General Introduction

I have been a musician and researcher of traditional music since the 1980s, playing semi-professionally in the UK and mainland Europe. My musical career includes TV, radio and solo performances in various European countries. I concentrate mainly on the repertoire of the Bellows Blown Bagpipes from Northumbria and the Scottish/English Borders, an instrument I knew about from childhood. My research into Traditional music enabled me to devise a series of workshops, lectures and performances. In 1991 I started an academic program that ended in a Masters in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick (Irish World Music Centre).

Musical Journeys

I started playing Northumbrian Small Pipes in 1987, busking in Carlisle and the Borders of Scotland/England, playing in folk clubs, often performing solo and with various folk bands; later I got a set of Border Pipes in the early 90s and became interested in the 1 octave melodies from the Border tradition.

Baltic States
In 1992 (after my BTECH degree in Performing Arts) I moved to Lithuania (Baltic States) and played Northumbrian Pipes at various festivals there, and I began researching the traditional music of Lithuania and Belorussia. This led to concerts in Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Belorussia, Czech Republic and Latvia). I learned to make the Labanora Duda while living in Kaunas, Lithuania and performed in the 2nd Minsk “Dudaski” Bagpipe Festival in Belorussia in 1993. I did research alongside Lithuanian ethnomusicologists that gave me my first introduction this subject. “Fieldwork” became a regular experience for me and collecting music and songs from the small villages still remain one of my richest experiences of those day. My research into the music of the Baltic States led me to expand my research into other musical areas.

Musical Education

In 1994 I returned to the UK to start my B.A. in Contemporary Arts at Nottingham Trent University, besides exploring music for film/video I became interested in microtonal music and improvisation, this led me to explore the Raga and Makam musical systems. The University allowed me to spend 3 months in India and Pakistan researching Religious music (Tibetan, Sikh, Hindu, Islamic, Animist), especially Qawwali to see how Ragas were used in Religion to achieve a heightened state of consciousness.

After completing my BA in 1997 I wanted to continue my research into makam music in more depth, so I chose to explore makam theory practically by learning the Open-Ended Flutes from Turkey, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. My research also included construction methods of wind instruments and their tunings. I was lucky enough go on various field trips to continue my research to countries where the open-ended flute was still played: Turkmenistan, Tatarstan, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco. I finally found a research opportunity in Istanbul, Turkey, at the Conservatoire (I.T.U.) for 2 years and explored other Turkish music such as the Kaval (folk open-ended flute), Tulum (Bagpipe), Mey (reed flute) and the Mevlevi Ayin and the Alevi Cem Ceremony.

In 2000 I enrolled on a Masters course in Ethnomusicology at Limerick University, Ireland. My thesis entitled “A Step towards the Ney” is a methodology exploring the history, symbolism, Mevlevi Sufis, Ilahi, and technique of the Turkish Ney, it was the first methodology of the Turkish Ney in English at that time. During my M.A. I organized a field trip to Bali, Indonesia; to take lessons in the Suling Gambu, the long Balinese bamboo flute used in traditional Shadow Puppet Theatre.

After completing my Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology in 2001, I travelled to the USA to look for a PhD opportunity. In 2002 while waiting to start my PhD programme, I returned to Turkey for a research trip and by chance met another Ney teacher whom I felt offered me a greater understanding of the Ney´s music, and culture. He lived in Bursa/Turkey and that is where I spent the following 4 years researching and playing the Turkish Ney.

In 2006 I spent a further 2 years in Cairo, Egypt researching the Arabic Nay and exploring my own Anthropological Ethnography into Egyptian Culture. I also began researching “Qasidas” of the Shadhili Sufi Order in Amman, Jordan. In 2008 I returned to the UK, hoping to find a university to write up my research or to begin to write a book of my experiences.

In 2009 another opportunity allowed me to travel to Madrid, Spain; to extend my research into the open ended flutes of Andalusia, to teach the Turkish Ney, and also to re-examine my early interest in bagpipes. This bagpipe research led me to the music of Northern Spain and the bagpipes from the regions of Galicia, Sanabria, Northern Portugal, Asturias, Aragon, Catalonia and Mallorca. On the Small pipes and Border pipes I played in various concerts and festivals and I also started to make Scottish Small pipes and learned to play the Gaita and played in various ensembles in and around Madrid.

In 2019 I returned to the UK and moved to Glasgow, where I hope to continue to explore the music of the Scottish and English Borders, to continue to make Small pipes for my workshop, and to write up my musical ethnography.


2 thoughts on “General Introduction”

  1. Hi,

    I, too, own smallpipes made by Ron Harrison. I have been unable to find anyone who has any information on him. Can you write and let me know what you know about him and his pipes?


    Josh Perkins


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