three fingers of one hand cover the top three fingerholes of both tubes, the first three fingers of the other hand the bottom three. In order to finger both tubes simultaneously, the soft pads between the knuckles are used to cover the holes. When all the fingerholes on the mijwiz pictured here are covered, approximately a D4 is sounded. The notes on the two pipes are purposefully tuned slightly apart from one another so as to produce an acoustic beat. The technique of cyclic breathing is used by performers to achieve a continuous flow of melody. Melodies are typically narrow in range. Each reedpipe is by itself not very loud, so having two of them sounding simultaneously increases the instrument’s volume.


Sachs states that double idioglot reedpipes like the mijwiz have existed for 5,000 years, since Ancient Egypt, “without the slightest change” (Sachs, p. 92). If that is the case, very little is known of the history of this instrument during those five millennia except that its introduction to as far away as the Indonesian archipelago coincided with the spread of Islam.

Bibliographic Citations

Hassan, Scheherazade Qassim. 2002. "Musical Instruments in the Arab World." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 6. The Middle East. ed. Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds. New York: Routledge, pp. 401-423.

Marcus, Scott L. 2007. Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marcuse, Sibyl. 1975. A Survey of Musical Instruments. New York: Harper and Row.

Morris, R. Conway. 1984. “‘Çifte [çifte].” NGDMI v.1: p. 369.

Picken, Laurence. 1975. Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey. London: Oxford University Press.

Poché, Christian. 1984. “‘Mijwiz [midjwiz, miğwiz, mizwidj; mizwij]” NGDMI v.2: p. 661.

________. 1984. “Mizmār.” NGDMI v.2: 668-669.

Sachs, Curt. 1940. The History of Musical Instruments. New York: W.W. Norton.

Touma, Habib Hassan. 1996. The Music of the Arabs. trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: West Asia

Nation: Turkey

Formation: Turkish

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

422.221.2 aerophone--set of cylindrical-bore reedpipes with single reeds; each pipe has a [single] reed consisting of a lamella which periodically opens and closes an aperture, controlling the flow of air; at least one pipe has fingerholes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - cylindrical with open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: exposed idioglot percussion (single) reed

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: opening fingerholes to reduce space or shorten length of standing wave in air cavity

Overblowing utilization: not used

Pitch production: multiple pitches - changing length/shape of standing waves within two cavities with fingerholes


12.6 in. length (with reeds) 10.5 in. length (without reeds) 8.5 in. length (fingerhole section only)

Primary Materials

reed - cane
cord - cotton

Entry Author

Roger Vetter