The Binioù today
There are binioù in many keys ranging from F to C, according to the repertoire.
The low pitched binioù, like the one in G shown in this page, fit well to the tunes from South-East Brittany (Vannes County).
On the other hand, a chanter in B flat, shorter and higher, is a good choice for the tunes from French Cornwall.
Emblematic of Breton music, this bagpipe has nearly disappeared in the twentieth century, but it managed to regain its deserved place in the Celtic universe, due to musicians and bagpipe makers.
The Breton binioù is made of :
- a leather bag,
- three stocks mounted in the bag for the sutell (blowpipe) used to inflate the bag, the levriad (chanter) with a double cane reed playing the melody, the tenor drone or « bourdon » with a single reed producing a continuous note, one octave below the chanter (at the bombard height),
- the three pipes, sutell, levriad and bourdon are made of ebony or boxwood most of the time.
The binioù has a small bag and the pipe where we play the melody (levriad in Breton, chanter in English) is shorter than the veuze one, enabling it to play an octave above. The binioù is probably the smallest bagpipe in the world but certainly not the less powerful!
The powerful reed is a little smaller than the one we use for the bombard and the sizes may vary due to the chanter pitch.
It is put in the bag instead of between the musician lips : the air put under pressure make vibrate the reed strips and the sound is then amplified by the conical chanter.
A Breton bagpipe
The binioù is the most evocative name of the Celtic world in France; it also suggests many sorts of instruments... But it is a bagpipe and the sharpest one of the family!
The binioù bras or « big bagpipe » in Breton language is in fact the Highland bagpipe imported in Brittany at the end of the 19th century and played within the bagad.
But the bagpipe we're talking about is the binioù kozh (old binioù), sometimes called binioù bihan (small binioù) : it is the most typical and traditional Breton instrument, with the bombard.
The « old binioù » is not so old : the veuze is probably the oldest bagpipe in Brittany while the binioù was created at the end of the eighteenth century or even in the nineteenth century.
Very high pitched, this bagpipe is rarely a solo instrument but fits very well to the bombard. Within this duo, binioù players will put forward the rythmic character of their instruments to support the steps of the Breton dances and the melodies played by the bombard.
Kass A Barh