Slide 2: Bagpipes
Bagpipes fall in the aerophones class of musical instruments, which uses a source of constant air supply and enclosed reeds to produce sound notes, has historically been played in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Europe and Caucasia. They trace the origins as far back as 1000 BC, in the Middle East. References to bagpipes have been unearthed, with evidence of Emperor Nero having been depicted playing a tibia in 2nd Century (Cannon, 2008). The arrival of the bagpipes in Europe is marked by their appearance in the continent’s iconography and art in the 13th century, before spreading to the rest of the continent. The spread across the Europe and the rest of the world equally saw variations in the make and the materials used in the instrument, and depending on the culture and social environments in which it was adopted, it lasted for varied durations in different areas (Sarris & Tsevelekos, 2008). The bagpipes have become commonly adopted for military and civilian purposes, and are usually played by small groups of people or bands, accompanied by percussions, drums and varied dances.
Slide 3: Types of Bagpipes
Bagpipes comprise of a source of constant air supply, with air being usually stored in a bag, coupled with at least a single drone and a chanter. The drone is held in sockets, which in turn attach the airbags. The bagpipes differ from each other, differentiated by the characteristic sound that they produce, the materials from which they are made and crucially, the social/cultural environments from which they originate. In addition, the basic way of playing the bagpipes involves the inflation of the bag with air, which is retained and is released constantly to allow the production of sound. The air bags are traditionally made from animal skins, especially goat, sheep, cattle and dogs, as well as from synthetic materials called the gore-tex. There are dozens of bagpipes, including the Scottish Great Highland bagpipe, the Bulgarian kaba gaida, the Galician gaita, the Lann Bihoue’s Bagad, the Irish Uilleann and the Serbian gaida among others. Few bagpipes have proven more visible than others have, especially the Great Highland Bagpipe, but the basic make of the instruments remain basically the same.
Slide 4: The Bulgarian Guida
Guida is a Greek word meaning bagpipes. The Bulgarian gaida is one of the European bagpipes, which are called guida, besides the Macedonian gajda, the Serbian gajda, the Slovak Gaidu and the Albanian gajde. For thousands of years, the gaida has been central to the musical sounds of Eastern European territories, which provided a great social and cultural environment for the survival of the guida over Millennia. The Bulgarian guida originated in the Balkans and the Middle East, where it formed an important part of the music and culture. The gaida, like all other bagpipes produces sound by the constant air flow through reeds. It was initially adopted by the Thracian agricultural communities in the Balkans, before it subsequently diffused to other regions of the continent. The Bulgarian guida, like all other bagpipes, comprises of two cylindrical pipe with single reeds. Further, in all guidas, the tonic does lie at the middle of the range, which is different from multiple instruments in the aerophones class such as clarinets, which have tonics in the lowest notes. It has an octave ambitus, which is divided into two registers with the tonic being A4. The high, more sonorous register lies above the sonic, with the low, less sonorous register being below. The latter register is mainly used in slow, table tunes.
Slide 5: History
It has origins in the present day territories of Northern Greece, European Turkey, Albania and Bulgaria, and it was originally used by the Thracian agricultural tribes. There are variants of the Bulgarian guida, or simply the guida across different countries in Eastern Europe (The Balkans), including Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Romania, as well as far across as India, Italy, France, England and Scotland (Donaldson, 2002). While the Bulgarian guida remains basically the same, the instrument is known by different names, including dudelsack in Germany and sackfeife cornemuse in both Scotland and England. The quaint customs of the Thracian tribes, coupled with the rich Rhodopean Mountain and Dacian-Getic traditions in Bulgaria, which is home to Euridica and Orpheus ensured that the guida survived through centuries of ritual dances, festivities and tourism, which carried it deeper into Europe and elsewhere in the world (Grattan, 2000).
While the guida was the dominant musical instrument for Thracian tribes, which were largely characterized by endogamy, introversion and autarky in social, cultural and economic behaviours, the 20th century saw a rapid transformation that saw it become Bulgaria’s favourite (Cheape, 1999). The 1923 compulsory population exchanges between Turkey and Greece as well as Bulgaria and Greece saw the dispersion of the tribes, along with the guida across international borders. It was heavily adopted by Greek Christians, who along with the trained military bagpipers, ensured that it survived through World War II. The Bulgarian national culture and history, coupled with the outstanding expression of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, was critical in its perpetration. The Bulgarian ritual of dancing (including the Horo, paydushko and rachnista dances) on live coals in the Balkan mountains id dedication to Saint Helena, is/was usually accompanied by the gaida, which was equally crucial for Christmas and Easter among other festivities. In addition, there emerged unique styles of singing that were accompanied by huge numbers of pipers, which created characteristically powerful sounds that survived overtime. There were further difficulties arrived during the Greek Civil War in the 1990s, which devastated the agricultural communities in the country, effectively destroying the social environment that for centuries nurtured the Bulgarian guida (Cannon, 2008).
