The cumbu is a Turkish stringed instrument of relatively modern origin. Developed in the early 20th century by Zeynel Abidin Cumbu as an oud-like instrument that could be heard as part of a larger ensemble. In construction it resembles both the American banjo and the Middle Eastern oud. A fretless instrument, it has six courses of doubled-strings, and is generally tuned like an oud. In shape, though, it closely resembles the banjo with a metal resonator bowl and skin body head. It has a loud, metallic, resonant tone and is widely heard in Middle Eastern popular music.
The Cumbu Company in Istanbul, Turkey manufactures several different models. They include:
The standard cumbu: short neck, fretless, tuned like an oud
Saz-cumbu: long neck, tie-on frets, tuned like the popular Turkish instrument the Baglama Saz
Cura-cumbu: like the Baglama Saz model but higher pitched like a Cura Saz
Tambur-cumbu: super long neck, tuned like Turkish classical instrument the Tambur
Yayli tanbur - cumbu: like the Tambur model, but played much like a cello with a bow
Guitar-cumbu: fretted, tuned like a guitar
Mando-cumbu: fretted, small, tuned like a mandolin
Cumbu-Ukulele: fretted, small, tuned like a Ukulele
The word cumbu is derived from the Turkish for "fun", as the instrument was marketed as a popular alternative to the more costly classical oud. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decreed that families take surnames, Zeynel Abidin adopted the name of his famous instrument. Cumbu Music is still an active company in Istanbul and manufactures a wide range of traditional Turkish instruments.
Use in Western popular music
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour played cumbu on his solo album On An Island on the track "Then I Close My Eyes". It can also be heard on the album opener "Castellorizon".
Stone Temple Pilots/Talk Show/Army of Anyone guitarist Dean DeLeo played a cumbu on the Stone Temple Pilots album Shangri-La Dee Da on the track "Regeneration". It can be heard during the chorus.
Smokey Hormel appeared on Tom Waits' Mule Variations playing cumbu (credited as "Chumbus") on "Lowside of the Road"