the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe


Spain - Basque country 20th century


The Basque region on the borders of Spain and France have several mountain tabor pipe traditions, but the dominant form – the txistu – and the players – the txistulari – have become an expression of Basque identity. The first mention of the txistu dates from 1864.

1810 ‘description of the Town of Bilbao’ from Saunders's News-Letter - Friday 13 July 18101810
1836 Newspaper report on the Proclamation of the Constitution of Cadiz at San Sebastian:1836Sun (London) - Monday 29 August 1836

1836 in Durango 1836Morning Post - Wednesday 26 October 1836

18391839London Evening Standard - Thursday 12 September 1839

The Queen came to visit. Local people danced to the pipe and tabor. The Examiner - Saturday 16 September 1865

An old pipe found in a farmhouse in Oñatiold pipe

txirulatxirula, Horniman Museum, London

1878 newspaper report in London, England, regarding Biarritz annual event: 1878Globe - Wednesday 04 September 1878

local tourist posters
The Basque people are very proud of their culture. Every few years over the last 100 years tourist posters have been produced
featuring a man (mostly) playing the pipe and tabor.
These are details from posters:
1903 Leiza Navarre1903 Leiza, Navarre  
19201920 Pamplona 19211921 Pamplona 19231923 Pamplona 19271927 Pamplona
19271927 San Sebastian 19291929 Great Basque Week 19301930 Pamplona 1932 Bayonne poster1932 Bayonne, France [detail] 19331933 Pamplona
19341934 Pamplona  
19361936 Bayonne
19481948 19501950 Leiza, Navarre [detail] 1951 Bayonne1951 Bayonne [detail]
19531953 Leiza, Navarre 19571957 Bayonne, France 1957 poster1957 Bilbao 19641964 Bibao
no date, French Frenchno date, French 19731973 festival
19741974 Bayonne 19761976 Bayonne, France 19831983 Bayonne 19901990 Bayonne festival [detail] 1992 detail1992 Bayonne [detail]
20092009 Bilbao [detail] 20092009 Bibi Beaurivage – Biarritz 2013 new campaign2013 new campaign [detail] 2014 poster2014 Bayonne, France
Hotel publicity Bilbaono date Hotel Carlton, Bilbao 20152015 food festival [detail] 20172017 Bayonne, France

2018 2018 Jaitzubi festivities-Hondarribia

Oarso, Spainno date Oarso - Basquenjoy, Hondarribia no date, Franceno date, France
2019 Bayonne poster2019 Bayonne (detail) 20202020 Basque - man and woman players [detail] badgesBasque
local artists
1922 Ramiro Arrue

Ramiro Arrue1925 RamiroArrue

Ramiro Arrue paintingRamiro Arrue playing for dancing
20thc postcard20th century postcard 1929 magazine cover1929 magazine cover  
1891 painting1891 Darío de Regoyos y Valdes playing for dancingplaying for dancing Aurelio AretaAurelio Arteta (detail)
Aurelio Arteta  Y Erresti Aurelio Arteta Y Erresti Jacques Tanneur Jacques Tanneur

Charles Homualk [detail]

playing for dancersCharles Homualk

Charles Homualk [detail]

1956 painting1956 playing for
folk dancing

PaintingJose Arrue [detail]

Ramiro Arrue Y Trebla painting

playing for dancing [detail]

card paintingJavier Ciga 20th century playerplayer from a postcard
1958 design1958 Oarso Renteria 1959 card1959 card playing for dancingplaying for dancing [detail] 1964 illustration1964 Bilbao map, illustration
statuetteceramic statuette bronze statuettebronze statuette statuettestatuette statuetteresin statuette female player statuetteresin statuette bronze plaquebronze plaque dollsouvenir doll
statuette playing for dancingplaying for dancing postcard early 20th century playerearly 20th century player
by Aurelio Arteta
postcardpostcard [thanks Terry Carter]
txistu (pipe)and tamboril (tabor)

"the first txistulari hired in Bilbao are from the 15th century, we are very much alive today".

