1st International Bagpipe Conference - Sophie Jacques de Dixmunde - Revival of the Languedocian Bodega Wed, 2013-03-27 20:32


Revival of the Languedocian Bodega

Sophie Jacques de Dixmunde

The bodega or craba are the traditional bagpipes from Languedoc region in the South of France.
Each instrument is made out of a single goatskin and, together with the Italian zampogna, is one of the largest instruments of its kind in the world. Thanks to a very long single drone and a slightly conical chanter (both made of boxwood) its sound is particularly rich in harmonics. For a long time it was the symbolic instrument of the Montagne Noire, where at the beginning of the XXth century around 200 traditional musicians played these pipes at weddings, wakes, balls and serenades. In this rural environment the bodega was a fundamental part of daily life.

Its restricted habitat stretches over the four departments which now form the Montagne Noire : Aude, Tarn, Haute-Garonne, H?rault. To the north, the bodega is called craba (goat in langue d?oc), two names for the same instrument. The term bodega relates to the Spanish bodega, a place where wine is stocked in ? goatskins, and is pronounced boud?go, gallicized as boudegue..

Few players returned from the Great War. The advent of the Italian accordion (symbol of modernity at the time) also contributed to the demise of the bodega. It would probably have disappeared altogether without the renewed interest of a few musicians in the sixties. The efforts of Charles Alexandre gave the bodega a new lease of life. He was able to meet the last surviving players and learn from them the history of the instrument, its repertoire, how it was constructed and when it was played. But unfortunately they were all too old to actually play the instrument and so there are no original recordings available.

Thus the bodega managed to survive, but without any direct transmission of the instrument and just a very few players. It was only in 2002 that the instrument received its second wind : the creation of a group for interregional coordination and renewed development of the bodega. In 2004 this work-group published a triple CD anthology to international acclaim. It also encouraged more than 70 practicing musicians, as well as research into a dozen historic chanters in an attempt to discover a common denominator. The bodega school in Charles Alexandre?s hometown of Villardonnel now enables enthusiasts not only to become acquainted with the instrument, but also to take part in festivals all over the region.

The recently published double DVD ?Bodega, buf de vida !? (breath of life) (2010), subtitled in 6 languages, has promoted these pipes throughout Europe. In addition to the documentary film, this publication deals with aspects of construction and performance practice, thus filling important gaps in our knowledge of the instrument.

In a society which is rapidly loosing its aims it has now become a source of interest to many people, especially to a younger generation interested in the revival of former traditions.
The power and resonance of the bodega leaves no one untouched.