the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

world-wide traditions - Majorca

the pipe known as a Flabiol

researched by Frances
with additional information by Matthew Spring
from a talk given at the 2011 Symposium of The Taborers Society in Gloucester, England

The flabiol has up to five holes with a range exceeding two octaves. The pipe is played with the left hand whilst the right hand plays a small drum (tamborí); a combination found in other parts of Spain usually with a three-holed pipe. The musician who plays the flabiol and tambori is a 'flabiolaire'.

Joan Thomas 1927-36
Miquel Amengual,
Majorca, June 1952

The five-holed flabiol can also be played without the drum, using both hands. This technique, largely fallen into disuse, allows lower notes to be produced. The Flabiol is usually tuned in F (Fa), but it can also be found in D(Re), Eb (Mi bemol), E (Mi), F# (Fa#), G (Sol) and G# (Sol#).

The pipe and tabor accompanying folk dancers.

Local folkloric traditions have been encouraged by successive governments. In the 1970's there was a revival of the unique Majorcan traditions in language, folk traditions and politics. Today there are instruments in childrens sizes and books written for them.

The flabiol and tambori traditionally accompany local folk dances. For example on 16th August annually a group of dancers accompanied by flabiolaires dance through the town of Alaró, ending up dancing inside the church.

Processions of musicians also accompany the annual cycle civic and religious events. Villages running races are organised and the tunes played relate to that race. During the summer a fiesta takes place to celebrate the killing of animals and in January an animal blessing ceremony takes place, all accompanied by music.

9. Animal blessing ceremony (January)

In order to play with other instruments a flabiol in the key of 'C' is now being played widely. Standard tunes are played without harmonies.

Annual parade in Palma (September)
Palma, annual parade (December)
dating from1229

The instrument was traditionally only played by men but by the 21st century more women were playing in public.


Another recent change is that this tradition, originating in, (or preserved in), the rural centre of the island is being taken to the towns around the coast to be seen by tourists.

Majorcan schools offer courses in traditional dances and instruments. So innovative ensembles of young people have formed performing the traditional repertoire alongside new compositions in both the old styles and in modern music idioms.

pipe and tabor with bagpipe
Both of these instruments are essential ingredients whenever Mallorcans gather for traditional celebrations of many kinds and events including local festivals and processions. A xeremier (bagpiper) and a flaviolaire, together are called a colla . As the flabiol is pitched higher than the xeremia, it is an effective complement to the latter. The xeremia can play only legato notes: the flabiol makes for greater melodic and rhythmic variety and definition. [audio here (video, after 2.00mins)]


S'horta Festival in May

In rural areas the shepherds played on their own so they did not need to tune their instruments or practise. Traditionally they only played one drone. Their bagpipe was made out of a complete animal, goat being most common but cats and dogs have also been used. Occasionally the bagpipe is made from a child's dress. Town musicians generally play in groups, wear uniforms and are in tune with each other.

the Giants
There have been giants at celebrations in Majorca since at least 1630. Those used in processions these days are a recent revival. [music on the flabiol and tambori here at with 2 giants, 3.00mins, first video at mid-page]

Muro flabiolaire

Palma flabiolaire

4. Muro giants

The Muro giants made their first appearance at the celebrations for the patron saint of the town, Sant Antoni, on 17 January 2004 for the traditional blessing by the local priest.

Antoni, the piper, plays the xeremias; Joan plays the tabor pipe and drum.

5. Palma parade

In 1903 the tradition of Giants parading through the town of Palma was revived: these more recent musician giants were first paraded in 1973.


Publicity poster 7.


NB All images are copyright. Please contact the owner via the links if you wish to copy these images, or require larger or better resolution images.

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