Written for Chanter, the newsletter of The Bagpipe Society.
Steve Ellises account of his search for the illusive Mallorcan bagpipes in the last issue of Chanter prompted me to dredge my memory on this subject. I can provide only a few more relevant snippets of information and one rather disappointing sighting.
I was first made aware of them when my friend Jamie went to live on Mallorca in about 1979. Knowing of my passion for pipes he wrote to me with an account in a letter of a Fire Festival where bonfires are lit at night and people run through the streets with blazing torches to the accompaniment of music, sometimes on the bagpipes. Somewhere I still have his letter, somewhere....
He made friends with a local instrument maker who I think may have been a pipemaker. Certainly this maker was interested in bagpipes- I sent Jamie over some photocopies of Northumbrian pipe music which he bartered for a FUBIOL MALLORQUI- a Mallorcan whistle neatly made of almond wood and brass. I still have it- it is nearly ten inches long with a bore just over half an inch. It was supplied with a DIGITACIO- a handwritten fingering gamut. It is a fiendish whistle to play as it has five finger holes on the front and three (yes three) on the back. For the back holes you use both your thumbs and the upper part of your right hand (bottom) pinkie!
Jamie eventually made a tape of some Mallorcan piping- just a few tunes, perhaps played by the instrument maker. One of the tunes was called 'Running with the Devil' and was associated with the Fire Festival. I borrowed the tape, copied it, and returned the original to Jamie. I later found my 'copy' was blank and sadly Jamie died before I was able to borrow and copy his original again. I cannot remember much about the music now.
The only actual sighting I have had was at St Chartier on Saturday 12 July 1986 GRUP D'EN BIEL MAJOAL opened the evening concert. Dressed in traditional costume Toni Artigues played the xeremies (bagpipes), Dolfi Mulet played fobiol et tambori (whistle and drum) and Biel Majoral sang and played the ximbomba. I cannot recall what a ximbomba was- perhaps it was rumblepot? Also I cannot recall if the fobiol was played with both hands like mine or was played one handed simultaneous with the drum . The photo in Baines look similar to what I saw of the Mallorcan pipes.
I taped their concert, but only have kept one track. At best it could be described as pretty dreary as there was considerable discrepancy between the tunings and intervals of the whistle and bagpipes.
Perhaps Steve should try and arrange for his next visit to coincide with the Fire Festival!