Monday, July 23, 2012

Prepare for Gela Gaida Festival 2012

This year (2012) will be the 10th edition of the Gela Gaida festival. The anniversary will be celebrated as usual with lot of music and dances.
According some unofficial sources until now there are more that 50 players already subscribed for the competition in the categories: Individual performance in 3 groups by age and Group performance.
The KabaGaida.Com team is preparing for the competition - wish us good luck.

Here are some videos from the 2011 edition:

Friday, May 4, 2012

333 bagpipes will apply for Guinness record in Sofia, Bulgaria

These days, the bagpipe community in Bulgaria talks a lot about this ... 333 bagpipes is one of the 'must see' performances. The event is organized by the 'Art of Living' organization that will conduct a course "The Art of Silence" after the 333 bagpipes ;). Some people even compare it with the first gathering of 100 Kaba Gaidas back in 1969 ( Our friend Kostadin Gerdzhikov will be one of the 333 gaidas. Here is a link of the original article: And translated with Google Translate

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rhodopean music and memory

I would like to share an essay I wrote for the competition of the Danube Music Festival 2010

I won the first price - a trip by the Danube river with all the famous musicians where I played on my Kaba Gaida with Carlos Nunes and Theodosii Spasov

Here is the essay : Rhodopean music and memory

And this is the site of the Danube Music Festival -

Leather bag with four wooden sticks

Leather bag with four wooden sticks. There are wholes on the sticks, eager, impatient, anxious. Man and bagpipe. They are inseparable in their embrace, in creating the magic of the sounds.

Shiroka laka has humbled the white of its houses and the red of its roof in the dusk. That's what the hills around the village awaits: the village becoming quite, so that they can spread the song:

In the autumn I got sick, my mother,

In the spring I shall die, my mother,

when the forest comes into leaf.

My beloved daughter,

what, my daughter, is most precious for you

most precious and most beloved?

My mother, oh my mother,

it's my little son

He's gonna lose his mother.

He's gonna live without his mother,

who has given birth to him.

The bagpipe falls silent as if suddenly broken. The eyes of bay Dimitar Grivnin go out as well as his breath. Years ago he endured a lung-operation and now he can play just 3-4 minutes. But years and years back it was different...

“ Years ago it was different. I played until I forgot myself. I was a shepherd and when I started playing... I just used to keep on playing until my lips and fingers got tingles... The sweetness of our bagpipe, the kaba, is enormous. You know, “kaba”means “sweet, tender”-however it requires strength.

It is not like the bagpipe from the Shopian (Sofia) region. It is smaller there. It harassed the life out of me, however I always thought about it. When I was a child whenever my father left his bagpipe somewhere I grabbed it. I tried to play like him... but ...he didn’t allow me! He didn’t allow me this because he knew from his father and he in turn from his father that each bagpipe is made for a certain person only. Each one is obliged to keep his own bagpipe. My father has leaned other things as well from his forefathers: songs, horos(dances). He had learned some special kababagpipe melodies- ours, belonging to our family. I was taught them by him, too. When I grew up I also added to them some made up by me.

However, after all my father made a bagpipe for me – a small one, in order to get started.

Later my father went to war. Other things he took or didn't take, I don't remember, but the bagpipe was with him.

I am the same. Wherever I go, I always take the bagpipe with me. One day my mother while putting it in the bagpipe bag, accidentally broke the reed. I thought with my childish mind that she had made it deliberately. Back at home I sprawled on the yard and started crying. “I'm not gonna go anywhere until you fix my bagpipe”. My mother was in quandary, but she knew me very well and she got it repaired the same day. So...Just hearing some melody, and I was very receptive, I used to play it all day until I got it right. It kept on gnawing me and I had no peace. I listened to a lot of master players, I learned a lot by them, but if you don't have the desire over here, in the ear and the heart, it will never amount to anything.

I keep an eye on my brother's grandson. He's gonna be a great musician. He is like a fire. This year he was accepted in our musical school, here in Shiroka luka. He amazed the jury at the exam. When I show him something he looks only at my hands. Through the eyes and the ears all of it goes into his hands. This is a talent. I have taught a lot of boys. All kind of boys- ours, Swedes, Greeks, Germans. One boy came even from America. And one other American, ye, I thaught him.

