Inventory of sound recordings and films of historical bohas

To date, only a few recordings and films have been found. They almost exclusively concern Jeanty Benquet and the Folkloric group Lous Bazadés for which he played throughout Europe.

Justin Jeanty Benquet à Londres - Bagpipes Antony Baines

Justin Jeanty Benquet in London ("Bagpipes" Antony Baines)

Before studying the sound of historical instruments and to get a more precise idea, here are two interpretations of the same song to listen to carefully: the first is that of a boha of current manufacture interpreted by Yves Pouysegur, the second that of a historical boha interpreted by Jeanty Benquet. You will notice the difference in tone and timbre linked in particular to the evolutions of the instrument making and also to the difference in tonality.

Contemporary boha

Historical boha

Presentation of the sound of the historic boha of Justin Jeanty Benquet

There is a recording from 1939, a copy was found in 1990 by the Bohaires de Gasconha association which acquired it. It allows you to discover a game: precise, nervous, made for dancing. Justin Jeanty Benquet uses the Semi-Melodic Pipe more like a rhythmic drone than for its harmonic aspect.

Disque PTT - 1939

Disque PTT - 1939

Here are excerpts from the P.T.T. 1939 - 283 N ° 443 "La Gascogne".

a) Bagpipe
b) Singing and bagpipes
c) Bagpipe

The three complete songs were published in 1996 on the Ocora disc "Landes de Gascogne - La Cornemuse".

The high pitched tone reproduced by the recording has been studied several times. However, the replicas of the BdG-2011-1-benquet copy produced to date, even if they approach it, do not yet manage to reproduce this sound.

A study of the recordings of the P.T.T. titled "Jeanty Benquet Analysis of the Play of a Routine Musician" was performed by Yan Cozian. It was published in the proceedings of the Colloque d'Hartous of May 20 & 21, 2006 published under the title "La Cornemuse Landaise - la boha".

Presentation of the videos featuring a historical bohaire

The Bohaires de Gasconha association unearthed and acquired two archival short films in early 2007.

The first features Jeanty Benquet in a street parade in 1933. The second at the parade of the French provinces in Nice on 04/08/1932, displays a close-up of the latter sounding his Boha in the company of three others musicians of the folk group "Lous Bazadés" including Pierre Garrabos called "Lou Pessicot" in the hurdy-gurdy and Roger Duluc called "Pinoche" in the fife, unfortunately the soundtrack could not be saved!

Justin Jeanty Benquet

The development of the digitization of public collections now allows easier access to many documents, among which there are still possible to find animated images, even sound, of Jeanty Benquet and Lous Bazadés , or other bohaires of tradition.

For example in 2015 a film was found in which the group Lous bazadés briefly appeared in a British Pathé archive from 1938, during a party in the Pyrenees.

Lous Bazasés Pyrenees costume fete  - Film British Pathé - 01/09/1938

Lous Bazadés - Pyrénées - Film British Pathé - 01/09/1938

In November 2017, Adrien Villeneuve discovered and studied a sound video - Franse folklore in Kurhaus (1935) - featuring Jeanty Benquet in close-up. The study of this video, resumed below, was published in the bulletin of the association "Bohaires de Gasconha" - Boha! No. 40, in the Filmography section under the title "Something new from Benquet's side!".

Lous Bazadés - Kurhaus - 1935
Jeanty Benquet - Franse folklore in Kurhaus - 1935

Article by Adrien Villeneuve

One Saturday in October I spent a long time chatting with Alain Servant, a specialist in the Couserans oboe and Ariège dances. The latter spends a lot of time digging through the archives on the web, looking for documents on the oboe and dance, and, serendipity obliges, he comes across archives concerning Benquet.

With that, he gives me directions to find these documents. We knew that Jeanty had gone to play in several European countries, including the folk group Lous Bazadès , and it was hoped that one day other documents would surface.

Back home, 2am, I find myself typing "Franse (yes yes, with an s) folklore 1935" in my favorite search engine. What was my surprise when I saw not one but two videos showing footage of Justin "Jeanty" Benquet, including one with sound! These videos, unearthed from the Dutch archives, contain extracts from different folk groups in representation in Scheveningen, Holland.

I will devote myself here to the first video, entitled "Franse folklore in Kurhaus (1935), De herders van 'Les landes'" (The waders of the landes), uploaded by Nederlands Instituut voor Beelt en Geluid.

This is a montage of three sequences, alternating two shots where we can see three "dancers" on stilts in traditional costumes from the Landes of Gascony. and a closer shot of Jeanty Benquet playing his boha , all to a boha soundtrack!

After a few quick viewings, one has the impression that Benquet is playing rhythmically "stalled" with the sound.

I then proceeded to a detailed analysis of the piece played on the soundtrack and of the tight shot on Benquet, with a work on a software of video allowing to slow down, zoom and even have the video sequence frame by frame.

Analysis of the track played on the soundtrack:

We hear a "turn" (part A + part B) of the piece played à la boha; this is a version of the jig, adapted (most certainly by Benquet himself) to the ambitus of the boha. The boha sounds in D (pitch A: 440Hz) with an unequal temperament scale, including an almost minor third. Jeanty uses a scale reduced to four melodic notes (excluding appogiatures and drone playing), ranging from D to G, which is characterized by the intervals below (percentage of a semitone).

