Bortian ahuzki

Soinularia: Pierre Caubet

Lakarri, 1985/03/03

Nigarrez sorthu nintzan kanthoriaren ahaidia. Pierre Caubet. Lakarri, 1985. (Euskal Herriko Soinu-Tresnak. IZ 217. 2017, Elkar KD DVD-E 968)

Txanbela (JMBA bilduma, 0131)

Pierre Caubet txanbela jotzen. Lakarri, 1985.

Pierre Caubet txanbela jotzen. Lakarri, 1985.


The txanbela is a double-reed aerophone.

Description of the instrument

It is a double reed aerophone, similar to the gaita-dulzaina that we all know, but a little smaller. The reeds were made of cane, horn and also of plastic, as Caubet made them at the end.

The tube of the txanbela is conical and made of boxwood. The is less than that of the dulzaina, approximately up to the holes called dulzaina winds (the txanbela does not have them). To give the notes, it has eight holes, like the dulzaina: seven in the front (the last one slightly to the side for the little finger) and one in the upper back.

Way of playing

With the holes that the txanbela has it would be possible to give the notes that the dulzaina gives, but the txanbelari J. Pierre Caubet de Lakarri did something different, using the following scale and fingering:

Starting from the bottom;

  • Closing all the holes. - THE
  • Holes 2 and 3 open - Yes (quite low)
  • Holes 2, 3 and 4 open - C-C #
  • Holes 2, 3, 4 and 5 open - Re
  • Holes 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 open - Mi
  • Holes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 open - Fa #

The pinky hole and the butt always remain closed.

As we can see, by scope and interval, this scale resembles that of the old alboka.


For many, the xirulari is the only original Zuberoa musician, because he is the one who appears today in most performances. But few people know this other instrument, which has been played since ancient times in Zuberoa, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and is almost disappeared today: the txanbela. The local shepherds used to be the main boudoirs.

Today, the txanbela and its music remain in the memory of some older people, but that we know there are no old players left in Zuberoa. We met the last txanbelari who continued to play txanbela, who died at the age of 75 in 1988, J. Pierre Caubet of Lakarri, mentioned above. He taught us what the txanbela has been and how it is played; he introduced us to his repertoire and his old musical style.

The txanbela has preserved a special style and way of interpreting old Basque music, from the oldest of our popular repertoire, if not the oldest. For this reason, the txanbela is more than an instrument, it is also a way of making music. In Zuberoa there is a saying that illustrates this style: “he or she is singing like the txanbela”.

In the past, popular Basque music, like that of other peoples, made use of different rhythms, scales, modes and styles. Many times they did not fit into a key or mode, they did not respect the rules of "official" music, neither melodic nor metric schemes. That is why the collectors of popular melodies had great problems until the arrival of the tape recorder, because they could not collect the music they were listening to on paper. Later, gradually, all this has been lost and has become more academic, standard. The txanbela (J. Pierre Caubet) has preserved an ancient shape in its corner.

Caubet knew well how to distinguish these two worlds, and he ed us more than once that he was capable of giving the same song in these two styles.

All the melodies of the traditional txanbela repertoire are sung, and Caubet gave two s of each song: one sung and the other with the txanbela. The two were similar, free, but the sung was more syllabic, and the instrumental had more orntal notes. It is also striking that all the musical phrases of these melodies ended with a held note, which many times was not maintained, but dropped in pitch. Making this effect and the rest of the special notes is possible with the txanbela, without moving your fingers, changing the pressure of the wind and the mouthpiece.

Transcriptions of the two s that Caubet makes of a song: on the left the instrumental and on the right the sung (Gaiteros de Pamplona-Iruñeko Gaiteroak, 1977)


Taking these issues into account, and knowing that it is difficult to recover any instrument, in the case of the txanbela this is even more difficult. Because it is not enough to play the instrument if its particularity is lost. That is the soul of the txanbela and the most important contribution it has made to Basque music.



BELTRAN ARGIÑENA, Juan Mari. (1996). Soinutresnak euskal herri musikan. Hernani: Orain.

GAITEROS DE PAMPLONA-IRUÑEKO GAITEROAK. (1977). Caubet Chubuko Arhan: txanbela eta khantoriak (I). Cuadernos de Etnología y Etnografía de Navarra, 27. zk. (483-507). Iruñea.

(1978). Caubet Chubuko Arhan: Txanbela eta khantoriak (II). Cuadernos de Etnología y Etnografía de Navarra, 28. zk. (117-182). Iruñea: Institución Principe de Viana.


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

CAUBET CHUBUKO ARHAN. (1978). Txanbela bezala ari da khantatzen. Lekuko. H.M. 02.


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

(2019). PIERRE CAUBET: "Pethi Xubuko Arhane". Soinuenea. HMB-2018-1329-CD-DVD.

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