A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For the Still Snowed-In: More Arab Bagpipes and Bagpipe Scholarship

Still stuck in the snowed-in East. My Friday post on Bagpipes in Bethlehem provoked fairly scholarly comments from LJMarczak and The Moor Next Door, so, what the heck, here's more:

The Qatar Army Pipe Band at an Arabian horse show:

Dubai Pipe Band playing in the UAE at Zayed University:

An Egyptian bagpipe band (I think the first group are doing the Grand March from Aida, but my ear isn't that great and I've never heard Verdi on Bagpipes; then they're at the Pyramids briefly):

On second viewing I think they may be in front of the Sphinx, though it doesn't show except for the paws. If so, perhaps this is part of the Sound and Light Show.

This one claims on YouTube to be "The Best Palestinian Bagpipe Player." I doubt that, and the pipers who've commented on the video disagree. Lone pipers only work if they're standing in mist covered mountains piping a lonely air. It's not an indoor instrument. Massed pipes are better, but heck, the Palestinians seem to really love the pipes:

Wikipedia's "bagpipes" article notes the pipes are known in the Middle East but doesn't go into it in any detail. The comments on the earlier post are, right now, my best source of data for origins: pipes in one form or another seem to be known in the Arab world, North Africa, Turkey and the Caucasus, many predating any British or Celtic influence in the region. Some regional bagpipes are not on the Scottish model. (Neither are Irish pipes, as I understand it.)

You can catch a Moroccan version of the bagpipe in this video, though the captions are in some language (educated guess: Hungarian? See Comment Below) I don't know (wait till the oud player's winding down at 1:01 or 1:02):

Now that's a Middle Eastern sound.

For a traditional Tunisian pipe known as the mezoued which looks nothing like a Scots pipe, and sounds different too, try this:

And just to round things out in the Maghreb, the Algerian raï singer known as Cheb Mami: the bagpipes kick in about two minutes in (2:19 or so) and the photo looks a lot like the Tunisian mezoued. Catchy tune, too. I don't know much about raï, but this song's definitely listenable.

And while the Arab contribution to piping is obviously important, a reader has reminded me quite clearly that there is a highly famous Scots pipe tune on a Middle Eastern theme: "The Barren Rocks of Aden." Here's the tune:

And, while many online sources say there are no known lyrics, somebody linked to the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders has a gent with a convincing Scots burr singing lyrics:

So there. I may play it while I try to find my car under the giant snowball it has become.


L Warner said...

The Kobza Vajk Group does indeed have Hungarian subtitles - Szentendre is an adorable little town up the Duna (Danube) from Budapest. Being a piper in the US (with a friend in Saudi who reads your blog), I enjoyed all the videos.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

L Warner:

Many thanks. I've both noted your comment in the text and in a later post.