Trás-os-Montes is the heartland of the Portuguese gaita-de-foles (bagpipes), the main melody instrument of Trás-os-Montes traditional music. It’s similar to the Scottish Highland war-pipe in shape but closest to the gaitas of Spanish Galicia and Asturias, all of which are drawn from the Moorish tradition (ghaita being the Moroccan word for a pipe). The old tradition of the pipes survives principally in Miranda do Douro, kept alive by Mirandês gaiteiros who play regularly for the Pauliteiros, local men in traditional outfits who prance around clattering wooden sticks together rhythmically (rather like an English morris dance). Like many such manifestations in the north (the stone pigs, the bonfire celebrations, the masked revels), it probably dates back to Celtic times. It’s a performance which is more often seen at large nationwide festivals than in their home town, though the Pauliteiros make a special appearance every year during the Santa Bárbara festa (starts the Sunday following August 15). At this time you will also hear the local folk music, a tradition maintained at the town’s Casa da Música Mirandês (music institute), by the ruined castle on Largo do Castelo.

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