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nedjelja, 4. ožujka 2012.

Did You Know That Croatians Have A Very Long History Of Playing...Bagpipes? (Yep It's True)

This is probably news to a lot people. Bagpipes in Croatia? Croatia?....Bagpipes in Croatia? WTF? Pfff.....What are you talking about bagpipes in Croatia? Have you lost your mind? Fallen on your head and gone crazy?  lol...Get out of here Mr. bagpipes in Croatia you're a talking nonsense crazy person lying with crazy bagpipe lie talk stories!....but the answer to that is a resounding "yes", and it's nothing new either. All the basic info is below with some links to check out, but in a nutshell, yes, bagpipes have been around for quite some time and even played by Croats before they became more familiar to the rest of the world.

They've become synonymous over the last few centuries with Scottish traditional music especially, as pretty well everyone is familiar with these days. However here's an interesting brief background synopsis; the bagpipe was introduced to Scotland via Ireland and Welsh Britain back during Roman times. In the 2nd century, the historian Suetonius described the Roman emperor Nero as a player of the "tibia utricularis" (meaning pipes or reed pipes in Latin). Dio Chrysostom wrote in the 1st century also of a contemporary sovereign, perhaps also referring to Nero, who could play a pipe (tibia) with his mouth as well as by tucking a bladder beneath his armpit, but what exactly it looked like and how it functioned isn't known. According to one theory it has been suggested that the bagpipes were first brought to the British Isles during the period of Roman rule. The Gaelic Irish and Picts back then, known as the Cruithni, were introduced to the instrument first and then it found it's way among the Cruithni Picts of Scotland, Scottish Gaelic and eventually the more familiar Scots. It never really took off as a popular musical instrument for quite a number of centuries after that though, according to sources being used mainly as outdoor warpipes at first. Long story short, it wasn't until the 16th century onwards that bagpipes became much more associated with and customary in the culture and musical heritage in Scotland. (In a way it's almost like the reverse situation of how the game of water polo is thought to have originated in Scotland in the late 19th century as a sort of "water rugby", but the sport is way much more popular and common in Croatia and a number of other countries these days)

But as already mentioned, by that time in the early common era various reed instruments using a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag had already been in use in the Croatian lands and elsewhere in Central Europe for centuries a;ready, so bagpipes in Croatia is not some recent fad or sudden new trend at all, instead probably playing bagpipes before even in Scotland, in some form or another. The "truly traditional type bagpipes" seen throughout this post are very close to what was being used in Scotland in medieval times right up through to the 17th century, not being changed to a large degree, using the same natural materials, craftsmanship, construction methods and most common in the mountainous and hilly areas, and just like back then it is still mainly an outdoor instrument. You learn something new everyday.

(Before continuing on and not diverting for too long, this also sort of reminds me about the topic of tartan/plaid in way, why plaid you may wonder? Well, that's another interesting and ironic fact. You see, today tartan may be mostly associated with Scotland, and has been popular and well known there for a number of centuries since the 16th century, however, the earliest evidence of tartan is found in central and eastern Europe, and even further east, and from long before that believe it or not. Interestingly, the Urnfield and Hallstatt culture of Central Europe and other nearby eastern European populations flourished in the Late Bronze Age between the 13th and 6th centuries BCE and they also produced...(get ready)...."tartan textiles." Yep, the earliest evidence of the now familiar plaid designs. Textile analysis of fabric from the Tarim mummies in Xinjiang, northwestern China has also shown it to be similar to that of those Iron Age Europe examples. Tartan-like leggings were even found on the "Cherchen Man", a 3,000-year-old mummy found in northwestern China (they didn't find any bagpipes though, not yet anyway). After scientific analysis they were shown to have been descendents of a group of European nomads or traders who migrated far east about 1800 BCE and in the process brought their woven tartan fabric designs and weaving knowledge with them. Interstingly also, the paternal lines of male remains surveyed were around 92% belonging to the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1, which coincidentally is most prevalent among Croatians after Haplogroup I-M170, (which is considered to be the the very oldest and only native European haplogroup and most frequent among Croatian and Scandinavian populations), and R1A1 is also 'predominantly' found in Central and Eastern Europe even today. (Interestingly again, the Haplogroup R1A1 is also largely believed by scholars to have mainly been introduced to western Europe by the medieval Vikings). Knowing what we know these days in regards to DNA, Haplogroups, physical remains, pre-common era populations in Europe, their cultures and migrations/movement patterns on the continent from those times, these mummies were then very well most likely old Bronze Age Croatian ancestors. Even before the Hyperboreans and northern Vistula Veneti were known about and before the Harvaða mountains came to be commonly known as the Carpathians. Amazing, you learn something new everyday)

