In my mind I think that, almost all asturian people, we have our Asturian Bagpipe like the most representative musical instrument in our region. But in the past, there was some age when Bagpipe wasn’t worthy.
When I wrote about the “Bagpipe Dayures Method”, I’ve remembered the objectives which Bagpipers Teacher, who wrote this book, had written, above all, two of them: recover and worthy the Asturian Bagpipe.
This goals didn’t choose by azar, they’ve been working, above all, from 60s and 70s from XX century to nowadays. In the 60s-70s age, the bagpipers don’t used to have a good receptions when they was playing. Today I’m going to write about this, when the Bagpipe don’t have a good image in his own home.
The Bagpipe is one of the most ancient instruments, therefore it’ve lived many of ages. One thousand times reborn by the village which accept his culture. Ever the Bagpipe life have been joining to the rural life and the oral tradition. Instrument to play on traditional dances when electricity didn’t exist yet, the Bagpipe started to play with the new rules which have brought the new times.
Be a Bagpiper means to belong a one of the most ancient jobs which came today to current days to us , and in Asturias, this work have nowadays several tasks which we do from centuries. You can animate the village parties, play for the Church Procession, play a theme on the Mass or play some themes with the people in the bar. All of this tasks belongs to the Bagpiper day a day work, with other more tasks
Music on Village Parties
In Asturias is very popular celebrate little pilgrimages, named “romerías” in the village parties. They are religious parties where, at first of all, we’re walking around outside the Church with breads which are knoted to a wood structure. This breads structures named “ramos” are carried by men usually.
This kind of celebration exits in Asturias from, at least, the XVI century and we have written documents to know this facts. Specifically on Santo Adriano’s region inside Asturias, we can real the “Ofrendas de Ramos en Asturias” book. On this work was appeared the “San Romano Romeria” wrote the August 15st, 1522, where we can read this text:
“It came the day to dance around outside the Church with a big fire with wood and everyone bring to us his songs in holy honor and glory. They sing this songs to the beat with the dance and keep without sleep all night in a party day….. After people have a breakfast on the meadow … the holy mass is celebrated … with a trumpet and a tambor playing their music” (It’s no literal translation. Original text is written in Old Spanish)
“Romeria” of the Cebrano (Teverga) – Bagpiper Juan Rodriguez Huerta (70s)
Bagpiper Social Image
To write this post I’ve been reading the “Libro del Cancionero de la Gaita” (Asturian Bagpiper Song Book), where their authors write about the Bagpiper Tasks. They were the same from XVI to XIX Century. In this last century have appeared some changes like: industrialization, migration from village to the cities, upgrades on roads and railways, new musical rhythms, … etc
If you talk from the Asturian people point of view with the Asturian Bagpipe, you found a proud image from our music, above all, when the people is away from home. We can see a good example with the cider company named “El Gaitero” (Bagpiper) which have been using the Bagpiper image from the last years of XIX century to nowadays.
Cider “El Gaitero” Cover (1906)
The Bagpipe belongs to the people in the village and this rural way of life, therefore, migration from village to the cities had started a good lost from bagpipers. Above all the cosmopolitan point of view which had the cities and the new services and technologies. This new services didn’t appears in the village and the people wanted this new life.
I can still remember the stories which my grandfather told to me, a man who was born in Teverga. He told to me many stories when he needs to go, in 60s, to the asturian capital, Oviedo, inside the village bus named “la linea”. There are 45 kilometers from Teverga to Oviedo but, in this days, the bus was very slow and this trip lasted, almost, 2 hours . When my grandfather came to the capital city ever appears the citizen man who laugh at him because he had another accent, his clothes and his village way of life.
Fighting Against Oblivion
When I started to play the Asturian Bagpipe, this years were named “Bagpipe Boom” in Asturias, because many little bagpipers start to play this instrument. But I heard ever the stories about the Asturian Bagpipe and how near it had been to disappear in the past, there was a feeling which you would think that the Bagpipe wasn’t worthy.
