The Associação Gaita-de-fole (Bagpipe Society) is a non-profit organization, founded officially in 1994 by enthusiasts of the Portuguese folk traditions — specially the related with the Transmontan and Galician bagpipes. The volunteers contribute in a variety of ways, as craftsmen, musicians, anthropologists and teachers, from professionals to amateurs.
The Associação is located at Lisbon, and has as its main objective the preservation of the Transmontan bagpipe, an instrument of the northern Portuguese region of Trás-os-Montes, whose tradition was at serious risk of extinction by the end of the 1980s. The actions to retrieve the Transmontan folklore have been many, like the craft of new instruments, the opening of courses and the research of material among the reminiscent of this ancient tradition. The researches have already produced a rich repertoire of interviews, images and sounds, with many bagpipers of the last generation of traditional players, of which some died some time later. Thus, this became an invaluable registry.
The courses at the Escola de Gaitas (Bagpipe School) used to be annually, divided in three stages. The Transmontan bagpipe generally is reserved to the advanced levels, being presented to the beginners initially the Galician bagpipe. As a non-profitable institution, it yet lacks an own head-office, being the classes done at offered spaces like the Alentejan Center of Lisbon. To the students is offered the possibility to rent an instrument, or to buy one at the workshop of the group.
The workshop crafts different types of bagpipes, included accessories like reeds, using a variety of woods as raw material. The quality of the instruments is remarkably good, as the workshop is a strategic section of the Associação to the spreading of the bagpipe lore: besides make available the instrument to a growing number of students, the workshop shares techniques of craft with other artisans, guaranteeing the preservation of the Transmontan bagpipe.
The Associação also supports the divulgation of important national events related to the Portuguese traditions, participating directly or indirectly. Among them, there are:Andanças, Festa Trad, Encontro Regional de Gaiteiros da Pena, Tocar de Ouvido, Por Tierras de L' Rei and the L' Burro i L' Gueiteiro. The most important of them, the Encontro Nacional de Gaiteiros (National Encounter of Bagpipers) gathered more than 8,000 people along four years of its existence, and has been covered by the main Portuguese newspapers and TV channels, like RTP and SIC.
Gaitafolia is a musical group formed by members of the AGF, among teachers and students, playing bagpipes and other traditional instruments crafted exclusively at its workshop. The launching was during the Expo98, along with the famous Gaiteiros de Lisboa, making since then innumerous presentations and concerts by the side of other renowned bands, like Galandum Galundaina, Mandrágora and Dazkarieh. The repertoire varies from traditional tunes to modern ones. Whereas they have presented themselves, the group has been spotted by the media, like in France and Spain. Perhaps it is the best vehicle of divulgation of the AGF.
During its trajectory of intensive work, the Associação Gaita-de-fole achieved support for its project to the divulgation of the Transmontan bagpipe, like from the Arts Institute, the Bagpipe Society, Lelia Doura Association, the Pédexumbo and the At-Tambur.
As a recognition for the relevancy of its projects, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture has supported financially many of the activities of the AGF since 2001. Many events, classes, workshops and other projects have been frequently covered by the media, specially in newspapers like Expresso, Público and Diário de Notícias.
Nowadays, the Associação gathers around 200 subscribed members, and many others non-members as supporters.