Anyway, back to the main topic of bagpipes. Croatia isn't the only country outside of Scotland, or Ireland and Britain, that has a bagpipe tradition either. Bagpipers and bagpipe music extended to most of Eastern, Central and then Western Europe over the the past centuries, and has a documented history in the Croatian lands going back at least to the early common era centuries. The bagpipe sort of stepped aside to eventually make room for other folk instruments which became synonymous with Eastern and Central European folk music. Instruments like guitars, other stringed instruments, accordians, pipes and other wind instruments. (Then of course came the Classical music era, see previous post HERE.) However, the tradition and use of bagpipes still stuck around and never completely disappeared and they're still around even today, again most popular as an outdoor instrument. They're still used in folk ensembles, concerts, festivals and recorded by musicians in folk music or adapted to and included into more modern music. (Croatia is much, much more than just accordions). Many of the different bagpipes used in parts of Croatia are made exactly the way they were made many centuries ago, truly authentic, staying true to the natural materials, styles and craftsmanship that was used many centuries ago. (Most, not all, but most bagpipes one sees these days are actually made in Pakistan believe it or not. I looked it up. It's the age of profitable mass production in world emerging markets thing, just like sneakers and t-shirts etc)

There are several types of Croatian bagpipes, depending on which area of Croatia you are in, the northern Slavonia region or coastal Dalmatia and Istra regions. They are:

Slavonske Gajde - a bagpipe with double chanter and a single drone
Duda - a bagpipe with triple/quadrple chanter and a single drone. Two versions exist, one from Podravina and one from Bilogora
Istarski mih - a bagpipe with double chanter and no drone
Dalmatinski mih - a bagpipe with double chanter and no drone
Hercegovacki mih - a bagpipe with double chanter and no drone
Mih s Pelješca - a bagpipe with double chanter and no drone

You can click onto the source link below for a lot more information, including mp3 samples of the bagpipe music, more images from bagpipe concerts and festivals, etc. I don't really listen to folk music these days, and haven't since probably my teens at the Croatian festivals and banquets, but I respect the historic cultural and musical aspect. If you've never heard that there were bagpipes and bagpipers in Croatia before, well, now you know. But especially if you're Croatian background, then this might be just enough to pique your interest in the instrument and who knows?...maybe even take the instrument up.....

 Source and more info/media:


© 2008 by Ministry of Culture

Croatian traditional instruments 

Once upon a time when giants lived on the Earth, a man was walking along a river bank. He was alone. Only the wind played around his shoulders, running here and there through the reeds that grew along the riverbank. Suddenly, he heard a strange sound, different from any other sound he had ever heard before. Silence, then the sound again. Silence, then the sound again. With every gust of wind, he would hear the sound, which stopped as the wind abated. The man approached the reeds to discover what creature made such strange sounds. He did not see anything, only one hollow, split reed stem that stood out from the rest. The wind blew again, the reed vibrated and he heard the sound again. The man’s heart was full of joy; he took the broken reed and blew into it. Since that time, he was never alone again.

It was a long, long time ago, at the dawn of the human race, but this relationship between the wind, the reed and Man has lasted until today.

 This is how my story begins. Fifteen years ago I did not even dream that ancient, almost forgotten instruments would become my life's preoccupation. Until then, I had never heard of or seen any of these instruments that I will now present to you. I did not know that they even existed. Now I am making them, playing them and writing about them. I try to return them to "life" and I cannot imagine my life without them.

Thanks to them, I have traveled around the world, have seen beautiful landscapes, met many good people and have peered deeply into the human past through generations of those "strange ones", who have always lived somewhere on the border between the visible and the invisible world, and who have passed on these instruments for thousands of years from one generation to another until today.

Although the times and the world are different, I believe that even today, somewhere deep in the forest the fairies dance when someone somewhere plays the bagpipes, shepherd’s pipes or at least a twin-reed.

Let us now look at this miraculous world of old Croatian traditional instruments.

Stjepan Večković

Bagpipes (gajde) are a class of instrument that are made of tanned goatskin. The gajdunica, naška, roga, dulca and trubnja (bordun, burdon, and drone) are made of wood. Inside the bagpipes, in the chanter and drone are one-way valves made of reed or elder tree wood. In the chanter (gajdunica) there are two reeds, which is typical of all old Croatian instruments with skin, except for the duda, which has three or four reeds in its chanter. In the drone (trubanj or bordun) there is one reed that gives the low, basic sound of the bagpipes. The wooden parts often have tin-inlay decorations.

A sample of the Croatian bagpipe being played along with other Croatian traditional instruments at an American location.

Today, bagpipes are usually made in the key of E (and sometimes in the keys of D or F). The tones that can be produced on bagpipes are in the key of E: the low bass drone of tone E (bordun), the keynote of E and fourth B (the right accompanying side of the chanter); the sounds E, F sharp, G sharp, A, B and C sharp (the left melodious side of the chanter). The bagpipe is played by blowing air through a blowpipe into a bag that is held and pressed under the left arm; the drones are laid across the left shoulder. Both hands are used for playing on the chanter.

Croatian award winning folk singer-songwriter (and dabbler in Croatian Pagan mythology/folklore) Lidija Bajuk, with bagpipe accompaniment.

The music played on bagpipes is usually playful and merry. People often sang to the accompaniment of bagpipes. In the past, weddings and other entertainments were always accompanied by the playing of pipers.

