Title: Voyage en URSS--Kartouli; A beradze and Ion Veroulidze, chonguri. Label: Le Chant du Monde. Format: CD. Catalogue#: LDX 274 921. Track: 19.

Title: The Secret Museum of Mankind Vol.4--Dariko; A. Potskhvershvili, chonguri. Label: Yazoo. Format: CD. Catalogue#: 7010. Track: 15.

Contextual Associations

The chonguri is a strummed bowl-lute chordophone of Georgia, which is located in western Asia between the Black and Caspian Seas. It is associated with several ethnic groups, especially the Megrel and Gurian, who live in the plains of western Georgia. Traditionally the instrument is played chiefly by women for accompanying dances (listen to first audio clip) and solo songs (listen to second audio clip). During much of the 20th century when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, the chonguri and other regional folk instruments were modernized and became tools of social engineering in the hands of state-run folkloric ensemble musicians. In post-Soviet times, while still part of living village culture of now independent Georgia, the chonguri is also found in national folkloric groups based in the capital and other cities.


The vaulted bowl resonator of the chonguri (see detail image) is made from six slats or ribs of wood that are individually shaped and bent before being glued together, their ends glued to semicircular blocks of wood. The resulting pear-shaped hollow body is covered with a flat soundboard of straight-grained softwood (spruce or pine) that, near its center, has a soundhole consisting of numerous holes of varying size burnt into a circular area that create the effect of a rosette (see main gallery image). A pressure bridge, held in place by the downward force of the tensioned strings, is placed a few inches below the soundhole. The neck and scroll-shaped pegblock are carved from a single piece or wood, the two sections divided by an inserted wooden nut (a raised ridge). The neck section is at least in part gouged out, and the entire upward facing side is covered with a flat piece of wood serving as the fingerboard. Glue is used to join the foot of the neck to the upper resonator block, and this connection is strengthened by having some of the fingerboard overlap and glued to the soundboard. Four nylon strings (historically of silk) in single courses have nooses at their bottom end that are looped around a shared tail button anchored in the block at the bottom end of the resonator. After bending over the bottom edge of the soundboard and passing through slots in the bridge, three of the strings (the first, second and fourth from the left in the gallery photo) continue in a parallel plain just above the soundboard and the fingerboard until they make contact with the nut. They are then threaded through and wound around the ends of side-mounted friction tuning pegs in the pegblock. All three of these strings have the same vibrating length of 23.2 inches as measured from the bridge to the nut. The fourth string (called zili), after passing through its slot in the bridge (the third one from the left of the image) makes contact with a separate low nut located in the middle of the fingerboard and then passes through a hole, where in the hollow interior of the neck it is threaded through and wound around the middle of a tuning peg mounted in the side of the neck. The vibrating length of this string is 13.5 inches.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The chonguri can be played either by a seated of standing performer and is held at about a 45-degree angle from horizontal, the soundboard facing outwards. The player strums the strings in both directions with upward and downward motions of the right hand, stopping the strings (mostly the topmost) against the unfretted fingerboard with the fingertips of the left hand. The strings may also be plucked. Single-line melodies are generally played against a rearticulated drone sounded on the bottom two main strings and the zili string. Some tunings used for the chonguri are (these are given with the three main strings first followed by the zili string): D4 -G4 - B4 - D5 (main-string interval pattern of P4 - M3); C4 - F4 - G4 - C5 (main-string interval pattern of P4 - M2); and C4 - E4 - B4 - E5 (main-string interval pattern of M3 - P5). Although typically played as a diatonic rather than chromatic instrument, any intervals can be produced melodically due to the absence of frets on the fingerboard. The instrument has a modest dynamic range.


It is unclear just how far back in history the chonguri goes. The chonguri pictured here is most likely based on the design of the instrument used in villages in pre-Soviet times. Beginning in the 1930s (during the Soviet period) makers started producing chonguri for concert performance by state-sponsored folkloric troupes. These instruments included up to twelve frets positioned to sound a chromatic scale, and were produced in a variety of sizes--primo, bass, and double bass. (NGDMI: 363) Although still in use today by Georgian government-sponsored folkloric ensembles, the modernized design of the chonguri does not appear to have replaced the traditional design as used outside the government ensembles.

Bibliographic Citations

Chkhikvadze, Grigol , and Joseph Jordania. “Georgia.” In Grove Music Online, accessed October 7, 2014:

n.a. 1984. “Chonguri.” NGDMI v.1: 362-363.

Shilakadze, Manana. 2010. “Polyphony and Folk Musical Instruments.” In Echoes from Georgia: Seventeen Arguments on Georgian Polyphony. Rusudan Tsurtsumia and Joseph Jordania, eds. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., pp. 215-228.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: West Asia

Nation: Georgia

Formation: Megrel

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

321.321 chordophone--necked bowl lute: the handle is attached to or carved from the resonator, like a neck

Design and Playing Features

Category: chordophone

String carrier design: lute - joined

Resonator design, chordophone: bowl with wood soundboard

String courses: single

Vibrational length: pressure bridge to ridge-nut

String tension control: friction peg

Method of sounding: plucking (direct) and strumming

Pitches per string course: one and multiple (by pressure stopping against fretless fingerboard)


35.7 in. length 9 in. greatest width 5 in. greatest depth of resonator

Primary Materials

string - synthetic

Entry Author

Roger Vetter