History

The Spanish word "gaita" comes from the Gothic word "gaits" (The Goths were a Germanic tribe who invaded Spain after the fall of Rome). This word is also used in Balkan languages ("Gaida" in Hungary, "Gainda" in Crete or "Gayda" in Yugoslavia), and means "goat", becuase the pipe bag is traditionally made of goatskin. The Latin word "Cornamusa" is used in France, Italy and Eastern Spain.

The Asturian Pipe was first attested in the Middle Ages, but it's quite probable that it is considerably older, like most Atlantic Pipes. The Asturian pipe is a folk instrument used by the country folk, and it became a part of daily life: parties, funerals, masses... and even was accepted by the nobility.

Ancient Drone and blowpipe
Drone and blowpipe from the XVIII-XIX century, the most ancient pieces know about asturian pipe. It was find in Colunga (little village in eastern Asturias).
Photo: Pablo Arce. With permission of Pipe Museum of Gijón.
The first evidence for the Asturian bagpipe is dated at the Thirteenth Century.This deciption us a piper can be seen in a column of the gothic church called Santa Maria of Villaviciosa "La Oliva". The piper in question is a hog. Another can be seen in a miniature from the book "Libro de la regla colorada"(Fourteenth Century), in which the piper is a hare. The draw is a rabbit playing the pipe, or in a gothic set of chairs of Oviedo Cathedral of a pig playing the pipe.
Pig playing pipe in Oviedo Cathedral
Detalle sillería gótica Catedral de Oviedo/Uviéu
Llibardón Piper
El Gaiteru Llibardón
The bagpipe became so intertwined in the cultural landscape that by the beginning of the Sixteenth Century there were already professional Asturian pipers, as evidenced in the parochial records of Asturias. The evolution of the instrument in this period was minimal. Until the early Nineteenth Century, where the pipes experienced a resurgence. The pipers of this period are the most famous in popular memory: Aladino'l d'Amandi and the Gaiteru Llibardon. The second of these participateed in the Universal Expo (EXPO) in Paris, 1889, representing Spain at it's pavilion, and later in Milan (Italy) he cut the first known recording on the Asturian bagpipe.
At the beginning of this century, the bagpipe lost prestige and following, with few amateurs pipers remaining, such as the piper José Remis Ovalle (The Best Piper in Spain, a title given by the King of Spain to the best piper in the nation during his reign), or the Veriña piper. Only during the revival of the late 70's did the Asturian pipe recuperate and achieve it's greatest splender. Pipes are being made with new techniques, with perfect tuning and octave and a half. Asturian pipe bands are appearing, musical lessons has been introduced in the learning process, methodbooks have appeared, folk groups... everything.
Remis Ovalle. King's piper at first years of the XX Century
Remis Ovalle. Spanish Major Piper
In the last years the pipe in Asturias start to introduce with Asturias Simphony Orchestra, and one piper, called Jose Angel Hevia, sold more than 1.650.000 CD with his MIDI Asturian Pipe playing traditional asturian music with pop rithms.
The pipe bands, with some luthiers, are introducing a second and third drone (but third it's not traditional), and the tone are in B flat, when in Asturias the tones were always between B and D. The Scottish influence has made a big polemic between traditional and evoliotonist in pipe bands. Now most of the Pipe Bands use a B flat tone and one or two drones.
Also we can found asturian pipes in the nearest regions to Asturias, and one hybrid with galician pipe in the frontier between both regions.
Gaita Midi
Alfonso Fdez., Pipe Museum of Gijon Director with the asturian MIDI pipe. Photo Pablo Arce. With the permission of the Pipe Museum of Gijón.