Xirolarrua, boha

Xirolarrua-boha joaldia. Juan Mari Beltran. Oiartzun, 1998.


The xirolarru-boha bagpipe belongs to the aerophone group.

Description of the instrument

Here are the parts of the instrument: A boxwood tablet. It has two parallel cylindrical holes made throughout the tablet (these make up the melodic tube and the roncón), plus the wineskin and the blowpipe.

  • The melodic tube is of the alboka type, made of boxwood, with a simple reed reed.
  • The “pordón” has a simple reed (like the alboka), and gives the pedal note of the melody. At the bottom it has a hole to change the note of the bass, and hanging it has a small tube, which can be attached to the lower end to get a lower pedal note.
  • The skin of air is made with goat skin or similar.
  • Blowpipe. It is usually made of boxwood, except for the tip, which is usually made of bone or horn. It has a small leather valve at the end that goes into the wineskin. This opens to allow air to pass through when blowing, and closes tightly when not blowing.

Way of playing

You take the wineskin for air under your arm, and the piece of wood with the pordon and the melodic tube (xirola) in your hands, you put the torch in your mouth and play. It is blown into the torch, introducing the air into the bag and controlling it with the pressure of the arm. When this air reaches the melodic tube and bordón, they give the melody and the pedal note, respectively.


We have old and disorderly documentation on the use of the bagpipe in the Basque Country.

There is a curious reference, from the time of Charlemagne and that Father Donostia collected in his book Music and musicians in the Basque Country (1951). There we see that in the writing of Aimeric de Peyrat Stromatheus Tragicus de gestis Caroli Magni says the following about the festivals that were celebrated:

quidam cabreta vasconizabant,

levis pedibus persaltantes

Donostia translated and interpreted it like this:

some, to the sound of the cabreta, vasconized

jumping, dancing with nimble feet.

"Vasconizare" means "to dance in the style of the Basques." This verb is curious, which seems to indicate that the Basques had their own style of dance (p. 6-7).

In some parts of France, instruments such as the bagpipe are called cabreta, and apparently, at that time it was danced "in the Basque style" with accompaniment of the xirolarru.

These instruments called xirolarru can be of two types: single reed (alboka-clarinet) or double reed (dulzaina-oboe). Now we are going to refer to the first type.

The xirolarru of the alboka-double clarinet type is played in the Landes and in the Bearn area and is known as Boha. We do not know how much and for how long it has been used in Euskal Herria, but taking into account the number of documents found and the instruments of the same appearance that appear in the iconography of our towns, we can think that they have also been used among us.

Xirolarru musician from the portico of the Santa María church in Laguardia.

See the similarity their tubes have to those of the alboka (Beltran, 2012, 61-96).



BELTRAN ARGIÑENA, Juan Mari. (2004). Xirolarru - Gaita. La cornamusa en el País Vasco. Anuario da Gaita. (19.zk, 69-84). Ecola Provincial de Gaitas. Deputación de Ourense.

BELTRAN, Juan Mari; JALON, Fernando. (2012). Xirolarrua. Oiartzun: Soinuenea-Syntorama. HMB-2012-534-KD

DONOSTIA, Aita. (1952). Instrumentos Musicales Populares Vascos. Obras Completas del P. Donostia. (Tomo II, 257-309). Bilbo: Ed. La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca.

RAMOS, Jesus. (1990). Materiales para la elaboración de un censo de músicos populares de Euskal Herria, a partir de los instrumentistas llegados a Iruñea en el Siglo XVIII.Cuadernos de Etnología y Etnografía de Navarra (55. zk., 91-138). Iruñea: Institución Principe de Viana.

URBELTZ, Juan Antonio. (1983). Notas sobre el 'Xirolarru' en el País Vasco. Cuadernos de Sección. Folklore 5. zk. Donostia: Eusko Ikaskuntza.


BELTRAN, Juan Mari; JALON, Fernando. (2012). Xirolarrua. Oiartzun: Soinuenea-Syntorama. HMB-2012-534-KD.

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