Now I am pleased that there is a school for everybody and for everything, including for bagpipers- here in our village! It is necessary for the young people to learn. I learned everything by hearing and I played. However when I went in the Rhodope ensemble I learned also solfeggio. There I played a lot of years. There we were together with Boyka Prisadova. Together with her we won the first place at the Rojen folklore festival and in addition I as a bagpiper took another first prize. I remember it as somebody said , while I was going up to the stage, “If bay Dimitar is gonna play now, there is no sense at all that anybody else play.” I felt so flattered... I started playing.The honery diploma is over there.

And one other prize I have... One fellow villager came once and said “Bay Dimitre, you know, when I was in Berlin, I went in the restaurant “Sofia” and I saw there... your picture, that big...”This I consider again a honery diploma, although I've not seen it myself. People know and respect me. After all as much I play for me, that much I play for them as well.

I know a lot of songs and horos but I prefer the melancholy ones. The ones that fill your heart with tender sorrow when you play them...

Bay Dimitar started a flowing and resonant melody and in the bagpipe tingled piercing sounds,

hollow wails, tender half-tones and vigorous pitches.

“Oh, I left the playing, but the bagpipe-No! It stays here and when sorrow strikes me I take it. It is like me- already old. The reeds are made 1937. I've played with them for the last 49 year.” Actually this is the “knack”- not just to make a bagpipe, but to make it so that it outlives you. Do you know how a good bagpipe is made? For the drone, the reeds and the chanter you need dog-tree, especially a thick one with big core. You should saw it in quarters, because otherwise it's gonna crack, and then I leave it to get dried. When you drill the channels...This is the most difficult part, because the openings should be adjusted to each other. I grease the chanter and the drone with olive -oil so that the wood can “drink” well enough of it. Then it gets a good sound and long life... And the reeds should be identical to each other. Otherwise one will “shriek” more then the other.

The bag also require efforts. A fresh goat pelt when left in brine becomes good, white. Don't laugh, each kind of work requires desire . Once I decorated the chanter of one bagpipe with black and white bones- just so... solely for beauty's sake. I have made and other more difficult bagpipes. It was tree bagpipes with double chanters. They all were taken in different museums. I was asked to send one of them in Sofia. This kind of bagpipe is difficult to make: in one chanter two channels with two millimeters distance between each other. If you turn the drill even slightly away, you have to start again from scratch. It was a tough job, but I succeed...One bagpipe, two voices.

This is it, this kind of job, it drags your soul out, but at the same time it gives you another, better one. My father told me that once when I was a child, I was sick and I cried. I was a child after all. But how to calm me down? My father started playing the bagpipe. I stopped crying. If my father stopped, I started again. He played until dawn. Who knows maybe this chase the illness away. The bagpipe is not only a leather bag and four wooden sticks attached to it. It is the soul. This sweet and tender thing that I have inside of me.

Liliya Todorova
newspaper “Otechestven front” 19 September 1986, 12486
translated from Bulgarian: Kostadin Gerdzhikov

The Kaba Gaida that saved Mihayl Kiriakov from execution

Mihayl Kiryakov was a detachment commander. His detachment, according to his son, consisted of 21 perons. In order not to be captured, and really there was such a danger, the detachment of Kiryakov hided and then intended to head for their base. However the commanders didn't believe this and all the detachment was sentenced to death. All the 21 persons. They were lined up and in front of the row was the punitive platoon that was to carry out the death sentence. Each one was asked: “Your last words.” The answers were different: “Long live Bulgaria”, “Tell farewell to my wife and children from me. Tell them I love them.”, “Tell to my mother that I am not a traitor.”, “I am Bulgarian-never have I been a traitor!”. The soldiers raised their rifles, the shots echoed and 17 people fell down in the ditch. The 18th was Mihail Kiryakov. “What are your last words?”, “Bring me a bagpipe. I want to play my favorite song.” The lieutenant responsible for the execution sent a boy to the nearby village to find a bagpipe. The boy run. He had never run, asked , searched before for such a thing. Finally he was given one bagpipe in not very good condition.

Kiryakov got the bagpipe, filled the bag with air and his fingers started playing on the chanter. He played the song “Oh, my mother, the Sivkovska's dense forest is dear and beloved to me ”. A miracle happened with the soldiers and the other people present at the execution. The song awake their feelings, it exited their souls, brought tears to their eyes... The song floated like a message of magnificence, of the man's striving to live among beauty, of man's desire to unify with art which is eternal and immortal. The song changed people and they started whispering and then whispers grew into shouts “Mercy! Mercy!”

