There’s quite a variety of bagpipes across the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Well-known pipers from Serbia include Bokan Stanković, the late Darko Macura, and here, Vanja Ilijev from the city of Zrenjanin in the northern plain of Vojvodina recorded solo at his house in Zrenjanin in April 2023.
He plays the local form of gajde (the Serbian word for the range of bagpipes). It’s bellows-blown, with a single drone and a large double-bore chanter terminating in a wooden horn. On the album he uses gajdes of this type in three different keys, each with its own tonal character.
Being bellows-blown means that it’s possible to play gajde and sing at the same time, and there are four such songs among the instrumentals on this set. It begins with one, a song announcing the arrival in a village of the matchmaker (the person who connected potential brides and grooms), which Ilijev self-accompanies with the low growl of a G gajde. The ability of the second bore of the chanter to play a harmonising line makes, together with the drone, quite a full-sounding three-part harmony, well exemplified in a song whose title translates as “Milka Fed The Nightingale”.
The majority of the tunes are kolos (associated with the very prevalent south-slavic circle-dance, kolo). In addition to the twelve tracks featuring gajde, later in the set come two on accordion, which show Ilijev to be an able and lively accordionist, playing flowing dance melodies with chugging chordal accompaniment. There are also three short instrumentals on drombulje (jew’s-harp); they’re the only tunes here not from Vojvodina, coming from the Vlach Romanians of southern Serbia.
This is yet another from Antonovka Records' astonishingly huge and ever-growing catalogue of traditional musics. Releasing physical CDs of all of them would be financially unviable, so they're digital-only.