Shepherd instruments


The latest episode of the Instruments with soul series features ethnomusicologist and musician Piotr Dorosz who talks about the history, playing technique, and customs related to the ligawka, all in a very contemporary setting. The other protagonist is Stanisław Jałocha of Kalonka, the last active ligawka player in his region.

One of the earliest instruments known by humanity, the wooden trumpets can be encountered across all cultures around the world. They were used for ritual, magical purposes, as well as more down-to-earth purposes, e.g. as a signalling instrument used in remote communication. Known for centuries in the Mazovia and the Podlasie regions, the ligawka dates back to the ancient times, its playing practice combining historical functions with more modern contexts. The first mentions of the ligawka come from the late 18th century and refer to a shepherd instrument, while more recent literature denotes it as an instrument announcing the coming of the Advent, played each night and before traditional early morning mass celebrated throughout the Advent at dawn. Thus, the instrument evokes solemn associations with archangel trumpets, whose sound was to stir one’s conscience, on the one hand, while also fulfilling a more mundane function as a wake-up call rousing believers from their sleep at daybreak.These traditions were still observed as late as the interwar period, and their demise was brought about by the occupation authorities who prohibited playing the ligawka, fearing it would be used against them as a signalling instrument. As of today, the ligawka can be encountered in its natural environment thanks to the renaissance of local traditions, sparked by numerous reviews and competitions.

Direction: Piotr Baczewski
© Institute of Music and Dance, 2016