The presence of the gaida within the geographical boundaries of Greece



     The gaida is a type of musical instrument which belongs to the askaulos familly. Askaulos literary means bagpipe (askos=bag, aulos=pipe). There are two main types of the askaulos in Greece. The gaida and the tsambuna Names may vary from place to place.

     National borders never have been a border for the culture. Due to this fact we can encounter similar, if not the same sounds and music on both sides of the borders. Only the language of the lyrics changed according to the dominant language used. Music, like so many things in the Balkans, has been a reason for dispute. There is no ownership in music that old. Traces of origin are lost in the past. Let keep it this way. You can contact us at for any productive comments.


The history of the gaida in Greece


     Like many other instruments the askaulos came to Greece from Asia around the 1st and 2nd century A.D. (source: Suetonius, Dionis Christostomos). From then on the presence of the gaida is proven from many illustrations and literary sources. For the time being no archaeological find shows that there was a bagpipe type instrument known earlier than the 1st century A.D.

     The gaida is shown on murals at the monastery of Megisti Laura at Holy Mountain and the Varlaam monastery in Meteora (16th century). In the same century (16th century) Nicolas de Nicolay illustrates in his chronicles an illustration named "A greek peasant" who plays the gaida. These three illustrations are not only important as they prove the presence of the gaida in Greece, but it is also important that the chanters and drones shown are conical. These type of gaidas are played today in many parts of Europe, but are not found in Greece any more.  


Part of the mural at Varlaam monastery in Meteora (16th century)



"A greek peasant" (Nicolay, 1567)

The other type of the askaulos is mentioned in a greek manuscript of the 11th century and from the Persian philosopher Avicenna (980-1037) Abu Ali Sina (persian ابوعلى سينا) or Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā (in arabic و علي الحسين بن عبد الله بن سينا) in the same century. We can find the same type of askauloson on murals: In the monastery of Agion Nikolas near Kakopetria in Cyprus (14th century), the monastery of Agios Fanourios at Valsamonero in Iraklio, Crete (15th century) and the monastery of Karakalou at Holy Mountain (Άγιο Όρος) (18th century). (Ανωγειανάκης, Φ. 1991)  


Geographical distribution


     Greece is not a country normally associated with the bagpipes, but in fact bagpipes have a long and ancient history in the Balkan region going back many hundreds of years. An ancient tradition does not easily die, and the Greek bagpipes have carried on with almost an outlaw personality. Local musicians, rough and ready, have found the perfect niche for the exciting, wailing sound of these ancient instrument playing at carnivals and dance gatherings in local villages and at local tavernas (Dietrich, 2003). Eminent musicologist Wolf Dietrich worked in Greece from 1972-2003, during these years he recorded in the areas where bagpipes are still played . At that time the bagpipe was dying out in Greece. As Dietrich mentioned: "There is no revival of the bagpipe in Greece like in the other European countries". Fortunately after the year 2000 many young people started learning the gaida and the tsambouna again.


     In Northern Greece the gaida is played in many regions. Each region has it's own distinct sound, songs and lyrics.

 Northern Evros region


     The most known is in the geographical department of Thrace. Especially the northern Evros region where the instrument survived and some  gaida players managed to published their music. In the following video Theodosis Logaroudis can be heard.


In the following video Paschalis Xristidis can be heard






Στο παρακάτω βίντεο ακούγεται ο Πασχάλης Χριστίδης από το Διδυμότειχο.



As already mentioned, the gaida almost vanished, but in the last years the interest for the gaida has risen. The following video is from the third gaida meeting in Didimoticho in 2010.


Comparison of four A chanters A . The first two are the Evros. The third one is a Bulgarian-Evros type hybrid manufactured in Greece. The fourth is a Bulgarian. In the second picture note that the opening of the Evros gaida is not conical like the fourth Bulgarian one.








All chanters are from the personal collection of Athanasios Ouzounis

Perfecture of Drama


     Traveling to the west we come across the gaida players from the geographical department of Makedonia. In Northern Drama region (villages of Volakas, Kali Vrisi and Prosotsani). Their gaidas  are more high pitched than the ones from Τhrace.



Perfecture of Serres


In the perfecture of Serres in Central Makedonia region the village of Alistrati and Agriani are well known for its gaida players.




Perfecture of Katerini and Larissa


     Further in the west we have the Pierian gaida west of mount Olympus. The villages of Elatochori, Katafigio, Daskio and Rizomata in the Thessaly region are to be mentioned there. The following video is from Elatochori.




