FANCESCO SABATINI: The Zampogna is an instrument for folk music. History handed down to us the image of shepherds who play this instrument. Shepherds would carve wood and make Zampogne during the long pauses of inactivity while attending their animals, in complete solitude, on the high mountains of Abruzzo. In fact the bagpipe is made of wood and sheepskin, elements that shepherds could easily find and that the natural and manual skills allowed him, over the years, to transform into a musical instrument. This is not only true for Zampogne, it also applies to other traditions from other areas in Europe where again bagpipes where part of the world of shepherds. The “sonate”, folk songs with Zampogne, were often related to the life and work with the flock. Out of curiosity I would mention that Zampogne, in Italy, are always associated with Christmas, almost all paintings of the Nativity, since 1200, show shepherds, in adoration of Jesus, playing bagpipes. In fact if we read the Gospels there is no mention to any such instrument, they only refer to the presence of shepherds when Jesus was born, however right because in Italy shepherds are so tightly connected to the use of Zampogne Nativity scenes always include shepherds and Zampogne.
FRANCESCO SABATINI: Although the Zampogna is a beautiful and evocative musical instrument, until a few years ago, in Abruzzo, it had almost disappeared. New styles of life, the progressive abandonment of the country side in favor of living in big cities was killing this very old and fascinating tradition. I felt this and I did not want to happen! I have memories of my childhood when at Christmas or for the Holy Spirit Feast processions would pass under our windows, in the street, and Zampognari would be part of it, always.
They were part of my memories and part of my roots. Fortunately I was not alone. Today the trend has reversed and young people are willing to approach this musical instrument and learn how to play it thus rediscovering very old sounds and traditions. The desire to learn more about this type of music led me away, to explore the traditional bagpipe music of other countries like Ireland or Britain and Spain. At some point, however, I realized that those sounds, those traditions I was looking for were very close to me, my family and my world. In fact they were right here, where I lived and often inside my house. In fact my family had often hosted the pipers to perform novenas at our place. I started looking for the old players and old craftsmen, they were often too old to play anymore, but were able to pass on to me their passion for this instrument. This is how I started the path that brought me to becoming a Zampognaro (bagpipe player) and a craftsman who knows how to build a Zampogna. I can definitely say that what helped me is the feeling of deep respect for this tradition and a great love for my land, Abruzzo.