AmeriCymru: Can you describe the instrument for us?
Gafin: The pibgorn is a simple chanter with a cylindrical bore with a horn each end, one to blow into and one as an amplifier. It has a single beating reed i.e. one tongue rather than two as in a bagpipe. It can be blown with or without circular breath. Its a fun instrument and great for building up woodwind skills. It always turns a head wherever you go!
AmeriCymru: Can you tell us a little about the history of the instrument?
Gafin: It was first mentioned in Wales in the laws of Hywel Dda as one of the instruments played at the Royal Courts. This dates back to around 900 AD. The instrument is generally thought to have been played by shepherds and there are local accounts in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales of one being played by a shepherd in the last century. There were large pibgorn gatherings on Ynys Mon but I cant imagine they played in unison in those times!
AmeriCymru: How easy/difficult/impossible is it to learn to play the pibgorn?
Gafin: Like any instrument it takes time and patience to learn. Many are deceived by its simplicity but it is a woodwind and you need to blow into it correctly. I have heard some people speak of a woodwind embouchure starting with your diaphragm and ending at the lips. There are a lot of factors between these points before considering the reed.
The pibgorn plays open fingering lime a whistle, you can cover half notes or cross finger some.
AmeriCymru: Are there any online learning resources or demonstration videos that you would recommend?
Gafin: There is a growing youtube collection of pibgorn videos available. Its nice to see the fingering styles and sound of the instrument. There is a definite need for a good 'how to' manual. All my pibgyrn come with a brief 'how to' guide and there is a fingering chart available on my website.
AmeriCymru: Your pibgyrn are made of plastic. Care to tell us a little about the design and manufacturing process?
Gafin: The design process was very complicated and really makes you appreciate how every little plastic gadget or part takes a huge amount of human effort to produce.
I converted working wood pibgorn dimensions into 3D CAD drawings and after various prototypes went for injection moulding. I still hand assemble and tune every reed. The reed body is printed in 3D. I am also able to 3D print bespoke horn colours. So you can have a brown chanter with green horns for example. I have made a pibgorn in the colours of the Welsh flag. I would like to auction this for funds for the Welsh youth movement the Urdd.
AmeriCymru: Where can readers go online to purchase one of your pibgyrn?
Gafin: My website www.pibgorn.co.uk has an online shop.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Gafin: I am really happy that there has been a great interest in this instrument in the US. I hope people start posting youtube videos of themselves playing it and also in writing new tunes. It would be great for pibgorn players in the US to write new music for the instrument.