REVIEWS: A - M

...about 62 Jew's harp-types from all over the world in colored photographs - classified on the vernacular names for the Jew's harps and on several Jew's harp-makers

 

list of Jew's harp makers
list of Jew's harp names

 

REVIEWS N - Z
metal Jew's harps

 

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REVIEWS
wooden Jew's harps & curiosities

 

 

 

Maultrommel

Austria

Roland Bades

 

 

 

 Maultrommel of Roland Bades, here a musical instrument tuned in B (photo: Izz van Elk)

review

Maultrommelwechsel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roland Bades is the proficient pupil of Franz Wimmer in Molln. A few years ago he assisted his master Wimmer in large-scale production. Beside this Roland Bades also specialized in the same Austrian traditional type on a higher technical level of quality. It seems to me, that Bades has looked back at the historical times of the Jew's harp center that Molln once was in Europe.

 Roland Bades now gives attention to the Jew's harp as an instrument to join in musical ensembles of combined instruments. He understands that the contemporary spirit of the age needs a Jew's harp, not

 

only as a toy, but as a musical instrument. His Jew's harps undergo an individual finishing off, they will be forged into different sizes and, moreover, they will be tuned in the keys of a chromatic scale. The high tuned Jew's harps, as A, A-sharp/B-flat & B [in German: A, B and H] absolutely have my preference. It's a good Jew's harp in a traditional design for a medium price, and. for those people who are very serious about Jew's harp playing.

Click for photograph of the Bades) Maultrommelwechsel

 

 

 

 

 

Maultrommelwechsel

 

 

 

Set of two Jew's harps, fixed to each other
(photo: Izz van Elk)

 

 

 text

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maultrommelwechsel

 

 

Two Jew's harps in ňne set will be used for changing the harmony in a song. In Bavaria, South-Germany and in Austria the Jew's harp is placed in this way in folk- and classical music. In general the distance between the two is a fourth or a fifth.Trained players carry one set in each hand, so they can change key on totally four Jew's harps. On both hands the middle finger will pluck the instrument's reed. The first Jew's harp than is for tonica, the second for dominant, third is for subdominant and the fourth for a key according to the other three Jew's harps. On the photograph we see two Maultrommeln made by Roland Bades connected to each other in the interval of a minor second (B-H).

 

 

 

 

 

Maultrommel

Austria

Franz Bernögger

 

 

 

Franz Bernögger's Maultrommel-type, manufactured before the nineteen-eighties (photo: Izz van Elk).

Franz Bernögger
review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Franz Bernögger in the year 1992
(photo: Catherine Perrier
)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably one of the most legendary non-conformistic Jew's harp-makers in Austria during the 20th century. He also has known the old-time labour of (hard-working) Jew's harp manufacturing in Molln as it was for many centuries. When the machines took over the handicraft of the Jew's harp maker, Franz Bernögger stopped his work forever. For him it was important to make the best Jew's harps by handwork without being too expensive.
His Jew's harps remained in circulation among players, but were not manufactured anymore since the last days of the eighties.
Playing on a Bernögger-Jew's harp may be equal

 

to playing on a (small and cheap) masterwork, a thing that will please and surprise a lot of experienced players. My personal experience is that most of them are very good, some even excellent. But other people have noticed that some are mediocre or even poor. All the lamellas were hammered by this man himself.

This man has produced thousands and thousands of Jew's harps in his long life. Good or maybe not good: my advice is to keep a Bernögger Jew's harp carefully! And give extra attention to its preservation for a long life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maultrommel

Austria

Hörzing (Joseph Jofen)

 

 

 

One of Jofen's initial attempts getting a real,
tuned musical instrument (photo: Izz van Elk)

 review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Jofen and his wife Gertrud Hörzing in the first place are large-scale producers of Jew's harps and export their products to countries abroad. The quality of their mechanically made Jew's harp is very reasonable in exchange for a low price. It seems to me that the quality is on an very similar level with the other ones of the same domain from Molln, like Franz Wimmer or Karl Schwarz.
Jofen's or Hörzing's large-scaled Jew's harp mostly is executed in a diversity of coloured coatings, which is in my opinion no advantage for the sound. The silver-coloured Jew's harp, which is coated of electrolysis, has a better volume

 

and dynamic tone. It can be mentioned as the best in this production series.

Joseph Jofen is a generous man, and beside his normal production he investigates the paths to new quality for handicrafted Jew's harps of his own hands. He (carefully) designed several new Jew's harp types and put them in key. The price for a specimen like that is much higher. I will regard Joseph Jofen as an equal of the young maker Roland Bades in that same town, but Joseph Jofen is not convinced yet about the new steps he has made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eichel

Austria

general Jew's harp type

 

 


Eichel, a Jew's harp type from Austria.This specimen
is manufactured by Schwarz (photo: Izz van Elk)

 

 text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eichel is the name of an old Maultrommel- type with a shamrock design from the village Molln in Upper-Austria. The name has been originated as one of the official names in the Memorandum of Association of the Mollner Jew's harp Makers Guild. The Memorandum initially has been redacted by Count Lamberg, Lord of the Steyr-Dominion, in the days of 1679.
The other Jew's hap types were called Deutsche, Lyra and Ganauser. Since then it seems that the name Eichel sometimes is confound with Lyra. The Eichel always has been manufactured by the Mollner workshops of Hois,

 

Bernögger, Hörzing, Wimmer and (see photo Eichel) Schwarz.

The nomenclature laid down in this guild's memorandum intended to protect the Jew's harps against mocked names given at random, such like: Strohtromml, Pilsentromml, Schlüssltromml, Steyermärkertromml, but also against metaphors like Mentschafange (≈ human-catcher), Dirndl-Locka (= girl-enticer) and the very derogatory Fotzenhobel (≈ cunt-slicer).

 

 

 

 

 

 

munnharpe

Norway

Folke Nesland

 


Small thick-set munnharpe from Bykle made
by knives-forger Folke Nesland. The blue on the lamella's
end is just for recognizing the key (photo: Izz van Elk)


In my personal opinion Folke Nesland may be called the Scandinavian coryphaeus of the present world of Jew's harp makers. According the Norwegian tradition Folke Nesland works on the small thick-set munnharpe-type, made of heavy iron and steel. His Jew's harps are not easy for the hand that has to stabilize it to the player his teeth, which can lead to an unpleasant situation on stage when a long time of playing is appreciated. But the resulting sound is unequalled and can be designated (for me) as sublime. I recommends the keys between A and c. The dynamics of the tone are strong, and every harmonic in the range sounds bright and is equal in power. Their character shows a kind of sparkling sound. The burdon-drone has a relatively strong, perceptible tremble on the incisors. You won't even hear it at all. The Nesland is really a beautiful concert Jew's harp, and very convenient for a melodic way of playing munnharpe-music. Absolutely my personal favourite in ensemble-playing.


the factory of Folke Nesland near Bykle

 

 

munnharpe

Norway

Knut Tveit

 


Beautiful traditional design of the Setesdal-munnharpe
type made by Knut Tveit. The red on top of the bend is
just for recognizing it on a special key (photo: Izz van Elk)


Real Norwegian traditional manufactures are the Jew's harps of Knut Tveit from Setesdal. He learned this forging craft by the respected master of fiddles and Jew's harps, Torleiv H. Bjřrgum. His munnharpes are robust and powerful in sound. Sometimes it happens that the basic drone of the lamellas is too powerful over the generated sounds of harmonics. It hides the harmonics too much. It causes a Tveit-Jew's harp to be characteristic more as a pulse instrument than as a harmonic instrument. The price of the Tveit-munnharpe is unusually high. They are made in pitches F, G-flat, G and A-flat.

 

munnharpe

Norway

Bjřrgulv Straume

 

A very sympathical munnharpe from the
Setesdal-tradition in Norway, made by
Bjřrgulv Straume (photo: Izz van Elk)


Bjřrgulv Straume is an esteemed spelemann (musician) from the Norwegian area Setesdal. According to the old forging concepts, he makes a short and not so heavy munnharpe as it is used in the old Setesdal tradition. I understand that he has received his initial instructions from Knut Tveit.
Harmonic ranges are very clear to hear, not too sharp. Very balanced munnharpes. Here, by me, 3 specimens were heard, tested and tried out. Two I praise very well, the other one was a little less. Though, if you want to purchase this excellent quality, his munnharpes are quite expensive.

