HISTORY OF BAGPIPES’ ENSEMBLE
101 KABA-GAIDI”

The bagpipes’ ensemble “101 kaba-gaidi” is founded on 1st November, 2004, in the National Community Centre “Hristo Botev – 1871” in the town of Smolyan. It is managed by Kostadin Stefanov Ilchev – an honored citizen of Smolyan and an eminent kaba-gaida player. Although the ensemble consists of non-professionals, during the years it has become a platform for high-level creative achievements.

Back in the summer of 2004, as a result of disagreement in the former orchestra of “100 kaba-gaidi”, some of its members stopped attending the rehearsals. Fortunately, the administration of the National Community Centre “Hristo Botev – 1871” Smolyan reacted quickly and proposed a new ensemble to be established, which has been their ambition for a long time. Thus, the talent of the bagpipers and the musical heritage of the Rhodope Mountains could be preserved. That is how the ensemble was born with a core of about 20 artists. Due to the prominence of the art director Kostadin Ilchev the number of the bagpipers plummeted. The passion of playing the instrument was revived even in people who have not done it for more than 10 years and the ensemble still continues to grow in number.

For years, Kostadin Ilchev has been working as a bagpipe teacher for the Junior Folklore Ensemble “Orpheus”, situated in the Culture house of Smolyan. A lot of the members of the senior ensemble were once his students. In 2011, after reaching retirement age, he came up with the idea to form a group of 15-20 children in the Community centre, to ensure a peaceful work after his retirement. These plans though were not realized because the kids from the Junior Folklore Ensemble “Orpheus” were so fond of their teacher that they did not want to be taught by any other. Together with the Community centre administration, he answered the numerous pleads from their parents to widen the bagpipe school by moving the pupils to the Community centre “Hristo Botev – 1871” Smolyan. At that moment the members of the senior ensemble consisted of around 40 people. Together with the 80 junior newcomers they found “101 kaba-gaidi” in the period of one school year. It became the biggest bagpipe ensemble with 120 permanent members, including the courses guided by Kostadin Ilchev. Krasimir Uzunov, Jordan Palagachev and Atanas Kindov were temporary teachers in the school. Nowadays the number of the permanent members has risen to 130 bagpipers.

In March 2011, the codex of the ensemble was written, which was accepted by all the members of “101 kaba-gaidi” and every newcomer has to be acquainted with it. According to it, the art director of the ensemble is Kostadin Stefanov Ilchev and he is not due to be discharged. The manager and producer, who is in charge of the publishing, and the cashier are elected and bare a moral and financial responsibility. Currently, those posts are occupied by Nikola Markovski and Kalin Kindov, respectively. The codex describes the way of entering the ensemble. It is humorously written that an application should be entered in the form of minimum 1 Lt of liquor plus a home cooked dish. The ensemble then decides if the candidate is accepted or the application must be re-examined. According to the codex, the members are divided in permanent and ones who come merely for pleasure. The permanent ones attend all the rehearsals and participate in the festivals and concerts of the ensemble. Nobody can be expelled unless they want to or if they tarnish the reputation of the ensemble. Due to that and the goal of “101 kaba-gaidi” to unite the bagpipers, the whole number of its followers is much bigger than the officially registered ones.

Not surprisingly, the “The Art of Living” foundation (organizer of the event in May 2012, which marked a World Guinness Record “333 kaba-gaidi”) asked Nikolay Melemov – mayor of Smolyan Municipality and Kostadin Ilchev – art director of “101 kaba-gaidi” - to gather a large number of bagpipers who would want to take part in the setting of the record. This proved that “101 kaba-gaidi” is the biggest bagpipes’ ensemble and the National Community Centre “Hristo Botev – 1871” Smolyan received a diploma for the institution which sent the biggest number of bagpipers for setting the record.

“101 kaba-gaidi” always takes the first places in the competitions and festivals, in which they participate. Year after year, the invitations for happenings and TV shows in the country and abroad, increase. We are proud that our members and students continue to get together and play the repertoire of the ensemble and maintain its ideas even after leaving Smolyan. There is a “101 kaba-gaidi – New York” ensemble who hope that one day we will visit them and make a concert together in the USA.

“101 kaba-gaidi” is registered in The Ministry of Culture on 5 March 2012 when its first product was released, as a result of the years of hard work and creativity of its members. A unique CD “101 kaba-gaidi” was released, produced by Nikola Markovski and protected by copyright. It contains totally new repertoire of bagpipe suites where the bagpipers show their vocal abilities for the first time, singing three authentic Rhodope folk songs as a choir.

During the last few years the ensemble calendars have become really popular and can be seen almost everywhere in the country and even abroad. On the occasion of its 10-years jubilee in 2014 “101 kaba-gaidi” published a booklet with 62 selected Rhodope folk songs. The pure aim of these activities is not commercial but seeks to popularize and preserve the authentic Rhodope folklore.