Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Bagpipe in Macedonian Folk Music

"Gaidasheep", photo from Uncyclopedia

These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
Alfred Hitchcock

If Alfred Hitchcock had lived in Macedonia, the pig probably would have been replaced by a goat.

Today's topic is the bagpipe in Macedonian folk music, also known as a gaida. The gaida plays a very important part in the music of Macedonia, and they love it as much as the Bulgarians, if not more.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you've probably noticed that I'm fond of music played on the gaida (Eastern European bagpipe). It has a unique sound, and can be haunting and annoying at the same time. For example, when one or more members of my family start to get on my nerves I find the loudest and most obnoxious piece of gaida music and play it from my computer. That usually keeps them in line. They think of it as an instrument of torture. To some people, it is.

Traditional instruments in the Balkans are created from the skins of animals; sheep, goats, or pigs. For example, the gaida is made from the hide of a sheep or goat, and the tupan (double headed drum) is often made from a pig's hide.

Balkan cuisine is very heavy on the meat; the farmers utilized just about every part of the animals they slaughtered. The skins came in very handy in the creation of musical instruments.

What really caught my attention in the first video is that the man plays a gaida made from the body of a goat, with the head still attached. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would not approve, despite the fact that these instruments are very much part of the cultural fabric of Macedonia.

The musician is a Macedonian living in Australia who makes his own bagpipes, tupans, and kavals and advertises them on YouTube. If you're looking for a one of a kind gift that stares back at you send Risto Todoroski an email at If you order one soon, it just may get to the recipient in time for Christmas :)

This eponomous piece is Gaidarsko Oro. It is also known as Narodno Oro, which means simply "folk dance." The piper is accompanied by an ensemble of traditional instruments; the tambura (lute), the tupan (drum) and the kaval (flute).

The Tanec folk ensemble of Skopje are ambassadors of Macedonian folklore. They have given numerous performances in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas since the group was founded in 1949. In this video, there's a great gaida solo (sans goat head). This video is a part of Tanec's 60th anniversary celebration in 2009. The group performs Osogovka Oro, a men's dance. Notice the men wearing short skirts, these are called "fustanella" and are part of the traditional costumes of Macedonia and Greece.

You can read about Tanec here:

If you liked this you may also enjoy:

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music:

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music:

More Interesting and Unusual Instruments in Balkan Folk Music

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  1. OH no! That first photo got me! LOL Most of those players have some pretty fast fingers! My favorite video was the last one, those guys can jump!

  2. Tracie, I call it the "creative use of leftovers." Now if I could find a way to make an instrument from leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones, I'd have it made!

    BTW, check out "uncyclopedia" there is lots of funny and weird stuff in there.