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Fujara Flute History

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"I remember my old conversation with uncle Paciga, respected Fujara craftsmen. I entreated him to show me how to mark out the holes on the Fujara flute. We agreed and one day I brought to him a worked out timber for Fujara flute. First he made a fipple flute sound device and then he started to mark out the holes. I wondered that he marked on the timber even six holes - like on a whistle. So I urged him: "Mister Paciga, but I want to know how to make the holes into the Fujara flute, not whistle". He smiled and said: "you know my boy, before the Fujara flute a whistle was and that is why I mark out the Fujara flute like a 6 hole shepherd pipe, and then I drill just the three lower holes". At that time I did not realise that the man had a big truth."

Basically, Fujara flute is a gothic three-hole bass whistle. The three hole whistles were in the 12. - 13. century Europe very famous and wide spread. They used to be played in a musical configuration together with a tambour (small hand drum):

Because these bass whistles were shorter and had only 3 holes, it was possible to play them with just one hand. The musician often accompanied himself playing tambour on his own: playing the three hole whistle in one hand and the other hand beat the tambour.

Substantial expansion of these instruments in Slovakia confirm the period papers, for example a picture of a flutist with tambour under the Ostry castle, or two three-holes whistles from the 13.century acquired lately by Phdr. Hanuliak during excavation in the Pusty castle near Zvolen.

During the renaissance, flutes and whistles with three tactual holes were retreating. However, later on, following an example of the string instruments family /fiddle - alto position, violin - canto, violoncello - tenor, contrabass - bass position/, also the wind instruments families were formed spontaneously /16.century/. This documents the flutes in a german enviroment, where coexisted alto, tenor and bass flutes with side air flow channel of similar construction as the side air pipe of Fujara flute.

Also by the three-holes whistles there was an effort to create a family and renew repertoire. Musical scientist from the 15. - 16. century Michael Pretorius /from Sliezko/, documents an existence of such three hole whistle family in his work "Teatrum instrumentarum" from the year 1619. Though, he remarks that this configuration of three hole flutes had never been played together: because of the limitation of this 3 hole flute's scale range achieved by overblowing, the harmony inbetween the alto, tenor and bass three-hole flutes just was not reached. Simply, it did not tuned. He states, that there were three basic dimensions of the three holes-whistles: " a 20 inch "melodic whistle", a 26 inch "tenor whistle" and a  35 inch "bass whistle". Similarly, but independently from Praetorius, French musicologist Mersen writes about this issue in his work from the year 1632.

The three hole bass whistles from this period were about 91 to 130 cm long, with two lower tactual holes located in the front and the upper one located in the back of the flute's pipe.
In Brussel's music museum collection of very old musical instruments occurs also a three-holes bass whistle approximately 98 cm long, with the side air flow channel and three fingering holes /two in the front part and one in the back part of the flute's main pipe/. The instrument has a north italian origin and its construction is extremely similar to the Fujara flute in former times occuring in the surroundings of Priechod, Hiadel, Strelniky, Podkonice and likewise, named by Slovak ethnomusicologists "Priechod's Fujara flute" ("Priechodska Fujara"). Because of the above listed reasons is the so called "Priechod´s Fujara flute" regarded as the most archaic form of the Fujara flute.

In this context Dr. Macak tracks the place of a Fujara's flute origin into the area northerly from Banska Bystrica (middle Slovakia), to the actual Slovenska Lupca environment and to above listed communities. He assumes that the three-hole bass whistle has got to this territory during the turkish wars, where a regiment of soldiers from western Europe and Italy was stationed adjacent to today's Slovenska Lupca.
Fujara flute gradually reached and penetrated into the Slovak environment, "conserved" there and persisted until today as a rarity. Fujara's flute movement into the Detva area and its surroundings is considered as a secondary matter, where also the design reform is evident - the lenghtening of the Fujara main pipe to almost double size achieving much lower, deeper bass possitions and resulting placement of the top fingering hole into the front part of the main Fujara flute's pipe.
From the turkish wars period persisted in musical culture of this region a style of melody enhancements by baroque ornamentation. Even nowadays it is still present in ciphers of bandmasters, flutists' melodies, as well as in some melody ornaments present in traditional interpretation of the fujarists from Podpolanie region.

Author: Karol Kocik, all rights reserved ©.


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