Slide 6: Structure and parts
The following important parts and structure comprise the Bulgarian guida:-
- Bag- It describes an airtight sack that serves as a reservoir, which provides a constant air supply. It is made from animal hide or synthetic substitutes. The skins are treated in varying ways by varied communities e.g. by use of salt, milk, fur removal or by turning it inside out to facilitate moisture build-up (Callison, 2003). The bag is placed under the player’s arm, and whenever it is squeezed, it releases air through the reeds to create sound. The blowpipe, drone and chanters fit into the stoke, which are known as glavini and are traditionally made from animal horn or cornel wood.
- Blow Pipe- It is a stout, conical bone or wooden tube, through which the player blows in order to inflate the guida’s bag. There is a felt or leather check valve at the bag end of the blowpipe, which ensures that the airflow is only one way and the bag is airtight.
- Chanters are pipes, which produce melody (Donaldson, 2002).
- Reeds- Every chanter has a reed, which is made from elder, bamboo or reed, is fitted. The reeds are fitted to the chanters’ end towards the bag. The reeds are round in shape and are plugged into the bag using the natural reed walls, by use of a cork or wax. For good measure, a hemp string is tied to this end to ensure a completely airtight seal at the chanter’s entry into the bag. The mouth end of the reed remains open, with tongue cut into it, which vibrates whenever air blows through it. The reed length protruding off the chanter determines the tuning of the chanter, and may be adjusted by sliding it out or into the bag (Seeler, 2004). To facilitate this, the wrapping traditionally comprises suet, which serves as a lubricant, but clarinet cork greases may also be used to attain similar results. In the event of the failure of the reeds to sound well, the lip cut into the chanter is tightened by use of rubber bands.
- Melody Chanter- This is the smaller tube/chanter that has a conical bore. It is traditionally made from cornel wood, plum wood, boxwood and other fruit woods. It usually has eight holes bored into it, with the topmost four being covered by the thumb and the initial three left hand fingers, while the four right hand fingers cover the bottom four holes (Gipson, 2002). In addition, the Bulgarian gaida, in common with other Eastern European bagpipes has flea-holes, also referred to as voicer or mumbler. The flea-hole, which is smaller than other holes, is covered by the left-hand index finger, and it normally comprises of a tiny tube made from metal, a duck or chicken feather. When the flea-hole is uncovered, it increases the notes played by a half step, which is why flea-holes are used in the creation of musical ornamentation. This ornamentation is a unique characteristic of the Balkans and the guida music.
- Drone- This is a three-piece, extended tube. It does not have fingerholes, not least because it is only meant to play a single note called a drone. The note is usually lower relative to those produced by the melody chanter owing to its length as well as the doubly large reed. A drone is cylindrical in nature with a single reed and it is usually designed in two parts containing a sliding joint to adjust the pitch (Baynes, 2009). The drone lies on the shoulder of the player across the arm but opposite the bag and is twice longer than the reed.
Slide 7: Playing the Bulgarian Guida
In order to play, one must inflate the bag with air, which when released, creates sound as it moves through the reeds. The guida, like many other bagpipes is usually placed in such a way that the bag is under arm, and to allow the player to easily squeeze the bag to force air out (Scott, 2006). In order to create notes, one places their fingers over the chanter shaft holes, while a little air is left to smoothly blow through the chanter (Scott, 2006). However, it is impossible to articulate melody through tonguing, because the player does not have contact with the reeds. It is also not possible to play in rests, pauses, repeat notes, staccatos or include range dynamics (Sarris & Tsevelekos, 2008). The higher note produces a greater note. In order to overcome these limitations, the flea-hole, which is incorporated in Eastern European guidas is helpful. Depending on the fingering, when a player uncovers the flea hole, the interval of a second over the note that originally sounded is created, with its size depending on the original note. The flea hole is used in three different ways. To begin with, it is used to create melody by cross fingering (Kegan, 2005). Secondly, it is used in the creation of melodic ornaments and thirdly, in the creation of the pitch vibrato effect. The pulse vibrato is created through the partial and complete covering of the lower holes. Effectively, the flea holes are important for creating the characteristic distinguishing sound of the guida, from other bagpipes (Kegan, 2005).
Slide 8: Uses of the Bulgarian Guida
The guida was/is easily one of the most important instruments to the agricultural communities in Bulgaria, with male and female players learning and playing the instrument separately. The calendrical work cycle and life cycles were connected, with the guida being played to symbolize every occasion, from Christmas to Easter and weddings etc. Traditional dances are often accompanied by guida, with or without drum and percussion accompaniments. It was integrated in varied life activities and practices of the people, which effectively gave the instrument an important social environment to survive through centuries (Callison, 2003). The Bulgarian guida remains an important symbol of freedom and inspiration especially in times of war to the Thracian and other agricultural communities in Bulgaria and other regions where the instrument is widely adopted. In addition, it is used for purely entertainment purposes, with menfolk playing the instrument out in the fields while looking after animals, while women played the guida during domestic and farming chores (Baynes, 2009). It is also used during important life cycle activities both for symbolic and practical musical purposes, with weddings and funerals being the most crucial such events, which brought together whole communities.
