The gaida in Greece

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)  


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.

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