 

Jew's harp

England

Philipps-Crawshaw Harp Co.



Large, goldcoated Jew's harp of the Philipps-Crawshaw Harp Company,
England (photo: Jaap Flohil)

[Review is absent - we only have one specimen]

 

 

Jew's harp, jaw harp, trump

U.S.A.

Smith Brothers

 


Very robust Jew's harp manufactured by the
Smith Brothers in the U.S.A. (photo: Izz van Elk)

Two brothers active between 1920 and 1965. I just tested one specimen of them: a heavy piece of metal, with a dominant drone on its harmonics ["J.R. Smith" is written on the frame]. A pity that the harmonics won't come out. The Smith brothers started out making cast-iron trumps in the English style. But they switched around 1940 producing them in a more or less current Mollner manner, using square cross section steel. Several specialists on Jew's harp has ensured me that these Smith-Jew's harps were excellent handwork and the best to play on in those days. I believe their words, not so very much the one I have tested. But I like this dark-brown buzzer in my collection. At present they are still available in America, for high prices, considered as antiquities.

 

 

Jew's harp, jaw harp, trump

U.S.A.

Fred Whitlow



Freds Whitlow's Jew's harp
from USA (photo: Izz van Elk)

[Review is absent - we only have one specimen]

Jew's harp, Jaw harp, trump

U.S.A.

Fred Whitlow

 

(photo: Izz van Elk)

There are no references at all on this robust
Jew's harp from the U.S.A.
[Review is absent - we only
have one specimen]

 

Jewsaphone

U.S.A.

Clayton Bailey

 

 

▲ Jewsaphone is the curiosity manufactured by the American artist and craftsman Clayton Bailey. As it is shown, it is a combination of a Jew's harp with the bell of a trumpet. The trumpet amplifies the sound of the Jew's harp without use of electricity, and gives the instrument a unique sound. It is played by placing it lightly against the lips. The Jew's harp can be removed from the bell, and played separately, and is held in place by a small spring. - During the 1930-ies Jewsaphones also have been manufactured in the USA by the company A.P.& M.

[review is absent - no specimens were tested]


Another Bailey's Jew's harp-curiousity is the Gunharp

▼ A double-reed Jew's harp manufactured by Clayton Bailey. This Jew's harp is also part of Baileys' Jewsaphone.

 

Jew's harp / mondharp

U.S.A./Noord-Holland (Netherlands)

Kendall Rownd

 

A frame made of bell-bronze in this design called
T
TTTTT from Kendall Rownd (photo: Izz van Elk)

If it seems that several American Jew's harp-makers more or less have worked out their craft on Jew's harp-manufacturing in an unsufficient way, then we'll find the opposite in the results of Kendall Rownd, a American maker who lives in Holland. The investigations made by this elaborate electronic engineer into the micro-mechanical organology of the Jew's harp are spread over a period more than 25 years. And that is why he could bring into the outside world of the 90's a top quality for the Jew's harp. In the beginning the construction of his Jew's harps were concentrated for powerful intonated staccato's, struck for- and backwards by the thumb.

For a long time I have regarded his T
TTTTT (= tip to tail totally tuned & tempered) and the Brutus-type (see photo 1, nr 2) as jewels in Jew's harp-making. After several interruptions in his production, Kendall Rownd now is definitely no longer active in manufacturing Jew's harps. Kendall Rownd never has been a full-time producer of Jew's harps - I think he hates it. He is more an experimenter. So be wise and keep your Rownd-specimen as a precious gem.
One of Kendall's favourite things is to discuss and explain the mechanics and organology of Jew's harps.

 


mondharp

Zeeland (Netherlands)

Peter Kersten




Two of the recycled-steel mondharpen of
Peter Kersten in Holland (photo: Izz van Elk)

In cultural history Jew's Harps were made of all kinds of material. Beside materials like bones and (bamboo)wood, the metals dominate the principle of the Jew's harp in Europe, the New World and Central Asia. One of the main approaches to the manufacture of Jew's harps consists of the recycle of metals.
For instance, among the Yi-population of South-China we will find a 4-lamella type, idioglot cut out of the brass cartridge-case of a bullet. - A decade ago it was the Norwegian Jew's harp smith Knut Tveit who forged in an excentric way by using the steel of a WW II-bomber, that was crashed on the Norwegian shore.

