The tulnic is an ancient musical instrument which is part of the cultural heritage of the Romanian people. The tulnic is a true symbol of the Western Mountains, and it has been used as a means of communication and singing ever since the Dacian epoch, according to certain historians. So, in a way, the tulnic could be the Romanian version of the Australian didgeridoo.
As the custom goes from generation to generation, the songs, the callings and all the messages transmitted via the tulnic are usually interpreted by a lady tulnic player. If there are more lady players, they can all sing the same song, but on different tones. Each tulnic can produce a unique, different sound, depending on the instrument's length and on the quality of the wood that it is made of.
In order for two lady players to produce music together, they need to have their tulnics tuned on the very same tone, and in order to achieve that they sometimes have to shorten their tulnics to get them at the very same length.
Also called the "bucium" or "trambita", the tulnic finds its origins in ancient Dacia, when it was used also in Moldavia and Wallachia, in addition to the mountain dwellers of the Western Mountains ("Apuseni" Mountains.) The word "bucium" in fact comes from Latin, as the tulnic reminded the Romans of their "bucinum" a curved horn that the Roman people used.
The tulnic apparently is made of lime tree and sometimes even of metal (at least some parts are.) It was and still is used by shepherds to send messages in the mountains, for guiding their animals.
There is a unique kind of song (doina) called "ca din tulnic" ("like coming from the tulnic"). Doina is thus a special Romanian work of art that can be played with the help of the tulnic. There is no translation for the word "doina" in any other language, although many compare it to the blues because of its lyrical sadness. "Doina" is, in fact, generally defined as "a sad song." Their melody is usually very slow, and certain melodies are even repeated in different songs, starting from a certain pattern that is usually descending.
According to different regions, there can be found a rather large variety of doinas. Thus, on the south Danube shore, there is the so-called "ca pe lunca"; there also is "doina de codru" (forest doina), "haiducesti" (outlaw doinas), hora lunga (in Maramures), Oltului (on the Olt river), Klezmer (belonging to the Jews in Moldavia and Basarabia.) Naturally, we can mention many other types of doinas such as shepherd's doina, mournful doina, drinking doina, lullaby doinas, etc.
In order to understand the concept of doina, we may consider a few definitions given by famous Romanian poets. In this respect, for instance, Vasile Alecsandri says that: "Doina is the most vivid expression of the Romanian soul. It includes its memories of grief, love and longings. The melody of the doina, for those who understand it, is in fact the very mourn of our country for its past glory!" He also states that "...It is the most beautiful song, the most mournful, and the most heart-felt that I have ever heard in this world." And "The doinas make up a national treasure, worthy of being shown as a glorious symbol of the Romanian nation."
Another great Romanian writer sharing his opinion on the doina issue is Alecu Russo. A passionate researcher of the Romanian spirituality, Alecu Russo is notorious for having discovered the great Romanian ballad called "Miorita". Here are his very own words: "Doina, and doina again!...my song is the dying verse of my people..." He also adds that: "Doina is not only the fruit of grief, but also of rebellion." Rebellion against external and internal oppressor of the Romanian people, against the lost of love for tradition and culture.
St. O. Iosif defines the doina as the company song of forest outlaw or of shepherds walking their sheep on the paths of the beautiful mountain forests.
For George Cosbuc, another giant of the Romanian literature, "doina weeps". And the sadness of the doina seems to express the grief of the Romanian people.
Great personalities or simple people, they are all made equal when listening to the expression of Romanian's most dear song.