The cobla (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈkobːɫə], plural cobles) is a traditional music ensemble of Catalonia, Spain and in Northern Catalonia in France. It is generally used to accompany the Sardana, a traditional Catalan folk dance, danced in a circle.
The modern Cobla normally consists of 11 players with the following instruments:
- One flabiol, a type of fipple flute played with the left hand while a tamborí, a small drum attached to the left arm of the player, is played with the other hand.
- Four Catalan shawms (double-reed woodwinds)
- Two Tibles (a tible is like an oboe, but larger and louder)
- Two Tenores (a tenora is a larger version of the tible)
- Five Brass
- One String Bass (An orchestral double bass; though originally a three-string bass.)
There are small variations to this instrumentation in contemporary coblas: for example there is sometimes a third trumpet player. The woodwind players sit in the front row with the flabiol on the left, the brass sit behind them and the string bass is to the right of the group.
Originally, the cobla was a 3-piece band:
The main instrument in the cobla, the Tenora, was developed around 1850 by French-Catalan luthier Andreu Toron, in Perpignan/Perpinyà.
The modern 11-piece cobla was developed by the Catalan musician Josep Maria "Pep" Ventura. He wrote over 200 Sardana compositions. There is a small street named after him in Barcelona, as well as a subway stop, presumably because of this achievement.
How it is used
The cobla is normally used to accompany the Sardana
In Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, in the summer time, one can often see cobla performances in open outdoor squares, with dozens of Catalonians mixed with tourists dancing the sardana, their purses and backpacks placed on the ground within the circle. Despite its small size, the cobla is powerful enough for the sound to fill an outdoor square and be heard beyond! Unusually, and to the delight of woodwind players, the tenores and tibles are the loudest instruments in the band.
In recent years, the cobla has also played concerts where there is no dancing. This mirrors a trend in other forms of folk music, such as the Music of Ireland.
- El testament n'Amèlia Video of a performance of the sardana (composer Joan Lamote de Grignon), by the cobla "Comtat d'Empúries" in Castelló d'Empúries
- The Selvatana Cobla site has many pictures and the history of this particular cobla, which was founded in 1913.
- www.cobla-amsterdam.nl, site of the only non-Catalan cobla in the world, Cobla La Principal d'Amsterdam, founded in 1987 by a group of Dutch professional musicians, distinguished with the Catalan Creu de Sant Jordi in 2007.
- The Sardana and I, an essay about Catalonian traditional dancing and music.
- 45-sec Video of Sardana music and dance on Commons
- Audio Recording of Cobla Music, Palamos, Catalunya
- MP-3 examples of sardana music are available on the Selvatana Cobla and Cobla Sabadell sites.