The double reed instrument called the shawm in English and the zourna, karamouza or pipiza in Greek is found in China, India, the Middle East and southern Europe. Historically, professional Romani performers of zourna and daouli filled a monopolistic economic niche. Representations of these instruments can be found in Byzantine art dating from the twelfth century; foreign travellers in Greece make note of it in their writings from the seventeenth century. Today they are still played in many regions of Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, southwestern Bulgaria and Turkey. Zourna and daouli were, and in some regions still are, indispensable for outdoor processions, rituals and dance contexts.
In Greece, the zourna exists in various lengths, the shortest of which is very high-pitched and is found in the Peloponnese and western Roumeli, especially in and around the town of Messolonghi. The longest produces the deepest sound and is widespread throughout Macedonia, especially in the Serres Prefecture.
The instrument is typically played in pairs. One performer plays the melody while the other carries the drone. The instruments are accompanied by a large two-headed cylindrical drum, commonly known as daouli. While the drumheads were traditionally made of skin, today they are plastic. While in the past the zourna was found in many Serres villages – for example, Draviskos, Ayia Eleni, Sidhirokastro Limnohori and Anthi – today it is to be found mainly in only two: Flambouro and Iraklia.
Christos Karakostas, virtuoso performer form Flambouro, is the third-generation musician in his family to play the instrument. Now his younger son and one of his grandsons are carrying on the tradition.
Karakostas is a successful farmer but is asked to play for weddings, baptisms, athletic events, paniyiria (saint-day celebrations) and other occasions. Over the last fifteen years, many musicians from Bulgaria and Turkey have sought opportunities to play with him, frequently hiring him to perform at various events in their countries.