Sunprinua, sunpriñua



Soinularia: Juan Mari Beltran

Iribas, 1992/05/30

Durunbele. Juan Mari Beltran. Iribas, 1984. (Euskal Herriko Soinu-Tresnak. IZ 217. 2017, Elkar KD DVD-E 968)

Sunprinua (JMBA bilduma, 0768)

Sunprinua (JMBA bilduma, 0612)

Sunpriñua jotzen. 1974.


The sunprinu or sunpriñu is a double reed aerophone.

Description of the instrument

It is a conical tube made from hazelnut bark. The upper end is flattened, forming a double-reed mouthpiece. It has two holes to give different notes.

Way of playing

The pita is placed in the mouth and blown. The melody is made by covering and uncovering the holes with the index fingers of both hands.


The most basic double reed instruments, which us the beginning of the process of evolution of oboe-type instruments, have been made with the bark of plant or tree branches. Sometimes the "pita" (mouthpiece) and the body are made with the same piece of bark, and other times the pita is separated; sometimes the instrument doesn't have finger holes, other times it does. This type of instrument is known throughout the world and can be found anywhere in Europe. The following local plants are used to make it: ash, walnut, willow, birch, chestnut, hazel ... At the other end of the Pyrenees, in Catalonia, it has been widely used (R. Violant and Simorra 1953, 1954).

In Euskal Herria we have two instruments of this type: one of them is made with hazelnut bark and is called sunpriñu (Beltran, 1996).

It is nothing known at present, since it is totally disused. The last players have been the shepherds of the Navarrese valley of Larraun, who grazed Mount Aralar. Until the war of 1936 it was played regularly, and later it was also heard sometimes.

Since it has two holes, it can give three-note melodies. The main melody played with the sunpriñu is called "Durunbele", and each of the players played to his liking, with great freedom: some fast and making many trills, others more slowly and giving long notes.

Upon hearing it, people immediately recognized who was playing.

For its conservation the sunpriñu should be kept submerged in water, in wells, troughs, etc. Otherwise, it dries up and doesn't sound. However, when it has been in the water for a long time, the crust breaks down; in three or four months it stops ringing. A new one must be made the following spring. For this reason, the sunpriñu was played from the spring to "San Fermín". Anyway, some have managed to play even "San Martín".

The Larraun valley is divided into two areas: "Urrizti herri" (hazelnut town) and "Ote herri" (town of the argoma). The sunpriñu was played in the first zone. The shepherds went up the mountain every morning with the sheep. Most of the time his only companions used to be the dogs and sheep, and playing the sunpriñu used to be his entertainment. When it occurred to a shepherd to start playing the sunpriñu (at the appropriate time and when it was in good condition, its sound could be heard from afar on the mountain), the surrounding shepherds were encouraged and had a musical conversation, alternating until they got bored.

Towards evening, after milking the sheep, everyone would go home at approximately the same time: those who made cheese on the edge of the mountain with empty hands and those who did it at home (normally someone else from the house would do it) with the milk kettle loaded on the back. Before reaching the town, they would take the sunpriñu and begin the daily session. All the countrymen listened from the stable, the kitchen or the garden ... This was the most important session. It was always played from certain traditional places, located one or two kilometres from the town. These used to be troughs or water wells where the sunpriñus were kept.

They stayed there for about half an hour playing the sunpriñu, for the enjoyment of its people, alternating, filling the environment with "durunbele" music (pp. 92-95).

Here is the transcription of a performance of "durunbele", based on the recording of what was sung by Juan Bautista Lasarte:


Sunpriñu is made with the bark extracted from a hazelnut stick, as we have said before. You need a long, clean, eyeless stick, a meter and a half and two meters.

A knife is made around the skin in a spiral, about six centimetres wide. Then, starting at one end, a long strip of skin is peeled off the stick. In order to do this, the hazelnut stick must be filled with sap. That is why this instrument must be made at a certain time.

The sunpriñu should be done in early spring, on the first "crescent" moon of spring, when the sweat / sap is going up, otherwise, if done before this happens, the skin will be glued to the stick and it will be impossible to remove it in whole or in large pieces. As if that were not enough, when it is covered with sweat, new eyes appear on the skin of the stick and when you remove it, it breaks easily or is full of holes. Therefore, we have a period of about three weeks to make good sunprinus.

This long strip is wound tightly into a snail shape, forming a long, narrow cornet, resembling a long dulzaina. You have to be very careful with the end when starting to roll, because that will be the nozzle or "pipitte" (pita); you have to do it well so that both reeds vibrate.

So that the lower end does not open or unroll, it is tied with a blackthorn thorn, which is often called “errena”. To finish, two holes are made to give the notes. To know where to do them, the hands and fingers (index) are placed as if the sunpriñu were to be played. The holes are made at those sites.



BELTRAN ARGIÑENA, Juan Mari. (1978). Azal doiñuak: Sunpriñu eta Txulubite. Cuadernos de Etnología y Etnografía de Navarra. (29. zk. 349-362). Iruñea: Institución Principe de Viana.

(1996). Soinutresnak euskal herri musikan. Hernani: Orain.

VIOLANT I SIMORRA, Ramon. (1953). Els pastors i la música. 10. Zk. Bartzelona: Biblioteca Folklórica Barcino.

(1954). Instrumentos músicos de construcción infantil y pastoril en Cataluña. Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares (cuadernos t. X, 3. y 4.). Madril.


BELTRAN ARGIÑENA, Juan Mari. (2017). Soinu-tresnak Euskal Herri Musikan. 1985-2010. Elkar-Soinuenea Fundazioa. KD DVD-E 968.


BELTRAN ARGIÑENA, Juan Mari. (2017). Soinu-tresnak Euskal Herri Musikan. 1985-2010. Elkar-Soinuenea Fundazioa. KD DVD-E 968.

LARRUKERT, Fernando. (1978). Euskal herri-musika. Euskadiko Filmategia.

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