Dudas

Name: Dudas.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Bagpipes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Latvia.
Region: Baltic & North Eastern Europe.

Description: The dūdas or somas stabules is a type of bagpipe native to Latvia, popular from the 16th to 18th centuries.

History: The dudas is believed to have first appeared in Livonia in the 15th century, with the first documentary evidence of such appearing in the 16th century. The 1550 publication Cosmographia by the scientist Sebastian Münster of Basel shows images of a witch and devils dancing accompanied by a bagpiper, a lutenist and a lyre player.

As more, direct evidence Balthasar Russow in his Livonian Chronicle gave the following description of Livonian peasants: “As early as Saturday farmers came from a large distance with their wives, daughters and servants and immediately resorted to drinking. Dūdas was audible almost a mile away, such hilarity went on all the night until morning.

The peasants came drunk to worship God, they talked so loud that the pastor almost lost consciousness from the noise. And when they, having learned nothing, left the church, then began again drinking, dancing, songs and jumping, one could pass out of the great noise, women singing, and the sound from many dūdas.

Playing the dūdas was banned from 1753 on, but the greatest work of destroying the dūdas tradition was done by the Herrnhutian movement – in the areas of Vidzeme where Herrnhutian congregations were the most active, almost all the instruments were collected and destroyed, as a result little is known about older musical traditions of lower classes.

At the end of the 19th century, such musical instruments had disappeared throughout most of Latvia, and only in Alsunga were pipers still present in the beginning of the 20th century. The best-known of these was the bagpiper Pēteris Šeflers, he made a record in 1930s and can also be seen playing in the film Dzimtene sauc [The Motherland Calls].

Construction: Dudmaisis are made of sheep, ox, goat or dog skin or of sheep’s stomach. A blowing tube is attached to the top. On one side of the bag is a pipe with finger holes, on the other side are one or two drone pipes without finger holes, which play at a single tone.

The soska is a small maple pipe gradually narrowing toward the top. It is used to blow air inside the bag. It is inserted through the hole in the bottom of the bag and the skin is sealed by tying it tightly with thin rope.

The two or more other pipes are for playing music. The smaller one – the perabor – is used to play the melody. The perabor is traditionally made from a stick burned through its entire length by a metal rod. Six to eight playing holes are then burned through the side. The holes are placed at the same distance from each other but had different diameters. In eight-hole design, the seventh hole is on the reverse side of the pipe, and the eighth hole is at the bottom of the pipe on the side.

A split goose feather or a straw – pishchyk – is inserted into one end of the perabor, which is inserted the bag and tightly sealed with a thin rope. The other end of the perabor is attached to a curved horn – rahaven – with a widening opening made out of an especially hard wood, Karelian birch. Historically, rahavens were very expensive and were often transferred from one generation of musicians to another.

Finally, the huk pipe was made out of large maple stick, also with a pishchyk and rahaven, but without any holes. It produces only a single base tone, called boordon. Traditionally both the perabor and the huk were not only made of the same type of wood, but also from the very same tree to sound in tune.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Stabulnieks latviešu mūzikas dzīvē un folklorā. V. Muktupāvels [article] ;

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