Formerly txistus were made of bone or wood, and although they can now be made of plastic or metal, it is more common for them to be wooden. The txistu player or txistulari, plays mostly dance music, at popular festivities and in village squares, participating as master of ceremonies in rural areas and in religious processions and official protocols. Nowadays, the txistu, whose tuning and technique have evolved, is taught and studied at official music schools.

For more details of Basque txistularis today go here.

18611861 French Basque, playing for 'dance of sticks'
early 20th century photographearly 20th century photograph 1923 meeting1923 meeting of players
San SebastianSan Sebastian, postcard
20th century group20th century group photograph, txistu player on extreme left photographphotograph
early 20th centuryearly 20th century
1919 postcard1919 postcard from Vascongadas, Spain  
dancerspostcard, playing for folk dancing playing for 'dance with small sticks'playing for 'dance with small sticks'  
Bilbao processionBilbao procession 19481948 Bayonne Festival  
1960's parade1960's parade 1965 group1965 outside church
maypole dancingBergara Village, ribbon dance
playerssource 1937 player1937 soldier playerplayer 1984 female player1984 France 2015 player2015
21st century French21st century France BilbaoBilbao female players21st century, Basque country
Two women txistularis.
Basque paradeparade BilbaoBilbao
2013 musicians2013 musicians 2014 religious service2014 religious service Bilbao
band2019 Durangaldeko Jaizaleak band
band of Leioaband from Leioa 2020 street entertainment2020 street entertainment in Barakaldo, Chistularis
wearing the same cardiganband all wearing the cardigan from Texartu Textile Studio
BilbaoBilbao 20132013
dance displaydance display dance displaydance display stampstamp
male dance soloAurresku, solo male dance performed at
weddings, tributes and public events

carnivalIlarduya carnival

swortd dance players2021 playing for Pamplona Sword Dance
2021 playing for sword dance2021 playing for Sanfermin Aldapakoa sword dance
with giants
with giantwith giant 1950 with giants1950 with giants 1955 with giants1955 with giants and big heads
parade with Big Headsparade with Big Heads
municipal bands
1905 band1905 players 1920players in San Sebastian, 1920
early playersPortugalete, Bizkaia, País Vasco early 20th century Isidro Ansorena Eleizegi (1893-1975)
was first txistulari of the Municipal Band of San Sebastián all his life from the age of 14. ... He was the one who introduced the txistu in the Conservatory of San Sebastián, thus laying the basis for its officialization... The txistus that he made were distinguished by their sweetness of sound and the tightest tuning.
1943 town band1943 Pamplona
Pamplona town bandPamplona town band
2001Banda de Txistularis Municipal de Pamplona playing in 2001 at the
annual Symposium of
The Taborers Society
2014 procession2014 Hondarribia, Spain
players21st century source 2020 band2020 Barakaldo band
town bandtown band
string drum
Victorian19th century Basque 1852 string drum1852 string drum 19th century string drum19th century string drum string drumCharles Homualk [detail]
19th century for dancing19th century for dancing Victorian playing for dancingVictorian playing for dancing    
string drumv playerBasque early 20th century

1923 playing for dancers1923 Basque painting
playing for dancers

1931 magazine article1931 magazine article 19341934 poster
19471947 postcard,
painter [detail]
20th playing for dancing20th century, Basque, playing for dancing   1945-19851945-1985 unknown painter
srting drum and flagpostcard painting20th century, Basque, painting [detail] unknownunknown date
player and dancerspainting string drum playerstring drum player painted
string drum with pipe and tabor21st century Basque
string drum with pipe and tabor
2009 string drum2009 string drum 20202020 string drum
procession2020 Bearn procession
stone carvings and frescos
Bayonne CathedralBayonne Cathedral 15th century15th century, Monestry Oliva-Navarra Pamplona Cathedral stone carvingPamplona Cathedral
stone carving, end 14th century

Pamplona Cathedral carvingPamplona Cathedral

For a complete history see here:

16th century fescos16th century frescos

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