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The xeremía is a type of bagpipe native to the Balearic Islands.[1] It consists of a bag made of skin (or modern synthetic materials), known as a sac or sarró which retains the air, a blowpipe (bufador), a melody pipe or chanter (grall), and several, generally three, drones (bordones). The primary drone (roncón) sounds a tonic note, but the other drones are sometimes simply false drones for ornamentation.[2]

The xeremia has a distinctively bright and piercing sound, which has traditionally accompanied festivals and other activities in the islands throughout history.


The name xeremía (plural xeremíes) is of French origin. The Old French word chalemie over time became charemie. This is related to the influence of Occitania during the Kingdom of Aragon - as Catalán was quite strong from the year 531 A.D. to approximately 1131 A.D., as the Occitan cultural centre expanded through the means of minstrels and bards, throughout the territory that would later be known as Catalonia.[2]

The instrument's name may be used in the singular or in the plural and has several variants, depending on the location. In the Baleares Islands it is called xeremía, xirimia, xeremíes o xirimíes while in Cataluña it is known as sac de gemecs.[3]


The first reliable evidence of bagpipes in the Iberian Peninsula dates to the Middle Ages. The Arabs knew and played the instruments (which presumably came to the Iberian Arabs from the Spanish Celts or Goths). The first written reference dates to the 9th century, in a letter from San Jeroni a Dárdano: Template:Cita

The influence of the court of Aragon and particularly that of Catalonia in the Balearic Islands and the cultural exchanges on both sides of the Pyrenees together with Catalan hegemony in Occitania, which had been a strong cultural center, caused an increase the number of bards and minstrels increased. In 1209 there was a massive migration of bards and mistrels fleeing Occitania, due to repression by the northern French monarchs, encouraged by pope Innocent III. Bagpipes became prominent in those areas where the courts of Aragon and Catalonia had influence.

When James I the Conqueror, conquered Mallorca and Ibiza and repopulated those lands with his vassals of Catalan origin, they brought the bagpipes with them: the sac de gemecs, from which the Mallorcan xeremia (xeremia mallorquina) is derived.

In the archive of la Corona de Aragón there is a document from the year 1343 that names one Joan Mascum, bagpipe minstrel to the king, from Mallorca in reference to king Jaime III. Further, it is known that the minstrels of the king of Mallorca brought to the court of Pedro IV the ceremonical playing of the bagpipe through the city of Tortosa in the year 1353. It is known that the minstrels of the king of Mallorca moved to the court of Pedro IV the Ceremonious along with bagpipers, leaving the city of Tortosa in 1353. There are further reports that bagpipers from a variety of nations would congregate together, especially during Lent.

Similar pipes are attested in Barcelona as early as 1119, and in Valencia in 1258. Reports state that a procession of San Dionisio contained "two trumpeters, two tabalers, and bagpipe." After 1335, there are frequent mentions of the xeremia in records. Following this period, the pipes became even more widespread, becoming popular among shepherds and beggars, although in a primitive form.

Instruments of the bagpipe family are attested in Barcelona around 1119 and in Valencia in 1258 donde se dice que a la procession de san Dionisio acudieron dos trompadoreos, dos tabalers y una cornamusa. A partir de 1335 son muchos lo documentos donde se menciona the bagpipe. A partir de esa época se extiende y se populariza llegando a ser usada por pastores y mendigos aunque su forma era más simple.

During the rein of Alfonso V of Aragón and IV of Catalonia, called The Magnanimous the instrument spread, along with other cultural trappings, to the kingdom's possessions in the Mediterranean. Reports from 1420 indicate that the court of Naples included players of the xalamias.

It is in the 19th century that the instrument was modified, becoming more like the xeremia we know today. The evolution of other instruments had marginalized the bagpipes, whose range was only a single octave. As it was difficult to modernize the pipes, they remained a simple and primitive instrument. Though it faded from popularity in other Catalan territories, this was not the case in the Baleares where isolation and a predominantly rural population preserved the instrument within the culture.

