The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What does a fujara lesson look like?
Bob Rychlik (BR): It’s a one-week long course once a year, every lesson lasting an hour and fifteen minutes. In the first lesson, I explain how to hold a fujara,
What is a fujara?
The fujara is an iconic musical instrument from Slovakia, with a unique sound. It is up to a 6-feet high fipple overtone flute with 3 lateral openings and a parallel smaller tube, which supplies air to the top of the flute. Cherished in the seclusion of the Slovakian mountains by shepherds, the fujara has been preserved over the centuries.
depending on the student being right or left-handed. It is important to learn to control over breathing. The stronger you blow, the the higher tone you get. At the end of the course we have a concert where the students can perform. I teach my students some melodies, usually Slovak folk songs. Then some simple American folk songs.
TSS: How many people attend your courses?
BR: About five or six students per year. I have been teaching for seven years now. The group mostly comprises Americans who are charmed by the instrument. They are mostly people who have never played a musical instrument before. However, some of them even have a fujara at home but usually I bring mine to the lesson. Most people who have a fujara use it as decoration. Not every fujara is suitable for playing, mainly when it is made by an enthusiastic wood carver, but not a musician.
TSS: Do Slovaks living in the USA attend your classes or Americans with Slovak ancestors?
BR: Not really. In those seven years, I met about only four students of Slovak origin. Slovaks are usually prejudiced because they know the musical instrument. For example, they use to say that only men play a fujara – which was true in the past. Americans are more enthusiastic. Students sometimes come to the lesson from a great distance. One 72-year-old man drove with his wife for two days from Wisconsin to Maryland just to attend my classes. He had some ancestors from Slovakia and he was really excited to learn how to play the fujara.
TSS: How long does it take to learn how to play the fujara?
BR: When you learn to control your breathing and blow into the fujara with a different intensity. Most of the time, people learn the technique the very first day. Then you can play the fujara. It differs from usual musical instruments like the piano or guitar. Every keyboard or string there means one tone and if a person cannot play it, it doesn’t sound good to the human ear. With the fujara, it is different. The tones that come from the fujara sound so natural and usually likeable. Everyone starts to play his or her own music on the fujara.
TSS: What is your motivation for teaching these classes?