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Nibiles or is that Nubiles?

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Way back in the Winter 2018 edition, Andy Letcher wrote in asking if anyone had any information on the nibiles, an Ethiopian bagpipe he had seen referenced in A. Buchner’s 1971 Folk Music Instruments.  Well, there was a resounding silence from you all! 

Further on in this edition you will read about the work of Wiebe Stodel and the compilation of an online encyclopaedia/thesaurus of bagpipes and their terminologies.  He seemed the perfect person to answer this long running enquiry.  Wiebe, true to form, came back with a reply after much further work in tracking down this elusive instrument. 

Wiebe confirmed that Buchner, whilst mentioning the nibiles then, frustratingly failed to give any further information about it. However, Curt Sachs in his Real-Lexikon [Berlin, 1913], says that “Villoteau doesn’t know it, but considers it to be identical to the Zuqqâra”.  Wiebe had difficulty finding any other mention of the instrument other than a reference by Sibyl Marcuse, in “Musical instruments: a comprehensive dictionary” [1964] where the nibiles was defined as a side-blown trumpet of Ethiopia.  Wiebe searched further and, like Andy had discovered, the internet was not storing any secrets.  He also found that autocorrect on Google was continually searching for ‘nubiles’ which didn’t return the results he was looking for! 

Despite the many priorities on his To Do list, Wiebe’s curiosity was piqued and further investigations followed.   No grand revelations can be made but Wiebe did discover that the full reference in Buchner described a rare sand drum in the province of Wollo where “the location of the bagpipe remains uncertain”.  This led to a dead end even after researching different dance types in Ethiopia but following up on other leads, Wiebe has finally been able to update his entry on the website to:

“According to Laborde from Hebrew “nebel” [bag]; He describes the instrument as “a kind of recorder (of the Abyssinians), joined to a bag from which it receives the air”; According to Sachs, “Villoteau, being unfamiliar with the instrument, considers it to be identical with the Zuqqāra”; Villoteau’s book contains, however, a plate that shows a bagpipe, which he defines as an “antique Oriental” Zouqqarah, and a thorough comparison between the instrument and a Hebrew bagpipe which he calls a Nable, which he assumes to be a derivation of “nebel” (נֵבֶל); Buchner only mentions “the bagpipe nibiles”, failing to provide us with any details whatsoever; Marcuse defines it as a “side-blown trumpet of Ethiopia”, giving »Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart« (Kassel/Basel, 1949) as her source, in which it doesn’t occur, and therefore can’t be found in the online version either…”

By Moulder, Jane

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