Variants of the bagpipe are played all over Spain and figure
prominently in the folk traditions of that country. Each region has
its own design of bagpipe and style of playing. These bagpipes
differ from each other in the number and type of drones, the
arrangement of finger holes and other details of their construction.
Having said this, it is not at all clear where all of these
instruments came from, or that they all had a common source. Even
the origin of the word gaita is uncertain. It may be derived from
ghaita or rhaita, the name of a North African instrument related to
the oboe. On the other hand, the nations of Eastern Europe have
their own bagpipe variants which are called by similar names such as
gajda, gajdy etc., and it is possible that the instrument and its
name originally came from this direction.
The situation is further complicated by the varied history of Spain.
In ancient times, southern Spain was conquered by the Moors, an
African people of Arabic ethnicity. The northern part of the
country, however, remained independent of the Moors and has more of
a Celtic influence in its history and culture, fueled by ancient
Celtic migrations from the British Isles. Because of this dual
influence in Spanish history, it is entirely possible that the
bagpipes played in the northern part of the country and those in the
southern part have completely different origins.
In Catalonia there is a bagpipe called the sac de gemecs. The
construction is related to bagpipe variants played in Majorca and
Italy, which would seem to argue for a derivation from the
Mediterranean to the east rather than from Africa in the south.
In the Spanish province of Zamora they play the gaita de fole. This
instrument is related to the Portuguese "gaita trasmontana," and has
certain peculiarities in its scale that are similar to those in the
scale of the Scottish bagpipe. Both of these facts would seem to
argue for a derivation from the north rather than the south.
The gaita asturiana is played in Asturia. It is related to the
Galician gaita, but has larger sound tubes of the same tonality,
shorter reeds for the chanter and uses partially closed fingering
similar to the Irish uilleann pipes. This fingering results in a
stocatto, "Baroque" sound.
The gaita gallega is played in Galicia. This variant is similar to
the Asturian gaita except that the sound tubes are shorter and the
reed of the chanter is longer. Some specimens have only a bass drone
while others also have a tenor drone. This instrument, too, shows a
close similarity to Portuguese bagpipes.