The zither has become an integral part of their folk tradition – folk music – over the past nearly 100 years. In the way it is made, tuned and used, it reflects a particular Hungarian taste and demand. We do not know much about the makers of the Hungarian zitheras, only old zithers left to us by our great-great-grandfathers tell us some stories and give us some information! We have heard from old cither players who are still alive that the zither was the instrument of the Pusztai people of the Southern Great Plain, of manorial servants, of peasants in villages and farms, and thus of the really poor people. From them we know that skilful carpenters, carpenters and bognars, with their professional tools and without any musical or instrument-making skills, ‘made’ zithers which, in the circumstances of the time, became widely known and widely used.
The great majority of them, no doubt, made their own zithers to their liking by sight or by ‘copying’. Thus the zither was found in every farm and town house. It was mainly used as a musical instrument for entertainments and in the home, although its simple and unpretentious design at the time meant that it was used more as a ‘percussion instrument’.
The last 30-40 years have brought a qualitative change in the life of the instrument, with the emergence of the multi-piece cither orchestras and the beautiful sound of the elaborately made, stage-quality zithers. Its powerful, beautiful sound and its easy and quick to learn technique make it a success in a very short time in our fast-paced world.
Today, it has become widespread and popular again throughout the country. The music of the “common people”, the movingly beautiful songs of our grandparents, may now be able to be stolen into the hearts of the young people of the noisy discos! This is the only way to pass it on to posterity, to future generations! In our present world, many zither camps are being organised to carry on our tradition and teach today’s young people.
The Alföld zither is an important representative of Hungarian folk music.