Type: Aerophones > Flute > Duct.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.211.12
Area: Euskal Herria / Basque Country.
Country: France & Spain.
Regions: Iberian Peninsula.
Description: The txistu [Basque Pronunciation – In IPA: ˈtʃis̺tu]: It is a fipple flute that has became a symbol for the Basque Folk Revival.
Etymology: The name may stem from the general Basque word ziztu “to whistle” with palatalization of the z [cf zalaparta > txalaparta]. This three-hole pipe can be played with one hand, leaving the other one free to play a percussion instrument.
History: Evidence of the txistu first mentioned as such goes back to 1864. Yet it is apparent that it was used earlier. Although it is not easy to establish when it started out; actually. It is impossible to do so, the txistu being the result of an evolution of the upright flutes widespread as early as the Late Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, minstrels scattered all over the Iberian Peninsula brought in instruments that locals, noblemen and common people later took on and developed.
Txistu Player: At the beginning, txistu players [txistularis] were named in romance written records after the tabor [pipe and tabor] were played together: tamborer, tamborino, tambolín, tamborín, tamboril, músico tamboril, tamborilero, tamboriltero. However, when named after the flute, they are called in Spanish pífano, silbato, silbo, silbo vizcaíno or chilibister.
Legends: There are differing claims as the origins of this particular flute, one such claim states that the Txistu closely relates to the early link between the Basques to the Iron an forging industry. Others suggest that the embedding of such pieces began in the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
The oldest txistu melodies are characterized by a Mixolydian mode in G, which is the same as the seventh mode in Gregorian chanting. More recently composed songs are still in G major, but in either natural or sharp F or, more rarely C. There are exceptions, however, in major F melodies with natural B.
The Association of Txistularies in the Basque Country was formed in 1927 to promote txistularis. The organization has continued its activities to the present, except for an interruption during the period of Francoist Spain.
Citations: Bibliography: Joseph Lauber, Los Chistularis, original inédito existente en Eresbil [Rentería]. Donostia P. Historia de las Danzas de Guipúzcoa, de sus melodías y sus versos – Instrumentos musicales de/pueblo vasco, [Zarauz, Ed. Itxaropena], p. 62 Websites: Jose Luis Ansorena Miranda ; Published in “The Txistu and the Txistularis”, Kutxa Gizarte eta Kultur Fundazioa. ISBN: 84-7173-288-2 Donostia 1996 / Websites: Web.archive.org ; Jose Luis Ansorena Miranda / Web.archive.org