Gaita gallega

Name: Gaita gallega.
Type: Bagpipe > Aerophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Galicia, Spain.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Western Europe.

Description: The Galician gaita [in Galician & Portuguese: Gaita galega ; and Gaita gallega in Spanish] is the traditional instrument of Galicia and northern Portugal. The word gaita is used across northern Spain as a generic term for “bagpipe”, although in the south of Spain and Portugal it denotes a variety of horn, flute or oboe like instruments according to region.

Etymology: Suggestions as to the origin of the name gaita are many. It has been compared to the names of eastern European bagpipes, such as gaida, gajda, and gajdy. The linguist Joan Coromines has suggested that the word gaita most likely derived from a Gothic word gait or gata, meaning “goat”; as the bag of a gaita is made from a whole, case-skinned goat hide. Gothic was spoken in Hispania from the fifth century to the eighth century when the country was ruled by the Visigoths. The Visigoths originated in north-eastern Europe.

Repertoire: Tunes using the gaita are usually songs, with the voice either accompanying the instrumentation or taking turns with it. The most common type is the muiñeira, a sprightly 6/8 rhythm. Other 6/8 Galician tunes use different steps; they include the carballesa, ribeirana, redonda, chouteira and contrapaso.

Alborada, usually-instrumental tune, most often in 2/4, though sometimes 3/4, and is characterized by a series of descending turning phrases. It is used to begin a day’s celebrations, and is played at sunrise. The foliada is a joyful 3/4 jota type song, often played at romarías (community gatherings at a local shrine).

Playing Technique: The player inflates the bag using his mouth through a tube fitted with a non-return valve. Air is driven into the chanter [in Galician: punteiro] with the left arm controlling the pressure inside the bag. The chanter has a double reed similar to a shawm or oboe, and a conical bore with seven finger-holes on the front.

The bass drone [ronco or roncón] is situated on the player’s left shoulder and is pitched two octaves below the key note of the chanter; it has a single reed. Some bagpipes have up to two more drones, including the ronquillo or ronquilla, which sticks out from the bag and plays an octave above the ronco, or the smaller chillón. These two extra drones are located next to the right arm of the player.

Construction: The Galician gaita has a conical chanter and a bass drone [ronco] with a second octave. It may have one or two additional drones playing the tonic and dominant notes. Three keys are traditional: D [gaita grileira, lit. “cricket bagpipe”], C [gaita redonda] and Bb [gaita tumbal]. Galician pipe bands playing these instruments have become popular in recent years.


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