A Basque traditional alboka.

The Basque alboka (albogue), is a single-reed woodwind instrument consisting of a single reed, two small diameter melody pipes with finger holes and a bell traditionally made from animal horn. Additionally, a reed cap of animal horn is placed around the reed to contain the breath and allow circular breathing for constant play.

Although native to the Basque region, similar instruments can be found around Spain including Madrid (gaita serrana), Asturias (turullu), and Castile and Andalusia (gaita gastorena), but in those cases they only have a single pipe. The name is derived from the Arabic "al-bûq" (البوق), which literally means "the trumpet" or "the horn".

Hornpipes are made of a single reed, a small diameter melody pipe with fingerholes, and a bell traditionally made of animal horn. An animal horn reed cap usually encompasses the idioglot reed. These instruments are descended from single-reed idioglot instruments found in Egypt as early as 2700 BCE.[1] During the Old Kingdom in Egypt (2778-2723 BCE), memets were depicted on the reliefs of seven tombs at Saqqarra, six tombs at Giza, and the pyramids of Queen Khentkaus.[2] Horns were later added to the reed pipe to increase resonance. Horn caps were also added around the reed, and the player would blow into the hornpipe to activate the reed instead of holding it in their mouth.[3]

The alboka has two cane pipes, a wood handle, and a horn at each end. It may be descended from the Moroccan double hornpipe, which has two cane pipes, each fitted with a cow horn.[1] The alboka was established in Spain by the end of the 13th-century. Representations of it can be found in the “Poema de Alexandre” and surviving medieval sculptural church decorations.

Among recent players of the instrument are Ibon Koteron and Alan Griffin, an Irish-born member of a Basque ensemble named after the instrument.


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  1. 1 2 Midgley, R., ed. (1976). Musical Instruments of the World. United States: Diagram Visual Information Ltd.
  2. Rice, A.R. (1992). The Baroque Claringet. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  3. Jenkins, J. & Olsen, P.R. (1976). Music and Musical Instruments of the World of Islam. Kent, UK: Westerham Press Ltd.
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