The Bagpipe Society

In the Bag - Paulo Tato Marinho

Paulo is from Lisbon in Portugal and is a musician, teacher, researcher, disseminator, composer and instrument maker, specialising in the Gaita de Fole, an instrument he began to play in the early 1980s. In 1983 joined the pop-rock group “Sétima Legião” and a year later “Anaquiños da Terra” a Lisbon based Galician music and dance group. He was a co-founder of the traditional-folk musical group “Gaiteiros de Lisboa” in 1992 and then in 1992, went on to co-found the Portuguese bagpipe society ADGF - Associação Portuguesa para o Estudo e Divulgação da Gaita de Foles". He has been involved in a number of musical projects since his early days as a musician and in 2017 he released the album “Gaitas de fole em Portugal – Bagpipes from Portugal”. (Review in Chanter, Spring 2018)

What bagpipes do you play?

Mainly two kinds ofGaita: theGaita Galega (Galician), which despite its name it is also traditional in Portugal, and also theGaita transmontana/mirandesa (see Chanter Spring 2019). I also have other pipes which I play: a student G Swayne pipe on which I play mainly Centre France repertoire and a lovely Uilleann Pipe from John Addison (from Lincolnshire). And then other pipes which I made with Victor Felix, a Portuguese luthier (see Chanter spring 2019): a säckpipa, a bellows blown smallpipe and a hybrid smallpipe zampogna, and a cane single reed.

What led you to take up piping?

I have family roots near the border with Galicia in the Portuguese region of Minho. I have spent my holidays there since I was born. This is a piping region where I could heargaiteiros (bagpipers) on both sides of the formal, not cultural, border. When I was a child, I also remember enjoying watching the Edinburgh Military Tattoo bands on Portuguese television in 70s.

Which pipers do you most admire?

Fortunately, there were several researchers who recorded gaiteiros and drummers in the Iberian Peninsula. This happened in Portugal and in northwest of Spain, in Galicia, Asturias and Leon. In Portugal we have great recordings from the 60s. These were my first inspirations. But I also admire several younger gaiteiros from Galicia, Asturias and Zamora (province from Castile and Leon) and players of other pipes such as the Uilleann, Zampogna, Centre France, GHP, Gayda etc.

Name three, non-piping-related musical influences:

I certainly have more than three but I will refer to some from the 70s-80s like Genesis or Kraftwerk, Portuguese*“cantautores”* (singer-composer-lyric writer) such as Zeca Afonso and José Mário Branco, and classical and early music.

What three albums are top of your playlist right now?

“Raitán” the latest from La Musgaña, “San’Joanices, Paganices e Outras coisas de Mulher” from the polyphonic women vocal Portuguese group*“Segue-me
à Capela”* and the soundtrack from “Arrival” by Jóhann Jóhannsson. The most recent album from the Portuguese composer Rodrigo Leão will be the next.

If you had your life again, what instrument would you play?

The Gaita. I would make the same mistake.

Name your favourite music festival.

Nowadays I don’t often go to festivals, but in the past I went toSaint Chartier for several years. In Portugal we had theAndanças a great festival of dance and music, and some smaller festivals in Portugal and Galicia.

What three words describe your piping style?

Iberian, sober, efficient.

Bellows or mouth-blown?

Mouth-blown, but I have also learned to play with bellows

Cats or dogs?

We live with a female cat, but I also love dogs.

Do you prefer playing, dancing or both?

Playing, it isn’t a question of preference, but of skill. I like dancing, despite being clumsy. I’ve played a lot for people to dance.

Cane or plastic reeds?

Cane and I make them myself. However, I use plastic in the Swayne pipes. I also make plastic reeds forgaitas for children who are beginners.

What’s your greatest musical achievement?

Making a living from music: playing, teaching etc.

What’s your most embarrassing bagpiping moment?

I’ve had a lot, but I remember one when I couldn’t make my entrance on time because the bag didn’t inflate, so I took theponteiro (chanter) out and played it with my mouth. Later I realized that the drone reed fell into the bag. I learned my lesson and it never happened again

What’s the most annoying question you get asked about the bagpipes?

“Does playinggaita requires a lot of breath?”, “It’s the same as the recorder, isn’t it?” There’s two - I won’t mention the kilt issue.

What advice would you give a novice?

Don’t be discouraged with the control of the bag, arm pressure and blowing, because acquiring these skills isn’t prompt. The rest is the same old story: practice and passion.

I love bagpipes because…

I can’t explain, but I can talk about it.

As told to Andy Letcher