Friday, August 26, 2011

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

Bagpipes are the missing link between music and noise. E. K. Kruger

The Eastern European gaida, or bagpipe, is an instrument that gets around the Balkans. It's extremely popular in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece. Believe it or not, the Romanians like it too.

Romanian music is usually associated with panpipes (also called panflutes), and with another unusual folk instrument, the cimbalom. A cimbalom is also known as a hammered dulcimer, and belongs to the percussion family of instruments.

You can read about the panpipes and Romanian folk music here.

In this video is some traditional Romanian music played by a bunch of Dutch guys in Amsterdam on clarinet, accordion, violin, cimbalom and panpipes, and they are pretty damned good. This instrumentation is typical for folk ensembles in Romania.

I don't know if the Romanians got their liking for the bagpipe from their Bulgarian neighbors across the River of Many Names, but you'll find that the music of southern Romania is very big on the cimpoi (Romanian for bagpipe). Don't confuse it with the cimbalom, the cimpoi is a totally different animal. (Just so you know, the cimpoi is made from either goat or sheep hide). Both panpipes and bagpipes have been used as instruments of torture on susceptible people (but not on Bulgarians). I'm sure that the Bulgarians are flattered that their friends across the Danube have taken up the gaida.

Last year, I wrote about the bagpipe in Bulgarian folk music, you can read the post here:

Now it's time to hear those bagpipes in action, along with cimbalom and panpipes, the "unholy trinity" of instruments of torture :) This dance is Hora de Mina. Hora means "dance" in Romanian, and can be easily confused with horo, the Bulgarian name for the same thing.

Sârba pe Loc, a dance from the region of Muntenia in southern Romania, is another example of the gaida (oops, cimpoi) in action. Sârba is a generic name for energetic dances from Muntenia and Oltenia (another province in southern Romania) with lots of stamping. This dance is extremely popular among folk dance groups, probably because it's a socially acceptable way to get your frustrations out.

This hora from the Oltenia region of Romania is titled simply Cimpoi. You'll understand why when you hear it.

The dance notes for Cimpoi can be found here:

If you're interested in more interesting and unusual Eastern European folk instruments, including the kaval, the gadulka, and the panpipes you may enjoy this post:

If you've had a bad week, here are some socially acceptable ways to relieve stress:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


  1. What a different take on the pipes! Thanks so much for sharing this amazing culture with us!

  2. Tracie, glad you enjoyed! My family thinks they're an instrument from Hell and cringe when I play this music :)

  3. Pipe up but then again you always do when it comes to such music

  4. Hello. The Romanian bagpipe, the "cimpoi" [pronounced chimpoy], is present as a traditional musical instrument throughout the whole of Romania and not only in the southern region. The most probable etymology of the word is from the Latin "centipollium", "cow's stomach", implying a different and older origin than the one suggested by your post. Although folk music is very much alive in Romania, playing the cimpoi is, sadly, a dying art and it is being replaced by more modern instruments.

  5. Ian, thanks for stopping by and for educating me on the etymology of the word "cimpoi" and also about Romanian folk music. I learn something new every day :)