the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

other three-hole pipes - the fujara

Based upon a paper presented at the 2010 Symposium of The Taborers Society in Gloucester, England, given by Ass Prof Karol Kocik PhD, entitled 'Slovakian Fujara - history and playing'.


The fujara is a large gothic 3-hole bass whistle. It originates in Central Slovakia, in a sheep-rearing area around the village of Slovenska Lupca. It appears to have been brought to this region during the turkish wars by an army regiment from western Europe and Italy who were stationed nearby. The instrument stayed within the area and even in the 21st century is still is based in the region, although has now spread outwards to nearby places.

The instrument is made of decorated and carved wood and consists of two tubes tied together: one long wide tube with the three finger-holes and a smaller tube that is blown into by the player. The smaller tube acts as a duct to direct the airflow into the top of the large bass tube proper. Due to its size both the player's hands are needed to cover the three holes so the fujara can no longer be played with a tabor.

The fujara appears to have developed out of a six-hole pipe, with just the bottom three holes drilled. In the 12th-13th centuries the whistle was much shorter than today so it was possible to play it with one hand using the other hand to hold a drumstick to play the tabor. But over the centuries the whistle has almost doubled in length to today's size of 160-200cm which gives it a deep resonating sound. Whilst originally two holes were on top with the third hole at the back, the whistle reached such a size that it became impossible to play so the top fingering hole was moved from the back to the front of the pipe.

In the 16th century it became popular to have families of wind and string instruments in different sizes, soprano, alto, tenor and bass. So a range of different sizes of fujara were developed, the 20 inch melodic, 26 inch tenor and 35 inch bass whistle. Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) comments that these three-holed flutes had never been played together. and Marin Mersenne (1588 -1648) discusses this issue in his work in 1636.

In the 17th century the bass whistle reached 35 inches long. There is an example in Brussels Museum of a bass whistle 98 cms long that originates in northern Italy. It has two holes at the front and one at the back, and has today's side air flow channel.

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Two types of instrument have developed, the priechods Fujara (walachian) and the Detva Fujara, and two different playing styles, the walachian (an older style developed by shepherds) and the newer rural style.

The old stories say that the walachian Fujara is best played slowly to the sheep to move them between pastures. The melodies mostly utilised simple blowing, without trills and decorations, and vibrato. (Or it could be that hard-working walachian shepherds' hands were very hard-skinned and so less flexible and were unable to play fast.) Authorities agree that the Fujara's soft voice and slow melody calms the sheep and they thrive on the sound, stay close together and behave in a more gentle way; this is called the 'welfare effect'. The sheep spread out in a line behind the shepherd and so nibble the grass evenly, to the benefit of the pasture.

In the evenings when the player is by him/herself, entertains a small group or meets up with a number of other players, the rural style is played. Also, traditionally, a group of young men may go out and play music under the window of one of their girl-friends: the young man makes himself known by his own personal style of playing using all sorts of melodic variations, lots of baroque ornamentation and different fingering techniques.

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