Georgian Panduris. $75.
I've been intrigued by the panduri ever since I traveled to the Republic of Georgia in 2006 and heard one of them being played by a blind busker in a subway station in Tbilisi. A three-stringed lute with a bowl-shaped back and typical shovel-shaped profile, the panduri is one of Georgia's most popular folk instruments and is often heard accompanying the country's distinctive style of polyphonic singing. Like the Russian balalaika, it's typically tuned DAD, although it usually has nylon strings and is strummed with the fingers rather than a pick. It's more often heard in chordal playing rather than melody, although accomplished players can get a variety of tones and complex rhythms out of the instrument by varying their right-hand attack.
     Of course I hoped to buy a panduri before I left Georgia, but not speaking the language or knowing what the instrument was called, I had no success in tracking one down. The two I'm selling here are instruments I've acquired here in the States; I have a third one that I plan to keep.
     Please keep in mind: I think these panduris were made for the tourist trade and are intended more as wall hangers than functional instruments. They will make a pleasant sound when strummed with open strings, but neither has a proper fretting system and it would take some work to turn either one into a functional instrument, although one is closer to being functional than the other. Either that or they correspond to some tuning/fretting system I don't understand, and if you can figure it out you're a better musician than I am.
     Neither panduri has a fretboard as such—the wooden frets are laid into the top surface of the neck. Making them functional would entail removing the frets, planing down the neck, and installing a fretboard with 12 correctly spaced chromatic frets—certainly not beyond the skills of a competent luthier, but a process that'll cost you more than I'm asking for the instrument. Barring that, a panduri certainly looks nice on the wall and makes for a great conversation piece. I have two in stock:
     If you want to hear what a properly intonated and well-played panduri sounds like, here's the wildly popular Trio Mandili (with a donkey!) to demonstrate: