Fujara
Musical Instrument and its Music
 

The Fujara, an extremely long flute with three finger holes played by Slovak shepherds, is regarded an integral part of the traditional culture of Central Slovakia.  

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The main tube of the flute has a length of 160 to 200 cm and is connected to a shorter tube of 50 to 80 cm through which the airflow is channeled to the edge of the large bass flute. The sound is characterised by a special roughness, mainly in the high calling motifs and the “mumbling” sound of the deep registers. The melancholic and rhapsodic music is structured according to the content of the songs, related to the shepherds’ daily life and their work. The repertoire of the Fujara is based on melodies determined by the technical acoustic features of the instrument. The performance starts with a mixolydic “blow-up”, which indicatesthe start of a performance. The repertoire also consists of the sound of a stream, the gurgle of a wellspring and other sounds of nature imitated by the Fujara music. The Fujara is not just a musical instrument, but also an artefact of great artistic value due to its highly elaborate, individual ornamentation.

In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Fujara became known and appreciated beyond the shepherds’ use. Through festivals, the instrument played by musicians from the Podpol’anie region gained recognition and popularity throughout Slovakia. The Fujara is played at various occasions throughout the year, but mainly from spring to autumn, by shepherds and by professional musicians at festivals, namely in the cities of Detva, Dýchodná, Hel’pa, Kokava and Rimavicou.

During recent decades the role of the Fujara has changed from an everyday context to the performance at exceptional events, such as at festivals or in a private environment. The communist era and the political developments in the 1990s have caused significant social, cultural and economic changes. Young people especially have become increasingly estranged from traditional folk art. Despite a lack of support, individual initiatives have been trying to safeguard the Fujara instrument and its music.