Vancouver bans bagpipes, cripples musical freedom

To pipe or not to pipe?

The air over Vancouver, once filled with the haunting noble sound of the bag pipe, now sits silent, empty.

That’s because the city’s engineering department quietly outlawed bagpipes, much to the dismay of sidewalk pipers who played the centuries-old instrument for a profit. But the street pipers have a powerful ally on their side: Vancouver’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, famous for donning a kilt during his swearing-in ceremony for his second term in office.

According to the Globe and Mail, Robertson plans to fight the ban and is urging Vancouver’s city council to oppose it.

“My first reaction is that a complete ban on bagpipes and percussion instruments across the city is ridiculous and culturally insensitive,” Robertson said. “The clans won’t stand for it.”

While the sound of bagpipes is adored by many, the notes of a novice piper can prove grating, which may be cause for the ban in Vancouver, previously home to many practicing amateurs. Bagpipers, or buskers, though, are fighting for their right to play in public streets.

“I think it should be reversed. I’ve seen busking in so many cities around the world,” said Rob MacNeil, president of the B.C. Pipers Association. “When it’s done properly so it basically respects the instrument, and the national dress and the audiences and the [surrounding] businesses, it is a valuable thing, and a lot of people like to see the entertainment that pipers can provide.”


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