ARAGONESE BAGPIPE

classification | parts of Aragonese bagpipe | positions | peculiarities

CLASSIFICATION

According to Alfonso García-Oliva Mascarós, in his catalogue of bagpipes in Bagpipe Museum at Gijon, Aragonese Bagpipe belongs to West european bagpipes (group D) and in particular to “franc-occitan” family.
This family is basically characterized by the presence of only one front seat, a chanter (clarín) with narrow conical section close to a tenor drone (bordoneta or tenoreta), placed in parallel.

In spite of its wide section, aragonese bagpipe belongs to this family, as well as Boha of Las Landas (France), with cylindrical section. Others from this family are Musettes of 23 and 16 inches from the center of France (Berry, Bourbonnais, Nivernais, Morvan), the Chabretta of Limousin (France), the Cabrette of Auvernia (France).

Bagpipes belonging to the same family than the Aragonese Bagpipe

Boha
Las Landas (France)
Chabretta
Limousin (France)
Musette
Berry, Bourbonnais, Nivernais, Morvan (France)
Cabrette
Auvernia (France)


"First cousins" of Aragonese Bagpipe are the ones from Mediterranean Family from the same group D. Between them we can emphasize the Zampogna (Italy), the Xeremia (Majorca) and the Sac de Gemecs (Catalonia).

"First cousins" of Aragonese Bagpipe
Zampogna (Italia)
Xeremia mallorquina
Sac de Gemecs catalán

 

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PARTS OF ARAGONESE BAGPIPE

Aragonese Bagpipe, like almost all bagpipes from this franc-occitan family and others from the peninsula, formed by:


• A bag or boto (the reason of its name) to keep air, composed of a whole goat skin, tanned and with the hair turned towards inside part, which capacity is of about 25 liters, very similar to those used for carrying wine, waterproofed with animal or synthetic fats. In the neck of the goat a stock with two holes is tied where the chanter and the tenor drone are disposed in parallel (it is the only bagpipe in the peninsula where it happens). Bass drone stock and blow pipe stock are tied to the front extremities.
• a blow pipe to fill the bag with air, provided with an anti-return valve and tied to the bag right front leg.
• a chanter, main tube that has 7 holes in the front face and one in back face to articulate the melody, plus two resonance holes close to the bell. It uses double-tongue canes. Chanter accepts open and close positions, although most part of aragonese bagpipers use open positions, to obtain a scale. The most common tonalities are Do major (La minor), Fa Major (Re minor, not common) and Do minor.
• a bass drone that produces a continuous bass. It uses simple cane. Bass drone and tenor drone are tuned in DO, in two and one lower eighth, respectively, than the chanter tonic. The position of the bass drone is also particular, since it is placed under the right arm of the bagpiper against the well-known gallego-asturian aesthetics to localte it over the shoulder.
• a tenor drone, with similar constitution to the bass drone but producing a note one eighth acuter than that. It also uses simple cane.

Boto (bag) viewing stock tieds
Blow pipe (with stock and valve)
Chanters Stock
Chanter
Bass Drone (with regulator, stock and cane)
Tenor Drone (with regulator and cane)

 


¿why we use the name "de boto" for aragonese bagpipe?
In Aragon it is called "gaita" (bagpipe) to dulzaina and to cornamusa, giving the name of "gaitero" (bagpiper) to the person who performs any of these musical instruments or even to the drummer.

Then, we will distinguish the bagpipe, giving it the name of the air container: boto.

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POSITIONS

The positions of an Aragones Bagpipe are not much different from positions of other bagpipes in the peninsula, or even of the rest of bagpipes of the world.
It accepts open positions and close positions, although most part of aragonese bagpipers use open positions.

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PECULIARITIES OF ARAGONESE BAGPIPE

Print dress

The bag (or air tank) is dressed with a printed dress in alive colours; it is a whole skin of animal body (small goat), so it gives the appearance of a girl dress, since it finishes in steering wheels. A legend counts that a time already forgotten, aragonese bagpipe had no dress and the bag was itself to the air. Somewhere on Aragon, there was a bagpiper that was blind. He had an small girl who became ill and died. Then, that aragonese bagpiper, to be able to remember his girl, he put one of the dresses of his daugther on the bag so that, in this way, whenever he played his bagpipe he was made to the idea to be embracing his dear daughter … Other aragonese bagpipers, when they saw this way of protecting the bag with that dress, they went slowly and by imitation adopting that way of dressing bagpipes and that has lasted till our days.

It is known that an old bagpiper had even several dresses that he used according to the celebration or part of celebration where he performed, so he had, among them, a dress for verbenas, another one for official acts, religious events, …It is true that this dress protects the bagpipers from the fats applied inside the bag for its waterproofing.

Snake skin

The aragonese bagpipe is usually made with boxwood (abundant bush in the Pyrenees), although lately some luthiers use ebony, wood-pink, american boxwood, ... and other noble wood that take the risk of getting cracked, due to climatical changements and moisture transmited by the breath of the bagpiper. To avoid as much as possible this non-desired effect in Aragón, since immemorial times, we have chosen to cover the bagpipe tubes with snake skin, that is to say, we use it as thermal cover, and in addition giving to the instrument greater robustness.

The sense of this peculiarity has different explanations, and according to that we have read or heard:
• the first is becase in this way women will not dare to touch it considering the fear that this reptile produces
• in the regions of Jacetania and Monegros it is said that , if it is not covered, it does not sound in the same way, other people say that always has been done in this way.
• In the aragonese region there are a lot of belongings and superstitions, being this reptile one of the main animals involved; it is known an stick covered with the same snake skin or with the head carved with knife or, going not so far, some belts are covered with snake.
• And others, it seems to be the rightest option, say that in this way the fat of the snake skin protects a so fragile wood lke boxwood, against cracking.
Even some coveres say that a cracked instrument covered with snake skin would keep its tuning as if nothing had happened to it.

CARVING OF THE SONOROUS TUBES

Many aragonese sheperds complemented their work as bagpipers, because they did not earn much money with that so sacrified office. Those long days in the field taking care of the cattle, to fill boredom, allowed them to realise real art works carving with a knife all kind of kitchen tools, clappers for bells or even parts for bagpipes that had not been covered with snake skin, like chanter stock, bass and tenor stocks or blow pipe.
The carved reasons were flowers, sun symbols, magic animals, ... Besides that, the wood, the boxwood, allowed it with its particular characteristics of texture, hardness and finishing, being an ideal wood for polishing, decorating and manufacturing lasting objects.
Nowadays these works are done by expert carverers who can decorate in a magistral way all these parts of a bagpipe for a reasonable price.

Dress with steering wheels for an aragonese bagpipe
Detail of tube covering
Detail of carving a bass stock

 

Other special characteristics of this bagpipe is the darkening of the boxwood by means of acids or burying the sonorous tubes in dung.

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