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...
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...
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