In order to perpetuate the instrument and the traditions associated with it, the Bulgarian guida and the songs were usually taught by using a technique known as canntaread worth chanting. According to Baynes (2009), the guida music is passed on through standardized phrases that usually repeated without considerable variations. The notes were indicated by using specific vowels and consonants, and given the fact that Bulgarian guidas have no rhythms, the skills must be taught orally. Consequently, the guida-playing communities can easily identify the activities taking place whenever a Bulgarian bagpipe is played. This is because different tones are played during different functions. Example, the theme played in a wedding place differs with the one at funeral ceremonies (Scott, 2006). However, with the devastation of the agricultural communities following the Greek Civil War in the 1990s, coupled with the advent of the modern media and rapid urbanization, the guida-related traditions and practices/functions have seen rapid declines. The instrument is now played in few areas, by older generations, which however dying off. The future of the Bulgarian guida, as indeed other traditional musical instruments lies in its resurging popularity in hip hop, the military and high technology, as against quaint tribal populations.
Slide 9: Cost and Significance
The Bulgarian guida is available in large music stores, especially in Eastern Europe. The instrument’s pricing highly varies according to the location and the materials. The plastic guidas retail at more than $650, while the Blackwood beaded pipes cost between $1200 and $1600. The price of Blackwood beaded guidas is heavily dependent on the prices of the African Blackwood, which has seen rapid escalations in its pricing. The plastic Bulgarian guidas are cheap, largely because of the poor quality of the music produced, and they are usually bought as souvenirs or wall decorations as against for use as musical instruments (Kegan, 2005). The Blackwood Bulgarian guidas are relatively expensive but produce excellent quality bagpipes. The musical quality of the guida is crucial in making purchasing decisions.
The guida has evolved to attain significance and special symbolism in the communities in which it has been used over the years. It used to symbolize everything from sympathy to the bereaved families during funerals, war calls to wedding celebrations. It is a symbol of military supremacy played after winning wars, or during war. In addition, is equally used to signify freedom and escape from psychological and actual oppression (Baynes, 2009).
With modernization, the quaint goat and dog skins are quickly disappearing, and instead, cheaper. More modern materials even computer software are being used in the construction or even complete replacement of the entire instrument (Seeler, 2004). The Bulgarian guida has undergone considerable transformations from what they originally used to be. This is especially significant with the emergence of electronic bagpipes in 1962, which comprised of an authentic sound piece referred to as a Bazpipe. The original electronic instrument comprised a melody pipe that used gold-plated metal contacts linked to the motherboard, transistors and a speaker. The synthetic fibres and considerable number of pipe producers.
With technological advancements, more advanced electronic bagpipes emerged in the 1970s, which resembled the Bazpipe, but with more advanced features to allow greater musical and ergonomical flexibility. Other fascinating bagpipes included the Ross pipe that resembled a Bazpipe and was capable of playing a number of different keys. Around 2000 an electronic Austrian bagpipe was introduced, it had a pressure bag which thus visually and more ergonomically more closely resembled a traditional gaida bagpipe (Cannon, 2008). Later, the commercial developments, which included the work of Anders Fagerstrom, developed a complete set of electronic bagpipes that emulated the Galician bagpipes.
The instrument was used by the largest number of bagpipers to play together for the longest time to set a Guinness Book of World Records’ record. In addition, it has been widely adopted by rock, metal punk, classical music and hip, especially with the emergence of synthetic guidas, which have made manufacturing and availability much easier (Grattan, 2000). It has been adopted by modern militaries and cultures, largely due to the spread facilitated by the internet and modern media. The instrument is equally quite evident in modern and ancient painting carvings, stained glass impressions and music both in Eastern Europe as well as elsewhere in the world.
Baynes, A. (2009). Woodwind Instruments and their History. Newyork: Oxford University Press.
Callison, F. (2003). The Traditional Bagpipe. Edingburgh: Tuckwell University Press.
Cannon, R. (2008). Bagpipes and Music. Berllin: Berllin Press.
Cheape, H. (1999). The Book of Bagpipe. Belfast: Appletree Press.
Donaldson, W. (2002). The Traditional and National Music. NewYork: Oxford University Press.
Gipson, J. (2002). Old and New Barpiping. Kingstone: Magill University Press.
Grattan, F. (2000). The Story of Gaida Bagpipes. London: Walter Scott Publishing.
Kegan, P. (2005). History of Bagpipes. London: Dover Publication.
Sarris, H., & Tsevelekos, P. (2008). "Singing Like the Guida (Bagpipe)": Investigating Relations between Singing and Instrumental Playing Techniques in Greek Thrace. journal of interdisciplinary music studies spring/fall volume 2, issue 1&2, art. #0821203 , 33-57.
Scott, R. (2006). A Brief History of Military Piping Abroad and in America. Edniburgh: Donaldsons.