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Bagpipes might seem to be out of place in Spain… but… in actuality, they´re really not.

The bagpipe is a traditional musical instrument throughout Northern Spain, particularly in Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria.  It´s fairly common to hear it played at local festivals and parades here in Cantabria.  Often accompanied by drums and tambourines in the traditional folk music of Cantabria, it can also accompany the singing of a “montañesa”, one of the traditional songs of the region (Cantabria is known in the rest of Spain as “la montaña”, the mountain.)  I occasionally bump into bagpipers practicing alone in the mountains or on the ragged coast of Cantabria, outside and away from everyone.  An appropriate place to practice I suppose since the bagpipe is not the quietest of instruments.

The Cantabrian bagpipe has a single drone as opposed to multiple ones.  The aptly named drone is the part that creates the characteristic low humming noise of the bagpipe, i.e. the drone.  The piping sound comes from the chanter, the flute like looking part at the bottom of the bag. The bagpipe has one more part going into the bag and that is the blowpipe, which is used to inflate the bag so you can play.

Gaita Cántabra - my Cantabrian bagpipe

I´ve always loved the sound of the bagpipe.  It´s part of my heritage, the traditional culture of Cantabria.  It says home to me.  Lucky me (not necessarily anyone else for now), I was given a Cantabrian bagpipe as a birthday gift this year and am learning to play it.  You start learning on a recorder that has the holes modified/added to be like the chanter.  The reed on my bagpipe is a bit too stiff so I need to have it honed down a bit.  Therefore I haven´t started on the actual bagpipe yet, but will soon.  I know a few songs by now and am ready to hear them on my bagpipe.  Not sure what my better half will think… I guess I may be spending some alone time in the mountains or on a cliff over the ocean 😉

Here is a link to the Cantabria Bagpipe Band playing a song. Enjoy.

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