Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Txistu

The txistu or chistu is a kind of fipple flute that became a symbol for the Basque folk revival. The name may stem from the general Basque word ziztu "to whistle". This three-hole pipe can be played with one hand, leaving the other one free to play a percussion instrument.
Evidence of the txistu first mentioned as such goes back to 1864. Yet it is apparent that it was used earlier, although it is not easy to establish when it started out; actually, it is impossible to do so, the txistu being the result of an evolution of the upright flutes widespread as early as the Late Middle Ages, when minstrels scattered all over the Iberian Peninsula brought in instruments that locals, noblemen first and common people later took on and developed.
At different stages of the three-hole flute's history reeds and metal mouthpieces were applied for a better sound. While some claim that it is closely related to the early link of the Basques to iron and the forging industry, others suggest that the embedding of such pieces began in the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
The Association of Txistularies in the Basque Country was formed in 1927 to promote txistularis. The organization has continued its activities to the present, except for an interruption during the Francisco Franco dictatorship (and believe me, even I still get abusive comments from the dictator's supporters who are unhappy about my blog...). 

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