Goran Farkaš plays the Croatian bagpipes popular in the coastal Istria region. Image:

A Diple Mih traditional Croatian bagpipe/gajde style most common along the Croatian coastal areas, from the northern Istra and Lika region, through Dalmatia to Hercegovina and the Dubrovnik area. Image:

Not all bagpipes are the same. In Slavonia and Baranja there are differences in the construction of some parts, primarily the blowpipe, and therefore in the playing technique. Bagpipes are an old instrument that were once played throughout Baranja, Slavonija and the eastern parts of Posavina and Podravina.

A sample of the sounds of a bagpipe style that is found in the Baranja region in North Eastern Croatia.

Footage of the Croatian outfit "Kries" (pronounced "Kree-es" which is an archaic form Croatian language word meaning "bonfire") they draw from traditional Croatian music, and merge it with dark rock elements including Croatian fiddle and bagpipes from the coastal regions.

Diple, mih


Mih, mjeh, diplas with a barrel or only diplas are different names for almost an identical instrument that was once played in the region from Istria to Lika, in Dalmatian Zagora and on the Dalmatian islands, all the way to Herzegovina. The mih is made of tanned goat or sheep skin, a dulca or channel through which air is blown and a chanter or dipla on which the player plays. Inside the mih, there are two reeds on the chanter. The mih has no drone or bordun like the bagpipes and the duda. Although mihs from various regions seem very similar, they are different, mostly because of the blowpipe, i.e. the number and position of holes, the position of the blowpipe and some other tiny details and decorations.

We differentiate several specific types of mih and diplas based on the position and the number of holes for playing – the mih from Herzegovina, the mih from the Pelješac peninsula, the central Dalmatian mih and the Istrian mih.

There were several other variants and transitional shapes of mih. Each such instrument is unique and is different from other instruments in its melodies and in the technique used to play it. Every original musician had a specific manner and technique for playing. For example, on the island of Cres the player would sit on a chair and play, simultaneously stomping the ground with both feet to give the rhythm to the dancers.

Mihs are not tempered instruments and the relationship between tones is not pure in intonation, so every song is very specific and unusually sharp, just like the landscape in which this instrument is played.

Croatian bagpipe orchestra 

Founded several years ago, the Croatian Bagpipe Orchestra is currently active within the Center for Croatian Traditional Instruments. The ensemble made its first appearance in 2004 as part of the annual concerts of the Ensemble Lado. Participants of the Studio for Traditional Instruments of the Ensemble Lado performed at this concert. The next year, the best participants in the seminar for traditional instruments in the seminar of the Croatian School of Folklore and the Folklore in Vinkovci also appeared with the bagpipers at their concerts. At the early appearances the groups of bagpipers called themselves the 'Bagpipe Orchestra of Stjepan Večković''. Since 2007, the official name has been the Croatian Bagpipe Orchestra.

The bagpipers come from various parts of Croatia and each of them is dressed in the traditional folk costume of his/her region. They perform only on old traditional Croatian instruments: shepherd’s pipes, twin-reeds, bajs (violoncello with two strings), samica (a small string and fretted instrument), bagpipes, dude, tamburas and others (ljerica, mih, diple).

All of the members of the orchestra are able to play several instruments and are active in their local cultural and artistic associations. Some of them are also the leaders of or assistants in seminars on traditional instruments throughout Croatia.

Stjepan Večković and his Croatian bagpipe orchestra.

Maja Kešić Masle, Topolje:Gajde from the northeastern Baranja region of Croatia.

Croatian bagpipe orchestra (2008)

A 6 year old Croatian bagpiper? Yep.

The Croatian Bagpipe Orchestra on Croatian television from 2010.

Performances of the Croatian Bagpipe Orchestra are interesting and attractive because the bagpipers can also sing well. The orchestra has recently been expanded with the addition of three beautiful singers. Some new traditional instruments have also been introduced into the program.

The orchestra performs folklore and ethno programs. The folklore program is performed in folk costumes and only Croatian traditional songs from various regions are sung and played. The program is adapted to various folklore events, festivals and meetings.

In the ethno program the orchestra performs original songs and melodies and others arranged by new authors in a modern way using different instruments (tamburas, violins, drums and various other rhythmical instruments). The orchestra has made many appearances throughout Croatia and abroad.

The founder and leader of the Croatian bagpipe orchestra is Stjepan Večković, a soloist on traditional instruments of the Ensemble Lado. He also makes traditional instruments and conducts many folklore schools, seminars and workshops that promote traditional Croatian culture around the world.

Footage of the Croatian diplar bagpipe with that is common along the coastal Dalmatia region and areas in the neighboring Hercegovina region.

Footage from the town of Sisak during the annual medieval festival commemorating the famous Battle of Sisak in 1593, with some bagpipe footage at the 2:30 mark.

Mentioned on my previous post, cellist Ana Rucner performing in a Croatia tourist board video, with a few scenes of Croatian bagpipe playing included.

A short snippet of a bagpiper in Zagreb is seen in this intro to Ashley Colburns Emmy Award winning documentary "WOW Croatia!" (1:30 mark)

A few seconds of bagpiping footage at the start from a Croatian Tourism Website video.

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