The lieutenant had also mercy on them. How could he possibly shoot against the song that conquered the hearts , which calls for life, because it came from life, because it was created by the heart. He ordered that the rifles got withdrawn and cleaned.

The song of the Rhodope man saved 4 lives... Some people asked themselves “Why wasn't Kiryakov among the first ones, so that more people can be saved?”

As a child Mihail Kiryakov was a shepherd. Then he started playing. No wedding was performed without his bagpipe. In 1924 he came in the town of Devin. He worked as forest-guard in Devin as well as in the village of Trigrad. He worked also as a carpenter.

He was eloquent, he had the abilty to gather people around him. Even Metropolitan Stefan invited him because of his master playing.

He took part in the “100 kaba gaidi” ensemble. The playing of the bagpiper which was about to fade away was taken up by his grandson Angel Kiryakov.

“My father told me once, that actually he is the author of the song that saved his life. He loved one girl from the Sivkovki 's family in Chepelare, but she didn't take him and so out of sorrow he created this song. Often when we insisted that he play “Oh, my mother, the Sivkovski 's dense forest...”, he became sad”.

What unsuspected power hides the song- it acquits those who are sentenced to death and bring them back to life. The power of the song- to acquit, to resurrect, to abolish the injustice, to protect truth, life from which it is actually born...

author: Georgi Hristov
“Rodopski vesti” 13 September 1993
translated from Bulgarian: Kostadin Gerdzhikov

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Two bagpipes are playing

The village of Gela has scattered its houses and barns in the lap of the Karlak peak. On the Kaloferska hill plays one Kaba Gaida. On the Trendafiloska slope plays another Kaba Gaida. They unite their voices into one and then as if the whole village start singing. Two bagpipes play. The melodies alternate , songs- confessions...

First confession

One day when I was in the fourth year at school , I didn't attend class. The teacher send a message through the other children: “Tell to the father of Michail Kalfov to come tomorrow in the school! ” They told this to my father the same evening and I was not back home yet. They searched for me here and there but without success. Everybody got anxious.

At that time I was sitting on one hill and kept on playing the bagpipe of the old shepherd and good bagpiper grandpa Stoil. He tried to convince me not to attend school and to follow him, to become a shepherd. There were shepherd's bells, dogs and all day long I could play the bagpipe...

I returned home late at night. Of course, I got the warming. “Don't you feel ashamed ,my father shouted at me, that you don't want to learn how to read and write!”

I had to study, but all the time my mind was occupied with the bagpipe. When I thought of it I forgot school, books and teachers. I forgot the instructions of my father, too... Only my mother didn't scold me when I followed the flock of grandpa Stoil. As if she could feel that I had the potential to become a bagpipe player and to bring joy to people.

Once on Sunday there was a wedding in the village. Petar Lalov was playing. I squeezed through the quests and stayed besides him a lot of time. I was looking only at his fingers. They didn't stop moving all over the chanter. Oh, how many wedding melodies he played! At the end I asked him: “I want you to make me a bagpipe! I'm gonna give you a whole sheep for this!” That's namely what happened. Without my father knowing about this, I gave him one sheep and the bagpiper gave me a bagpipe. It had a good voice and all the day I kept on playing.

I felt myself a bagpiper skillful enough to play before a lot of people at the age of 15. I got invited at a wedding. The family had searched for some other bagpipers but all of them were busy. Thus they came to me. I was flattered, I played with all my soul! I played “Ela se vie, previva” in such a way that I brought tears to the eyes of some quests. They were crying and I was felling joy inside...

Since that moment I have always had the bagpipe by my side, constantly playing at festivals, working-bees, weddings. Once when I was traveling for a festival I got on the third-class compartment. It was as crowded as a beehive. I noticed that in the next compartment there were a lot of free places. I went there and I made myself comfortable. After some time I felt bored and started playing the bagpipe. Immediately the compartment got crowded with passengers from other compartments. The conductor also came and tried to chase me away. My ticket was for the third-class compartment. I am a bulk of a man and the conductor was a little chap. How could I possibly obey her. Finally she brought the trainmaster but I turned stubborn about all this and at train station Sofia I was arrested and taken to the station-master. Fortunately he turned out to be a reasonable man. He wanted me to play one song... From that festival I got back with a golden medal.

