Before the Fiddle 2a : The Gadulka of Bulgaria


I posted previously on the lyra of Crete as one of the potential rebec like predecessors of the fiddle in Scotland suggested by a number of historians. I now introduce a related instrument, the gudulka of Bulgaria.

According to the website

The instrument is held vertically and rested on the knee or in a harness which goes round the neck. It has a pear shaped body with both bowed and resonating strings. There is no fingerboard, with the musician’s nails stopping the string. It can be used for accompanying singers and other instruments, or as the lead melody line. The gadulka is a key instrument in traditional music throughout most of Bulgaria except Pirin Macedonia.

Later today I head off to Bulgaria on an ERASMUS+ training programme for people in the natural and cultural heritage sectors. I visited the country once before, in September 1974, and I was immediately struck by the music I heard there. I am hoping it might just be possible to hear some gadlulka music in the flesh again but meanwhile I offer this really lovely video taken from a television programme from the late 1970s or early 80s, I guess, which shows the instrument very well :

Here is how the instrument is used in conjunction with the voice, something only too rare in Scotland:

And in the standard ensemble setting:

Finally, I could not resist this duet of kaval players – the Balkan version of the D whistle now so fashionable in Celtic music:

I had just prepared the above post when I remembered the great Scottish musician Fraser Fifield’s performance and recording collaborations with the superb Nedyalko Nedyalkov Quartet, which features gudulka, back in 2007/8. You can hear a Tune Up podcast about their project at: