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The meaning of «txalaparta»

The txalaparta (Basque pronunciation: [tʃaˈlapaɾta] or [tʃalaˈpaɾta]) is a specialized Basque music device of wood or stone. In some regions of the Basque Country, zalaparta (with [s̻]) means "racket", while in others (in Navarre) txalaparta has been attested as meaning the trot of the horse, a sense closely related to the sound of the instrument.

During the last 150 years, txalaparta has been attested as a communication device used for funeral (hileta), celebration (jai) or the making of slaked lime (kare), or cider (sagardo). After the making of cider, the same board that pressed the apples was beaten to summon the neighbours. Then, a celebration was held and txalaparta played cheerfully, while cider was drunk.[1] Evidence gathered in this cider-making context reveals that sound-emitting ox horns were sometimes blown alongside txalaparta. Actually, cider and cider houses are the only traditional context for the txalaparta we have got to know first-hand. The same background applies to a related Basque percussion instrument, the kirikoketa, a recreation of the pounding used to grind down the apples. Another instrument classified in the same family and geographical area is the toberak.

Some claim that txalaparta has been used this way for millennia, but notwithstanding different assumptions its origins remain shrouded in mystery. It is worth mentioning that the very similar Romanian toacă or Greek semantron are used as a call for prayer, so less epic interpretations link txalaparta with a common Christian practice before the schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Bells were not used in Christian churches before the 10th century.

The txalaparta's musical use evolved out of its original use. Traditional txalaparta was almost extinct in the 1950s with a handful of pairs of peasants maintaining the tradition. It was then revived by folklorists, such as Jesus and Jose Antonio Artze from the group Ez dok amairu. Innovators started to labour and assemble the boards to achieve some melody. Other materials started to be pressed into service.

The txalaparta today is a musical instrument used in Basque music. It is classified as an idiophone (a percussion instrument). In its traditional construction (known as the txalaparta zaharra), the txalaparta is made of a pair of long wooden boards held up horizontally on two ends and then beaten vertically with special, thick sticks based on the press handle, the makilak [maˈkiʎak], held upright in the hands. On the two ends, between the long board and the supports, corn husks are placed for vibration.

However, as the txalaparta evolved, that kind of equipment has been phased out and only showcased in special festivals (such as the Txalaparta Festival held in the town of Hernani in May) featuring the former and rural txalaparta set. Actually, nowadays the most usual equipment for the txalaparta consists of two trestles with foam attached to the tops usually wrapped up in various fabrics. As for the boards, they have become increasingly shorter in order to fit the musical needs and convenience of the performers, exactly like the sticks, following that the former 2-odd-metre planks stemming from the old cider press may rarely go beyond 1.50 metres, while the 50 cm sticks or more so the light, easily handled 37.5 cm sticks have become a standard, as opposed to the old-time long and heavy strikers.

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