We had spent 5 days walking through the Basque Region of Spain and we ended our travels at a small town near to Bilbao called Amorebeita. Here we met a musician who played the Txistu (flute) and Danbolina (tabor).
These instruments have an unbroken tradition in the Basque country (as well as other parts of Spain too) but what makes the Basque Txistu a little different is that they have been changed to bring them more into a “classical” repertoire. My knowledge of this instrument (as in indeed all Spanish instruments) is limited, but I am finding that the tuning, scale, range of the txistu has been tempered and fixed so that it can be played more easily with other instruments.
The txistu is a 3 holed fipple flute played with one hand, and it can have a range of over 2 octaves and is fully chromatic. It is made from various black coloured hard woods or hard plastics, the fipple mouth piece is made from metal and it is generally found in the key of F (or F sharp if it is played on the streets, as it produces a louder sound). We spent a great weekend with Iban, who let us attend his performances:
On the saturday there was a txistu/danbolina and dance performance for the pensioners at an old peoples center. One man danced a traditional dance dancing the 1st and the 4th part of 4 part dance, while Iban played the txistu and danbolina together (one hand the melody and the other hand the rhythm).
Next there was a march/procession around various streets of Santurtzi, here 3 txistularia played and marched, stopping at various bars along the way!!
That was the end of the formal playing, but as there was a Basque football match on that night the txistu and danbolina was brought along to play various football and traditional Basque melodies.
The Sunday was a march/procession around the streets of Amorebeita, an unbroken tradition (except for 3-4 years in the 90s) where the txistularia play various melodies and stop off at various bars playing a mix of Basque and Spanish melodies for the people who often come out onto the streets and make an occasion of it with wine and food.