What is Kaval?

The Kaval is a bulgarian folk musical instrument know in Bulgaria since the ancient times. It is a kind of an end-blown flute, consisting of three parts(eklemeta) that are put togehter to form a single pipe. It has got eight finger holes and four additional holes. The latter are not used to change the pitch but rather than that help to form the very characteristic sound of kaval. The two ends of Kaval are usally made of bone material (or in our times plastics) and are sometimes decorated with metal ornaments. The upper end of Kaval is used to place the performer lips and produce a sound. The places in which the three parts fit together are normally reinforced with bone material or metal. There are different sizes of Kaval which do not generally differ in their construction. We could find the following sizes of Kaval 50,70,72,75 and 80cm and they determine the pitches that Kavals have. There are kavals in C, D, B, A low pitch, E high pitch etc. Kaval in low C pitch sounds warm and soft and is suitable for orchestra. Pitch D sounds soft and light and is suitable for accompaniment of singers and orchestra. Kaval in B pitch sounds gentle, mild and a little dart. It could be used to accompany singers with low voices but not an orchestra. Kaval in A low pitch sounds mild and warm , event a little elegic. It could be used to accompany folk singers and orcestra. The kaval is an octaving instrument. It cold repoduce tones from several octaves although there are a few tones missing. A characteristic of the Kaval is the “Kaba” register. It is a kind of a mixture of two ocataves yeilding the polyphonic like sound. Master performers can play in this register gracefuly giving the impression that theyt mix tones from various octaves. The Kaval is one of the most agile bulgarian folk instruments. A performer could easily play diatonic and chromatic passages, stacatto, arpegio, vibrato trillers etc.

History of Kaval

There is not much of a history about Kaval. It is deemed that it has come to Bulgaria from Egypt, Syria and probably later Greece. Prototypes of Kaval have existed about 3000 years B.C. It is deemed that it was invented by the sheperds while using some natural born pipes to reproduce a sound and help gather the flock of sheep. Because of Kaval’s mild sound and moving folk melodies bulgarians often call it “honey kaval”. It has been one of the favorite bulgarian folk instruments for ages. There are a few areas in Bulgaria where the kaval art has been primarily developed. These are Trakia – in southern Bulgaria and Dobrudja and Ludogorie – in Nort-East Bulgaria.