Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Single.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Russian Federation.
Region: Eastern Europe.
Description: The zhaleika [in Russian: Жалейка zhaleika] other names are as брёлка or bryolka, Zhalomeika, sopel’, pishchelka, fletnya, duda. It is a single reed instrument belonging to the same family as the crumhorn. There is a single and double pipe variety of zhaleika. Although the double pipe zhaleika is mainly found.
Etymology: The word zhaleika [in Russian: Жалейка] is derived from Slavonic zhal, which may translate as ‘sad, sorrowful and mournful, also the root of zhalnik [‘a grave’]. Inhabitants of northern Belarus remember that the zhaleika could be heard during burial ceremonies in the 1930s. The term golos [‘voice’] as applied to Belarusian instruments is related to the belief that some instruments arose from trees growing on the graves of murdered children. The soul and voice of the child were thought to move first into a sacred tree, then into the instruments made from its wood. Thus, an instrument with an extraordinary and distinctive voice is an integral feature of ancient Belarusian burial rituals.
History: The zhaleika was a shepherd’s instrument used to perform solos, duets or ensemble pieces. The earliest single-reed pipe instruments date back to about 2700 BCE in Egypt, where most of these instruments most commonly had double pipes and used idioglot reeds. The earliest evidence of the zhaleika was in A. Tuchkov’s notes dating back to the late 18th Century.
The zhaleika was widely spread in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania but now can only be seen in folk music orchestras. In 1900, V. V. Andreyev incorporated a modified zhaleika – called bryolka – into orchestras. It consisted of a double-reed oboe type with additional finger holes and vents for chromatic scale.
Tuning: The zhaleika has diatonic tuning and comes in various keys [G / A / D or sometimes C / E / F ]. It has a natural or “normal” soprano voice, but can perform in alto or piccolo forms. It is tuned by adjusting the reed and can be turned to the major scale or mixolydian mode with flattened 7th note. Only an octave’s worth of notes can be played. Its timbre is described as “piercing and nasal, sad and compassionate”.
Construction: The zhaleika consists of a single reed that can be covered by a mouthpiece [or “wind cap”]. Consisting of a wooden tube with finger holes and a flared bell that can be made of either natural from wood, horn, cane or goose feather or man-made materials. The single pipe zhaleika is about 10 cm 20 cm long with a reed made out of either cane or goose feather with an end bell; it is made of cow horn or birch bark with 3 to 7 finger holes.
Citations: Bibliography: O Kroll, 1968 – The Clarinet. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company ; Websites: article by Inna D. Nazina Zhaleika ~ Grove Dictionary Of Music ;