EOL 4: Kavals and Dzamares (Tammer)


There is evidence to suggest that at one time highly-stylized, or formalized rim-blown flutes were played throughout the Shar and Pindus mountains, from Kosovo in the north to Epirus in the south, perhaps in Bulgaria and even Hungary. These instruments were made of ash wood; they were made in matching pairs, without regard to a specific key; they were carved, rather than turned on a primitive lathe; their distal end was faceted on the outside; and ornamentation consisted of geometric scratch markings cut into the wood with a knife.

These long kavals or dzamares (which I will refer to as Ferati type kavals) are associated mainly with ethnic Albanians and Greek Sarakatsanoi (Karakachani) semi-nomadic shepherds. Other peoples playing the long kaval are the once-nomadic Turkish Yürüks and the Slavic Miyaks. Having said this, it should be noted that this specific paired kaval is not commonly found in Albania, in Turkey, or among Sarakatsani who live in Bulgaria; the instrument seems to have as a geographic nucleus a series of mountain ranges which extend roughly north-south, from Kosovo (Shar range) through Western Macedonia and into Greece (the Pindus).

Given the fact that these kavals were very valued items, and that it takes a significant amount of coordination and skill to make them, it is probably the case that most shepherds, rather than make them themselves, purchased their kavals from kaval makers such as Islam Ferati, who brought their skill (as a marketable commodity) to a high level. If we may use the Ferati family as an example, it is safe to say that one family of kaval makers may serve a territory spanning many, many square miles, and that probably the entire geographic area mentioned above could be served adequately by a handful of kaval makers. Aside from the Ferati family, ethnic Albanians, who were these people, what was their ethnicity? To answer this requires further research. There are so many leads to follow in Kosovo, forbidden now because of war; in Albania, made dangerous for tourists by desperately poor citizens with hungry families; and in Bulgaria, safe enough even with its broken economy and train-station thieves. Epirus, too, holds many answers to the puzzle. It is not unlikely that instruments depicted by Mazaraki, Hadjimikalis, and Anoyanakis are from a single workshop in Epirus. We must reserve judgment in calling them "Saracatsani" dzamares; Sarakatsan shepherds in areas distant from Epirus (say, in Greek Macedonia) do not appear in photographs to be playing these types of dzamares. What accounts for the similarity in appearance of these Epirus instruments, made by different hands? Probably the same process held in the past that we see at work today in the city of Skopje: An artisan copies a valued instrument, including its ornamentation (whose meaning is lost to him) for no other reason than to increase the likelihood of it being sold in the market, accepted as an authentic thing of value.

The Ali Pasha museum instruments, slender in the style of Ferati kavals, are a nagging question. The more pronounced faceting of these instruments may be in keeping with the appearance of Sahit Ferati kavals of two generations past. Listed as Ali Pasha's pipes, the connection is not so absurd; wood-workers in the past were known to make both pipes and flutes. What is more, these pipes were often made in pairs: Hobhouse 1813, travelling through the Southern Balkans in 1809-1810, relates that a pair tobacco pipes, of cherry-wood with amber mouthpiece, might fetch 100 pounds sterling. I have not seen pictures of long tobacco pipes with faceting, however.

There is no love between the various ethnic groups within Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. The history of these people is filled with bloodshed which continues unabated today. Yet music is oblivious to the walls of hate these various peoples have placed between themselves. We have seen this in the example of Boris Popovski, who gave his prized boxwood shupelkas to a fellow Turkish shepherd. In sedentary dwellings Sarakatsani, Albanians and Slavs have not shared a common society, but traveling for months along the same migratory routes each year, year after year, one must assume that these shepherds shared their musical culture. And we take note of the fact that all ethnic groups have come to Liman Ferati's house to buy kavals, as they came to his father and grandfather before him.

Contents of "Kavals and Dzamares"

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