Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Canarian Folk Music - the Timple

I'm writing this post on the Timple with two thoughts in mind.  Firstly to show the sort of  instrument  almost certainly played by Canarian musicians when the 16 families left to found San Antonio Texas.  Secondly in response to this week's photo in Sepia Saturday, of the Swedish Lighthouse Workers' Band taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The timple is, in essence a small Iberian guitar found in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura - but not El Hierro or La Gomera.  Experts think it developed in Lanzarote.  It's known that there were no stringed instruments in the pre-Spanish Lanzarote, but after 1600, lutes and guitars had arrived.  One small such guitar was called the tiple, which is a word still used in Spain for the treble, or soprano voice, and which is still a major instrument in several South American countries. Over time, different styles of the basic instrument arose, and the Canarian version became called a timple (the final "e" is sounded - timplay) perhaps as an easier word to say.
Timple




As an aside, whilst the timple can have four or five strings, its close relative, the Hawaiian ukelele always has four.  The other distinguishing feature is the timple's curved, narrow back, - the ukelele's is flat.
Ukelele
 

It's thought that the ukelele was developed from Portuguese instruments in the 1880s by two cabinet makers from Madeira, and its name mean "jumping flea" because of the player's rapid fingering. 

 
This year, a museum dedicated to the timple opened in La Casa Spínola in Teguise.  The web site is in Spanish, but Google translate is a wonderful tool for those who don't speak the language.  It's worth a look around the site for the old photos.  A teaching manual from the mid 18th century shows that today's timple still has the same strings and tuning, and it is still played in the same style. That gives me the opportunity to use a couple of clips from Youtube to illustrate both the instrument, and the music and dance with which it is associated.  This first clip is from a group called Los Gofiones based in Gran Canaria, and who are often on local TV. The piece "Tres Timples" is not traditional Canarian, in fact it has many Celtic strains, especially the penny whistle, but when the timple comes in after about 40 seconds, it's a virtuoso display of its range, and a lovely piece of music.  



The second, although an amateur recording of lower quality, shows the timple in its natural setting as part of a band accompanying a traditional dance in the square of Teguise, the birthplace of San Antonio's first mayor.


This is probably as close as we'll get to the musical sights and sounds of the founding families' Lanzarote.







15 comments:

  1. That first clip is great, and it gets really exciting at 3:20. It reminds me of some Celtic/Spanish fusion music which has become popular in recent years. It’s interesting that the dance in the second clip could be from local folk dance groups almost anywhere in the world. Children at school in UK do a similar dance and it makes you realise that many of these Canarian dances will have have been passed on through travel and emigration. The costumes are lovely.

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  2. I really loved this music. I hadn't heard of the timple. It has such a lovely sound. Loved the pairing with the penny whistle. I'm a fan of all types of world music and folk dancing so this post was such fun.
    Nancy Javier
    Ladies of the grove

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  3. I get very frustrated with my broadband speed when I try to listen to videos as I can never hear even th shortest without a break.
    I shall have to check out that museum the next time I'm in Teguise.

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  4. Lovely music - my parents spent their honeymoon in Tenerife in 1962 and I like to think they listened to the traditional music :-)

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  5. I enjoyed both the timple and the unusual percussion instruments in the first video.

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  6. Such a wonderful post! I have not known about the Timple before now. Thank you for the introduction. The tone is similar, but better (to me) than a Ukelele.

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  7. Thank you for introducing me to the timple. Both clips, full of colour, both in the music and dress. We're off to the Cambridge Folk Festival next year, and I'll be sure to look out for the timple, there.

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  8. How interesting! I'd never heard of the timple, nor that Canarians founded San Antonio Texas.

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  9. When I first saw it I thought it was a uke but I can see the difference. I have a uke. Have never heard of this word. I loved both of the clips but the first one is wonderful. Great post.
    QMM

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  10. Great post - and what fabulous music as well. History and music - a heady combination to get me in the mood for our centenary celebrations.

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  11. Wonderful post! The string instrument family tree has many many branches. It's great to discover a part of the world that continues traditional music and instruments despite the pressure of modern cultural influences. For many centuries the Canary Islands must have been a strong force too, when sailing ships from every country stopped there.

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  12. Wow, a beautiful sound, thank you for this introduction to the timple. I immediately thought of the cuatro, the four string guitar popularized in Puerto Rico by the jibaros (country people, which is my family's heritage).

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  13. I know practically nothing about musical instruments, but I wondered on reading your article and listening to the music whether the design of the round-backed Ovation guitars owed anything to the timple. Great atmosphere in that second YouTube clip.

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  14. Excellent post! I loved listening to the music. I have seen timple's played before but never knew what they were called. My Spanish teacher played on in HS. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Making me a bit homesick for the SW U.S. where the Spanish influence is very strong.

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