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Ted Anderson's Really Big Zampogna

Ted Anderson with the Forastiero brothers
Ted, center, taking delivery of his new Zampogna from maker Antonio Forastiero, right; Antonio's brother Vincenzo looks on. Photo, Janica Anderson

Ted Anderson, of Northern California, has been a player of various sorts of bagpipes for most of his life. He has become well-known in the Irish piping community as a Uilleann piper and reed-maker, and also as a source of historical information on Irish pipes and piping. In recent years he has applied the same skill and enthusiasm to the wonderful Italian bagpipes known under the general name Zampogna - a term that covers a wide variety of types and sizes.

Ted owns and plays a number of Zampognas, most of which he has obtained from the all-too-few remaining makers in Italy. Most of these men still work in very traditional style, on simple equipment little changed over the past couple of centuries. The woods used are almost always local, such as Olive, Apricot and Apple. Reeds are usually made from local varieties of cane, though many modern players do a lot of experimenting with plastics.

Really large Zampognas are rarely seen and hardly ever found for sale. They are the largest and deepest-pitched of all bagpipes, with a wonderful melodious character all their own (which is why we feature one on the cover, and on the closing track, of our Sean Folsom Bagpipes of the World album). It seems every piper who falls under the spell of the Zampogna eventually wants one of the big ones. Earlier this year Ted commissioned the highly esteemed master builder Antonio Forastiero of Potenza (south of Naples) to build an a chiave, as this sort of Zampogna is called, in a size of "sei-palmi." Zampognas are measured somewhat like horses - in "palmi," meaning palm. Ted says, "A palm is an old measurement between 9 and 10 inches. It does not directly relate to anything on the instrument but a 3 palmi is one octave higher and 1/2 the length of mine." This Zampogna is nominally in the key of A-Flat, as is the accompanying oboe-like Ciaramella, also made by Antonio Forastiero.

Maker Antonio Forastiero and brother Vincenzo
Maker Antonio Forastiero demonstrating the big A-Flat Zampogna as brother Vincenzo listens. Photo, Janica Anderson
Note that in the above photo the Zampogna is being played in what players of most other bagpipes would consider to be left-handed style: The bag is under the right arm, and the top-hand is the right hand. This reversal is traditional among Zampogna players and is said by some to relate to a belief that the pressure of the bag on the left side of the body isn't healthy for the heart.

Maker Antonio Forastiero plays the Piffero while his brother Vincenzo plays the Zampogna.
Maker Antonio Forastiero plays the Ciaramella and his brother Vincenzo plays the Zampogna as the mountains and Ted Anderson listen. Photo, Janica Anderson

The brothers Forastiero can be heard playing a six-palm Zampogna and accompanying Ciaramella on track 10 of the CD album La Zampogna Lucana (Ethnica CD 0027-TA 01). Antonio is 71 years old and his brother is 81. People like the Forastiero brothers have shepherded the traditions of the Zampogna through difficult and disinterested times - it is hoped that with its again increasing popularity a new generation will continue to nurture the making and playing of this wonderful bagpipe.

Meanwhile,there's always been a little friendly rivalry among Zampogna players on the West Coast regarding who's got the biggest one ... Sean Folsom has held the title for some time with the instrument featured elsewhere on this site, but now it looks like Ted has eked him out by a palm or so. Sean's not likely to be satisfied for long with second-place - stay tuned!
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