A mediados the 20th century con la aparición de la television and the influence que este medio tuvo en la popular culture que sirvió para mostrar el panorama cultural oficial of the Francisco Franco regime que propiciaba una comparición cerrada de las expresiones culturales (la gaita era gallega, la jota aragonesa, el flamenco andaluz...) perjudicó el reconocimiento de la cultura propia. También la propia dinámica de la expansión de otros entretenimientos, como el cine, influyó notablemente en que se perdieran muchas de las cuadrillas de xeremiers que se vieron notablemente reducidas durante el transcurrir of the 20th century. In 1965 moría uno de los últimos xeremiers, Francesc Pasqual conocido como El Tonos.

La generalización de la costumbre de pasar el instrumento de mano en mano a la muerte de su dueño, disminuyendo mucho la construcción de instrumentos, la venta como recuerdos turísticos de las viejas xeremies fueron también causa de la crisis que sufrió el uso de la xeremía.[2]

The xeremía, close relative of the sac de gemecs, maintains its popularity in the culture of the Baleares even as native bagpiping traditions across Europe went into decline. At the end of the 20th century, several folkloric and cultural groups were working for the instrument's continued survival and expansion.[4]

The evolution of the xeremía may be divided into two periods. Between the 12th and 16th centuries conviven instrumentos con trompa o sin ella. From the 16th century onwards its form resembled that of the modern variant, with the drones atop the instrument. The direct relation between this pipe and the sac de gemecs is still reflected in that the only major difference between the two pipes is that all the drones of the sac de gemecs sound, whereas two of the three xeremia drones are often dummy drones for aesthetic purposes, with only one of the three actually functional.

La coblaEdit

The xeremia is generally played within an ensemble known as the cobla de tres quartans, known popularly through the Ses Xeremíes. In actuality, this ensemble is usually abbreviated to a media copla ("half copla") or colla consisting of only a xeremia and a flabiol (regional tabor pipe) and drum.

Coblas may take the form of:

  • Media cobla ("half cobla"): these are composed of one xeremia and one flabiol with drum. This form of cobla is very popular in the Balearic Islands and Catalonia. The xeremia and flabiol play the melody in unison with the flabiol accompanying himself on the drum.
  • Tres cuartos de cobla ("three-quarter cobla"): composed of a sac de gemecs, tarota, un flabiol y un tamboret playe by three musicians (as the flabiol and tamboril are played by the same musician), thus the term "three-quarter", which appears to have its origins amongst medieval minstrel groups. En el siglo XVIII las coblas de ministrils were formed with a flabiol and drum, tarota, and a xeremia, and had an important role in popular festivals. The drum estabslished the rhythm, the bagpipe played the melody and drones, the flabiol copied the melody, and the tarota played a similar melody an octave lower than the pipes and flabiol.


Given the long history of the instrument, the repetoire of the xeremia is likewise wide, even more so in the context of the colla.

There are two distinct period of xeremia repertoire: during the first transmission of tunes was "closed", with each pair of pipers maintaining a fixed repertoire and without introudcing new pieces, which also impeded other pipers from adopting their own, to the degree that pipers would refuse to play in front of other collas, in order to prevent their songs from being copied. This period caused the wide divergence of musical styles between communities of pipers. The second period is defined by the diffusion and learning of these same tunes.

There are pieces documented shortly following the conquest of the island by the kingdom of Aragón such as the danzas de los cossiers de Montuïri, Algaida, Manacor and Pollença or the Cavallets danced in Felanitx, Pollença and Artà. There are also the dances of Sant Joan Pelós (or Sant Joan Pelut), the Moratons, the Indis and the Balls de Cintes, these last of which have almost disappeared. Along with these, there are other tunes such as jotas and boleros such as pasodobles, rumbas, valses, etc. [2]

Cultural aspectsEdit

The term "xeremia" has a role in the popular speech of Majorca. Several phrases and proverbs refer to the instrument:

  • Content com unes xeremies - Happy as a bagpipe
  • Plorar com unes xeremies - To cry like a bagpipe
  • Dits, dits, que vent no en falta - Fingers, fingers, may you not lack for wind
  • Riure-se´n des Sant i ses xeremies - To laugh at the saint and the bagpipe
  • Mes inflat que unes xeremies - More swollen than a bagpipe [2]


  1. *Template:Cite web
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. *Template:Cite web

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