And here Giannis Svarnogiannis from the village of from Daskio



Perfecture of Pella in the geographical department of Central  Makedonia


     In the perfecture of Pella there is only some sporadic presence of gaida, although it was quite common in the past. Here the gaida was replaced by brass

instruments introduced by the French Army during the first world war. Dietrich recorded Botsvaris Nikolaos from Aridea before 2000. Nowadays only Diskos

Anastasios from the village of Xifiani is known to play the gaida.

     The Melody, which can be heard in the following video, is known throughout Macedonia, and it is danced za ramo (holding shoulders) by many communities

regardless of the language they speak, or which side of the modern borders they live. From the CD "Makedonikes Mousikes Rizes" produced by Dimitris

Ioannou and "Akrites Almopias" with Anastasios Diskos (gaida, kaval, floyera), Eleftheria Ioannou (tambura), Nikos Lagoudis (tambura), Dimitris Ioiannou

(daouli, toumbeleki).





Geographical department of Epirus


Unfortunately for Epirus there is no information about gaidas available. The gaida vanished from this region in the beginning of the 19th century, as new

instruments, the clarinet, replaced the gaida. The presence of the gaida in Albania though, with similar songs as in Epirus, shows that at some point in the past

the instrument was present in this western part of Greece, too. Unfortunately, for the time being, no other information is available. The following video is from an

Albanian player. As stated before the similarities in the music between the two regions make us believe that the gaida sounded the same in Epirus, but this is

only a guess. Anyway it is worth listening to an totaly different style of gaida playing.






Aegean Islands


     A variant of the askaulos is played also the southern parts of Greece, especially on the Aegean islands it is called tsambouna. The tsambouna has two canes which produce the sound. No drone is present. In the following video Theologos Grillis from Patmos Island in an old video from the 80s'. The speaker quotes that he is on of the last. Fortunately the tsambouna was saved, as you can see in the second video  which is taken from the 7th tsambouna meeting and the third video which is an improvisation of different tunes from the aegean region with a tsambouna by the group Daulute.







Crete Island


     Οn Crete island the bagppipe is known as askomantoura. The bag is usually with the hair outside. This is an optical difference. The two reeds of the chanter are made by cane and no drone is used. Actually the second drone works as the drone. In the following Damianos Vassilakis is playing a pentozali.




Pontiac region


    And last we have to mention the pontiac aggeio or tulum which came to Greece with the refugees in 1923 from the Pontus region (now modern Turkey). It is found all over Greece nowadays


The gaida in modern Greek music


     The greek  gaida, and the other types of askaulos almost vanished to be lost forever. 1971 Dionisos Savvopoulos published his 3rd record called Ballos "Μπάλλος". Folk music was not very popular at the time among young people. Savvopolos comitted himself to prove that traditional music is: "first class music with high poetic value and it originates from deep within the Greek people" (Pissalidis, 1994). The first song is a 16 minute balkan rock song. where Theodoros Kekes from Kiani Village (Evros perfecture), who lived in Athens at that time, plays his gaida in a part of the song. It was the first time a gaida met with an electric bass and a drumset. Greek folk rock was born. The gaida part is between 3:57 and 5:52


     The growing interest for the gaida in recent years helped to save the instrument, and the old songs, from extinction in Greece. The gaida is not a folklore instrument any more. New music is written for the gaida, as an example two songs and two covers. The first song is from the Cretan group Xainides called "η τιγρής" meaning the tiger. The song is sung by Psarantonis from Crete, the gaida is played by Lefteris Grigoriou.



     The second song is called "μιλώ για σένα" by Thanasis Papakonstantinou. The gaida is played by Giorgos Makris from Alistrati village



The first cover is from the group Thrax Punks playing a cover of a punk song from the greek punk group Vanvalup



     The second cover is from my own project called Tot Kamoupa where new songs are played with old instrument. Two covers in one song. Ramone's The KKK and OMD's Enola Gay from a life performance in Thessaloniki at "ekt6os".



     And a last one is from a concert in Samothraki island with me (Athanasios Ouzounis) on the gaida, Giorgos Stavridis from Panx Thraks singing and the percussion group krousi on the rhythm section.



The gaida, bagpipe, askomantoura, tulum, tsambouna or whatever you want to call it is back.



Ανωγειανάκης, Φ. (1991). Ελληνικά λαϊκά μουσικά όργανα. Μέλισσα, Αθήνα. ISBN: 960-204-005-X

Πισσαλίδης, Γ. (1994). Born in Salonica. Folk Roots, ιssue 150 December, Athens.

Dietrich, W.(2003). Bagpipes of Greece. CD


Image references

Nikolay, N. (1567). Les quatre premiers livres des Navigations et pérégrinations orientales. Lyons 1567.