Interview with Innovative Galician Piper Susana Seivane

Susana Seivane is an acclaimed Spanish bagpiper, part of a well-known family of Galician bagpipe makers. She’s a groundbreaking artist, who represents a generation of artists that defied norms and renovated Galician folk music. Her musical style is deeply influenced by the Galician “inland” bagpipe style.

Susana has a new album titled Fa and she discussed her musical career and the album with World Music Central in October 2018.

Susana Seivane, earlier in her career

How and when did you start working professionally in the music field?

I started playing the bagpipe at three, but in 2019 I’ll celebrate my 20 years as a professional.

What do you think are the fundamental elements of your music?

It is a fusion of our most representative instrument, the bagpipes, with other instruments that do not have to be traditional, such as drums or electric bass, adding modernity along with winks to other styles of music that I like, for example rock or funk.

How has your style evolved over the years?

My bagpipe playing style has been gaining technique but the essence is the same, that essence that we call “enxebre”, the one that remembers the old bagpipers that I liked from which I took bits and pieces in terms of playing [technique]. What has been changing is the instrumental accompaniment and the arrangements, adding new colors with instruments that provide much more energy, modernity and freshness to my music.

What does the title of your new album Fa mean?

It’s not because of the musical note or the deodorant brand as someone jokingly asked me 😉 These are the initials of my children: Fiz and Antón.

Susana Seivane – Fa

Tell us a little about Fa.

Fa is a bag of feelings, good, bad, regular, is a bag of emotionalized music since I found out that I was pregnant with Fiz, until Anton’s first years. It’s a record dedicated to motherhood, to everything that means, and a disc dedicated to these two little creatures of mine that make me crazy with love and crazy with nerves too 🙂

Your last record before Fa came out 8 years ago. Why did you take so long to record again?

It has been a recording silence. During this time I have collaborated on other albums like Kepa Junkera’s. Fortunately, I never stopped working. We have toured every year except for the one when Anton was born in August. That summer we could not do it, that winter I had my pretty big belly! I have had two pregnancies, two deliveries, the corresponding times of maternity leave I never completed because I immediately started to perform concerts as soon as I had recovered because we already had signed contracts. So, in terms of taking a break, I never stopped, I never did, I had a lot of work 🙂

Your family, the Seivanes, is well known as bagpipe craftsmen. Apart from playing the bagpipes, do you make them too?

You can’t imagine how labor intensive it is to handcraft a bagpipe. I would know how to make certain parts of the bagpipes but not the whole one. There was a time before recording my first album when I did work in the family workshop (obradoiro) but when the album started, the tours, etc., I left it to dedicate myself to my passion since I was a child, playing the bagpipes and now I am lucky that it has become my profession. But being in the workshop was a super nice and enriching experience to learn more about my instrument.

Where can Seivane bagpipes be purchased?

Currently Seivane makes bagpipes for the whole world. Many people like to come to the obradoiro itself because they like the family atmosphere and friendly treatment that you find there. But you can also purchase and configure your bagpipe as you please on the website, seivane.es/es/tienda/config_gaita_0.html?

Has there been any evolution of the Galician bagpipe since your grandfather’s time?

A lot! Previously, the bagpipes were much more rustic and the bagpipers themselves had to come up with ways to use the “rare” fingers so that they tuned some notes when they played with other instruments like the clarinet for example. Nowadays, after many years of study and dedication, the bagpipe is at a point where its tuning allows instrumentalists to play with any instrument.

Susana Seivane

What bagpipes did you use before and which ones do you use now?

Bagpipes have been made for me as I have grown. When I started, on my fourth birthday, my uncle, my father and my grandfather gave me a bagpipe built by them, perfectly tuned but with very small dimensions so that I could play it because I could not play with a standard one, even though I already knew how to play. That bagpipe is at the top of our obradoiro where there is an exhibition of the most special bagpipes that have been made, and there she is, like a golden piece, with a blow stick (where we blow) that has dimensions of a pacifier 🙂

Who are the manufacturers of your bagpipes?

If I do not want to be disowned, it’s my family! My father, my uncle, my sister, my cousin … everyone who works in the family obradoiro.

Do you play bagpipes from other cultures, besides Galician ones?

I do not.

Have you ever used the electronic bagpipe and what do you think of it?

I think the term electronic bagpipe does not exist. A wind trigger would be more correct. The “bagpipe” is the bagpipe. That invention we can call “wind sounds trigger”; seems to me very good to compose, rehearse, etc., but I would never play it live, for example. I like the bagpipes as they are, it’s our tradition and culture and I love how it sounds. I’ve seen people cry with emotion when they hear it, people who do not have Galician ancestors or anything. The sound of our bagpipes is something magical and that stirs many emotions inside.

You are part of a pioneer generation of women bagpipers. Are you helping to train the new generations?

To the extent that I can, I go to many schools to be with the children, to teach them how the bagpipe works, I let them blow it, touch it, teach them traditional songs and sing them together. I think it’s something important to continue transmitting our culture as our elders did with us. And to bring our instrument and our culture to the youngest ones seems to me something so important that I even think it should be a compulsory subject in our schools.

Susana Seivane

What new generation pipers deserve the attention of lovers of Galician music or Celtic music in general?

I really like David Bellas, Pedro Lamas, Dani Bellon, Magoia Bodega; it is sublime to listen to them. Surely you do not know them, but not always the most famous are the best.

If you could gather the musicians or groups that fascinate you the most to record an album or collaborate live, who would you call?

My musical godfathers, Milladoiro; Rodrigo Romani, my guardian angel, co-founder of Milladoiro and producer of my first albums; Shooglenifty with whom I have also had the luck to collaborate in concerts and on the Scottish BBC; Dulce Pontes with which I also play; Kepa Junkera, SonDeSeu, Treixadura, Noitarega, whoa … many admired by me.

What music are you currently listening to?

In the car, I have my latest album. I am very satisfied with how it came out and I listen to it a lot. Then, at home, the truth is that I listen to about everything. I’m quite eclectic in terms of musical tastes, I like jazz, funk, rock, classical music, etc.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Playing paddle tennis, I’m in a team where I play in the Galician league and the national series. I was hooked from the beginning. I also like bowling, I was also asked to join a team but I do not have any more time! I have been away from paddle for a while because I have knee injuries but I’ll be back!

What other projects do you have in hand?

We are preparing a very special concert for our 20th anniversary next year. An extraordinary concert that will give a lot to talk about and that we will record live with many collaborations from friends of all these 20 years.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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