Gajda, Vallja e Gajdes, Γκάιντα, Гайда, Gayda, – Pan-Balkan

Gayda, the Turkish spelling (pronounced ‘giy-dah’) is a dance known throughout the lower Balkans.   There are some variations in its choreography, but the name, music, and basic step are surprisingly uniform.  Gajda (the English transliteration of the Macedonian Гайда) means ‘bagpipe’.   In Albanian the dance is known as Vallja e Gajde; in Greek – GaintaΓκάιντα; in Bulgaria, Gaida Avasi – Гайда Аваси; in Turkey,  Arnavut havası (meaning ‘Albanian dance’).

Until recently, the bagpipe (and usually also a drum) was the favored instrument for accompanying Gajda, and a particular bagpipe melody was THE melody for this dance.  Indeed, that melody is still used, even when played by a clarinet, saxophone, synthesizer, etc.  Here it is played by Macedonian singer and gajda player Elena Jovceska.

Below is famed dance instructor Pece Atanasovski leading a ‘traditional’ orchestral version.

MACEDONIA

Here’s a typical wedding (Svadba) in Macedonia, featuring a simple Gajda.  Notice it’s our old friend the Taproot Dance.


Some Gajda‘s are more ‘festive’.  It’s common for the dance to speed up. Notice how the band ‘pumps’ the dancers. Filmed in the 1990’s.

Another Macedonian Gajda, this one starting with balancing on the drum – an iconic Macedonian move.

When younger men lead Gajda, the dance becomes more challenging, deep squats are common, filler steps added.

I’m not sure, but I think the following YouTube shows a Slavic Macedonian Gajda.  Wherever it’s ethnicity, it’s a fabulous example of the interaction between musicians and audience. What a time these guys are having!

A Gaida Oro (must be somewhere in Macedonia) that uses the Gaida melody, but the footwork is the familiar Serbian Kolo.  Names can be deceiving!

GREECE

Gajda is generally considered a Macedonian dance – Greater Macedonia that is, for the Greeks consider Gajda one of their dances.  In Greece today, however, I can only find YouTubes by performing groups.  It’s not ‘Living’ there as in North Macedonia.  An exception is expat groups.  Here’s a Toronto, Canada, based organization representing the Lerin region, in what is now Greek Macedonia, doing what they call Lerinsko Oro.

Otherwise, it’s performing groups.  Here’s one from 1984.

And another more recent

Below is a 10-step version.

ALBANIA

Yet another group that considers Gajda their dance is the Albanians, especially the Albanians in and near Macedonia.  Indeed, they dance even the slow opening steps with particular relish.

This is one of the most passionate, intense, and thoroughly enjoyable dances I’ve seen captured on YouTube.

BULGARIA

Bulgarians also dance Gajda, at least in Pirin, the Macedonian region.  There they call it Gajda Avasi– Avasi being the Turkish word for dance.  When they start dancing fast they switch to a 16-step version.

Here’s an indoor performance of Gajda Avasi.  Same 16 fast steps.
This used to be considered an all-male dance!
This dance, called Sitno Oro, is from the Radovish area of Macedonia, near Pirin, Bulgaria.
To me, it’s the same dance as Gajda Avasi.
Same Sitno Oro pattern danced in Vienna, 2014, by some expats. Bulgarian? Macedonian?

TURKEY

Turkey was the place anyone considered Muslim, or Turkish, was expelled to after the Ottomans’ European defeats of 1912.  So Turkey today contains expat communities of Macedonians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Roma, etc.  Each has their own version of Gayda.  Turks call Albanians Arnavut.

Arnavut Gayda, Izmir. Zurnas substitute for Gaida.
In Turkey the dance is also called Arnavut Düğünü
Popular Macedonian expats Ekrem & Arsan. Their Gaida is Sitno Oro.

Sitno Oro, or Gajda Avasi, danced to a Roma brass band.
Still called Arnavut Gayda, but an extreme interpretation of the Sitno Oro pattern.

John Uhlemann’s comment: The long step Gaïda that shows up in Pirin and parts of the Republic of Macedonia is the same step pattern as Maleshevsko – the weight changes per measure is the same as basic Serbian Kolo, but it is always R, L, R-L, R, L-R, L, R, lift (all to the right, followed by going left with-)L, R, L, lift, R, lift, L, lift. This pattern in Pirin, when done to fast 7/8 music, is called Chetvorka. Other dances called “Gaïda” are found in Northern Macedonian Greece. Gaïda Flambouro is one such, and has a very long pattern. I have seen videos of it, and Michael Ginsburg has been teaching it, as well as several visiting Greek teachers. Finally, they do a variation in Korça, Albania, which is a fairly recent dance. Steve Kotansky is teaching that, and I saw it in Albania. The structure for that is completely different from all of the above.

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