Scale of the range: D | Mid -20% | Fa + 40% | Ground

He frequently uses rhythmic appogiatures at the beginning of musical phrases to mark the pace. After listening in slow motion, the notes used for the appogiatures seem to be the high C # (thumb hole) and the B (melodic bore hole located most high on the front of the pihet).

It also uses the rhythmic playing of the drone (or TSM), also marking the cadence by the alternation of the notes D and A grave (TSM with brunidèr in place), which could confirm his nickname of "lou Tcha-tchou".

The tempo is close to 126 BPM in the quarter note.

I transcribed the tune played on the tape with appogiatures and drone playing on the first score.

Partition Gigue

Close-up analysis and connection with the soundtrack

I will name this video sequence "J. Benquet's fingers" here.

Jeanty Benquet plays well on a boha with pocket covering, "left-handed" model, with the fingers placed in "3 + 3" (starting from the top: right hand index-middle-ring finger; left hand index-middle-ring finger, the ring finger of the left hand serving for the TSM hole). The fingers are placed flat and there is no use of the little fingers. We can see the index finger of the right hand moving briefly (appogiature on the note Si). We can obviously not say anything about the thumb located behind since we do not see it. The brunidèr is in place.

Slowing down the video, we quickly realize that what is played on the soundtrack does not stick with the movement of Benquet's fingers. The rhythm seems pretty consistent between picture and sound, but after carefully observing (slow motion and frame by frame) the three parameters which are the melodic notes, the appogiatura and the drone playing, what it is playing on the picture does not correspond at all to what is played on the soundtrack.

This is neither surprising (given the techniques of filming, recording and editing of the time), nor a problem in itself, because the analysis of the video plan can bring us something else.

I transcribed based on the analysis of the movement of the fingers (slow motion and frame by frame), which could be played on video (second score).

Partition plan vidéo

The extract of the melody played is on a scale going from D to A and we can indeed see a rather frantic beat of the drone and the use of the index finger of the right hand in brief openings (appogiatures).

We can clearly see that he uses the closed fingering, except on the note "G" where he opens, in addition to the fingering of the note, the index finger of the lower hand more briefly, perhaps to create a "vibrato" effect.

It uses the effect "detached note" or even "sharp note" which consists in briefly opening the finger of the note played by returning "tout bouché" on the fundamental "D".

In terms of the drone game, we can also note the use of a technique which consists in opening the finger very briefly, creating an effect that I will call here “drone pique” or drone appogiature. ”This effect, used in bars 1 and 3 of the“ Gigue ” (in rhythm with the repetition of the fundamental note "D") and in measure 3 of the transcription of the sequence "fingers of J. Benquet" (in rhythm with the descent of "Sol-Fa-Mi" notes), reinforces the "detached" or even "pricked" effect of the notes (cf. scores).

What he is playing could correspond to a melodic variation on another turn of the same song as the soundtrack. (the Gigue), or downright to another piece with a rhythm close to the Gigue.

We can also note that Benquet plays "solo" and therefore leads the dance alone.

Conclusion and perspectives

I also worked by playing the tune of the soundtrack on a pihet "copy of old" version "right-handed", sounding in C, with the 3 + 3 fingering, and by reproducing as faithfully as possible the melody, the appogiatura and the drone playing, and I filmed my fingers close-up. This technique, in addition to the analysis of the soundtrack and the video plan, allowed me to refine my understanding on the game of Jeanty Benquet.

We better understand the rhythmic use of the drone in relation to the use of the "3 + 3" type "closed" fingering.

In my opinion, the playing style is quite close to what we can hear on the three recorded songs known to date. (see above: P.T.T. disc 1939 - 283 N ° 443 "La Gascogne"), very rhythmic game, favoring the cadence to the melody, with in particular a use generous acute appogiatures, rhythmic drone and "detached-pricked notes" effect in closed fingering.

Even if the game is characteristic of the descriptions we have of Benquet's game, we are here in a folklore context ("figure" dance, costumes ...)

There is still work to be done (even if some bohaires have already cleared it up) to soak up Benquet's way of playing and certainly other "old" players.

Adrien Villeneuve

Here is the second video, unfortunately "silent" which once again presents the group Lous Bazadés on the move to Scheveningen.

Lous Bazadés - Sheveningen - 1935
1935 – Folklore in Scheveningen

Study of the sounds produced from copies of historical bohas made by Jean-Pascal Leriche-Lafaurie

The copies of ancient bohas (interpretations) were made to 1 / 10mm for study in my workshop between 2007 and 2013, according to my observations or my plans of the original pihets or photos or surveys made by Jacques Baudoin, Patrick Burbaud or Bernard Desblancs.

These pihets, like the originals, are in boxwood, except for the "Lestage" pihet, which is in black locust (false acacia) as well as the Mondineu-2 pihet without doubt carved in an essence of corm (copy 2a) or in cherry wood (copy 2b).

The old bell-ringers sometimes tuned their bohas by filling the (big) game holes with beeswax; unable to assess these alterations, I confined myself to ringing these pihets (reed reeds) for evaluation, without any addition of wax (except the tuning slot), by only trying to find tuning coherences around "tonic / fifth" and "tonic / octave" consonances.

The scales in listening here are resolutely non-tempered and therefore sometimes conceal striking dissonances. The basic tones are variable according to the reeds used and their insertion in the pole.

Jean-Pascal Leriche-Lafaurie

Presentation of the sound produced by each copy of Jean-Pascal Leriche-Lafaurie

audio-copy-pihet-St-Martin de Chalosse