If it was the golden medal or the applause of the public that gave courage , I don't know, but once during one Ilinden festival I played for one cheerful company 12 hours without a halt. Then I changed the already sodden reed and played another 12 hours for another company. I kept on playing and playing.... It was festivals, weddings. However, when I go to the Loma, opposite to my house, then I feel myself best. I lean on some pine-tree and all the village listen to my playing. I am 72 years old and I keep on going to the Loma.

I have a workshop. I gather pelts, horns and make bagpipes. One day when my fingers cannot play anymore I'm gonna give my dear fellow, the bagpipe, to Genko. He is my nephew. Now he is just a small bagpipe player...

Second confession

It may sound strange to some people, yet I,Dafo Trendafilov, have two weddings. The first, of course, it is my wife. The other one, it is the bagpipe. Since childhood I have always played shepherd's flute, then okarina (clay flute), kaval. I was always whistling something when I followed the cows and the sheep... So I decided to try also the bagpipe. At that time my brother Angel played the bagpipe but he was summoned for military service and his bagpipe became mine. One evening I was going down from the Karlak peak with the mule. I started playing. On the way I met the bagpiper Sedyankuski Tilo. From far away he told me:

– Son, you play better than your brother!

I didn't answer, but my heart leaped. I started playing the bagpipe again and I left it not until I got back home. I shared with my father what Sedyankuski Tilo had told me. On the next day he gave me money to buy the bagpipe. I didn't know that it didn't belong to my brother, so I bought it.

I grazed the sheep on the hills and the bagpipe was my companion. Once it started raining so I hung it on one pine-tree. When I got back in the evening it was not there. All the winter I had to endure without a bagpipe-oh, what a sorrow! When the spring came I bought a new bagpipe. The bagpipes of Shishko had very beautiful voice. Shishko himself made them. I got one.

I put the bagpipe in the suitcase , leaving for my millitary service. However, the war broke out and it was no time for playing and singing. I left for service on re-engagement. I was at the front. I survived.

I'm already 70 years old, but I always hear the playing of my youth there, unter the Karlak peak: “Rositse, my first love”or “ Farewell to you, Old mountain”... and many more! Even now when I have to go to Karlak for some job, I take my fellow with me. I sit next to some stone or log and the old pine-trees shake branches, they dance. When I start playing the mountain grows bigger and bigger...

Our family has the nickname the Gogo's bears because we all are tall, strong, and tough people. Gogo is my grandfather. My father took part in the siege of Edrine during the Balkan wars. It happened so that only with the shovel from the military equipment he brought down 7 people. This feat is described in 2 books. I feel proud of my father.

I've grazed sheep, chopped trees, built saw-mills. The bagpipe has always been with me. It was the bagpipe that provided me with food during the ration system. Some people say that I have huge and rough hands. Yes, that's true, but just look at my finger, see how they move on the chanter. Moreover, I started making bagpipes. My bagpipes play in America, Ireland, Germany, France, Israel, Greece... I got a visit from England, too. They watched how I make and play the bagpipe. People buy the bagpipes and then ask me how to play. I explain and conclude with this “I can give the bagpipe, but the finger- no!”

Not a long time ago I came back from Italy. The Italians whooped and applauded. One of them wanted me to cut the bagpipe open so that he can see the mechanism. He didn't believe that there is only air inside. After this we became friends. When I played in Italy, it was the Italian public in front of me but actually I saw my village, and the Shilesta chuka, we call Karlak this way. I played “ Oh eyes, eyes, you woeful black eyes ” and the song brought me back to Karlak.


The village of Gela. On the hill plays Michail and on the the slope Dafo, two brothers-in-law. They are inseparable friends since 1953.They are the soul of the local ensemble of the village. They also teach practical lessons of bagpipe in the National Folk Art School in Shiroka Luka.

There is such a Rhodope song “Everthing is just fine and well, but we have no bagpipe ”. In Gela however two famous bagpipes play and many other as well- young and old...

author: Emanuil Konsulov
mag. “Rhodopi” 05/1989

trasnlation from Bulgarian: Kostadin Gerdzhikov