When I grow up with the Bagpipe, I’ve tried to review this stories and read newspapers and other kind of texts. From many long years the Bagpipers we had felt this sensation which, sometimes, the Bagpipe only belongs to the past. You can read this news written in December 27th, 1886 in Somio (Gijon):
“In this place people danced, had a breakfast and enjoyed the modern style…..at the sound of a barrel-organ…People are forgetting the bagpipe and other old instruments and music themes….”
Like you can see this modern life have allowed that people forget their traditional culture, the new times against the old times. A eternal fight inside the human being.
When Bagpipe Wasn't Worthy
If we start to walk to the future, after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) appears the Franquist Dictatorship (1939-1975). This age when the politicians had been trying to take the society in control, also, with the traditional and folklore culture. We can see this attitude in this news published in February 15th, 1938 on “La Nueva España” asturian newspaper:
News from February 15th, 1938 written in “La Nueva España” asturian newspaper
“This Sunday had celebrated his popular parties the Teverga’s people, but they weren’t a village party with fireworks and bagpipe and drum, no. It was a patriotic party where you can see the truly national feeling and the catholic feeling from this people who could defeat the marxism….”
This kind of text is the best example of this thinking way where the the bagpipes wasn’t worthy and shouldn’t be played in any party.
Juan Rodríguez Huerta, Bagpiper from La Torre (Teverga)
This kind of attitudes didn’t only appears on newspapers, also be written in the memory of the Bagpipers of this age. Juan Rodriguez Huerta, bagpiper from La Torre (Teverga), have been remembering how some people turned away from him when he went to play his bagpipe in the “Romerias” (Village parties).
It’s possible that Bagpipe wasn’t worthy, but the problems must exist to overcome the difficulties, and I believe in this idea, which in the final we can get all our goals with the Asturian Bagpipe. Alberto Fernandez Velasco talked in an interview to the “La Voz de Asturias” newspaper: “In 70s there was a few bagpipers, and almost all, were old people. They was playing with bagpipes with a few tones from dead makers or too old to continue the work”.
This reality have allowed to Alberto search many improvements to our instrument, also to the Asturian Bagpipers Association (CGA) hace created the same work goals for their traditional music schools, also to have enjoyed the “bagpipe boom” at the finals of 90s, …etc.
Asturian Bagpiper Association (CGA). March 1990
Nowadays we have acquired many goals:
- Profesional Degree in Conservatory
- Superior Degree in Conservatory
- A Chromatic Chanter
- Many Traditional Music Schools in Asturias
- Musical projects with big bagpipers
But the problems still appears in my Bagpipe Teacher work. This season we have been could get a little students record in the Proaza and Teverga Music Schools with more than 20 students in two sites where the migration from the village to the cities is a very big issue.
Bagpipe in COVID-10 Times
One day appears the COVID-19 and all of our classes must be stoped because this health problem. When he have big problems we need have big attitudes to fight with they, for this reason I developed the Sobia Online School Music to continue teaching to my bagpipe students.
I could gain more fights but I feel the “oblivion ghost“, who appears one day and, it’s possible, that a couple of asturian generations could see the Asturian Bagpipe like something too old and a musical instrument which isn’t worth it. This picture from Alfonso show perfectly this kind of feeling, the sad Bagpiper from 60s and 70s:
Sad Bagpiper can’t play in the Village Party “Romeria” (Alfonso, 1960)
Asturian Bagpipe History can tell to us that this fear ever be here but, in all this time never have been able to make people forget this ancient musical instrument. Therefore, we can still working to continue hearing this bagpipe sound during more ages with our chanters.
In my opinion, the Asturian Bagpipe will be worthy for ever, it was an instrument which made people happy in the villages. In this new environment we need to keep our traditional site and we need grow up to the new goals.
I hope this post was a good reading for you, I wanted to talk about this internal fight with some attitudes and thinking ways, but only still working we’re going to continue walking our own way.
See you on next post!