Serenading, toberak jotzea, is a custom observed during the previous days to the wedding, at the time of the proclamation, but in some places takes place on the wedding day. However, the word tobera conveys different meanings: first, in some villages it refers to the cowbell ringing addressed to couples married for the second time or spouses who do not get on well with each other; second, it might make reference to the song performed to make people know that cider was readily pressed; and third, it is the singing of verses when a wedding is announced. We shall draw attention to the last meaning.
According to Manuel Lekuona, the origins of this word lie on the old foundries and the bellows used in the forge: in fact the tube through which the air allowed in the bellows was forced out was named tobera. This device had the shape of a cone and when hit with an iron bar produced a great commotion, so it was used as a musical instrument on serenading rounds. Later its use was limited to the forge and was substituted for serenades by steel bars which made far less noise.
Toberak were played in the evening of the Sunday of the wedding announcement. In the morning two young boys placed a lever outside the bride’s house, and two young girls from the neighbourhood carefully decorated it with flowers and laces. The lever stayed in front of the house of the wife-to-be until the serenade was over.
At least five people were needed for the serenading: two to hold the bars, another two to play them and a fifth person to sing the verses. To start with, the instrument was played, then a first verse sung and the bars played again straight after; that is, the bars sound and the singing alternated. The opening verses were fixed, and in them the soloist explained the intention of the group. The following verses were improvised, and after each stanza a group of singers repeated the chorus lines.
When the performance came to an end, the tobera players were invited to bread, cheese and wine as a sign of gratitude.