In Holland it was Peter Kersten who intensified himself in repairing Jew's harps with defection. His concentration on re-making led him to create Jew's harps out of recycled materials. In the meantime he has manufactured several Jew's harps out of stainless steel, reinforcing- and driving-shaft steel. He applied also the steel of lawn rakes and the various metals of saw-blades, spatulas (for baking), doubled-ended spanners and feeler-blades.

In his initial days in the beginning 90-ies, I played a while on a magnificient specimen bent out of a stair-rod, but I certainly played too wild in those days. At present Peter Kersten just works for the home-needs of the members of the Kwintes Ensemble, to whom he is connected as musician. At the whole his Jew's harps - they almost never are loud - contain reasonable sounds of harmonics. One day he may climb up to a top and then will make top quality.

  


mondharp

Zuid-Holland (Netherlands)

Ger Groothedde

 

... was during the late 60's absolutely the pioneer of Jew's harp making in Holland. Inspired by the meetings of (mor)čang-players in Afghanistan and India, he started the work on his very own. He hasn't made a lot, but they were all of a very good till excellent quality. Nowadays he doesn't forge them anymore, because the work is too intensive. Anyway, it is one of my personal wishes to have a Groothedde-mondharp in my concert collection one day.

 


troempe

Zeeland (Netherlands)

Archaeological find

 
A fifteenth-century Jew's harp found in an excavation at
the fortress Keyzershoofd at the shore of the river
Westerschelde, Zeeland (Netherlands). The lamel has
disappeared completely. The specimen is just 5 cm
in size (photo: Izz van Elk)

On the bottom of the northern rivershore of the Westerschelde in the Dutch province of Zeeland, this archćological specimen has been found. In this area full of islands, quite a lot of Jew's harps were found at the excavations of archaeologists.
[take a look at other old specimens:
and ]

 

 

 

marranzanu

Sicily (Italy)

maker unknown



Marranzanu or ngannalarunni is the type of Jew's harp on the island Sicily. This large specimen has its frame of a cast metal.
(photo: Izz van Elk)

This very robust type of Jew's harp is very commonly in use among vernacular musicians on this island. The instrument is a real smith's craftwork, and it seems to me that the number of musicians who forge the finer type of Jew's harp for themselves, is very low. The marranzanu will probably always hold a main reputation as rhythmic instrument. Tiny marranzanu-specimens, with frames of cast metals, taught me to bring about very bright harmonics. But they are hard to find among the larger, robuster types.

 

sa trunfa

Sardinia (Italy)

Maker unknown



Quite fragile is the lamella of this trunfa from the island Sardinia. Name maker is not known (photo: Izz van Elk)


The trunfa of Sardinia is very common in the traditional folk music of the island. This Jew's harp is much more fragile than for instance its equal in Sicily (compare nr 4 with nr 1 on photograph 1).
I have played on several trunfas (also called zampurra or piaboi) that were made by different forgers. Although a very popular instrument..., I can not believe that the Sardinian Jew's harp is elaborated as an adequate musical instrument. Its needle-shaped lamella reminds me immediately to the forge qualities of (mor)čang-specimens of Afghanistan, Nepal, Rajasthan or Pakistan, reviewed here below.
It seems to me that the trunfa, like the Sicilian marranzanu, just is regarded as a rhythmical instrument. The singing harmonics are not so relevant.

 

 

scaccciapensieri

Italy

Andrea Bugari & Son


Nice colours are shown on these coated aluminium 'Thought Dispellers' from the Italian Marche-region. A large-scale product of Andrea Bugari and Son from Castelfidardo.
(photo: Izz van Elk)


This modern Jew's harp type is called after Bonnani's old metaphor Thought Dispeller. It is made of an aluminium frame, coated in all kind of metallic colors, like green, yellow, blue, red et cetera. It is produced by Andrea Bugari & Son in the town of Castelfidardo in the Marche-region. Its model is closed over the whole frame: it has no open fork-end as usual with Jew's harps. It is a large-scale mechanical product for commercial trade. A counter-sunk patentnumber for protection is imprinted at the back of its frame. On the other side we see rank-ornaments imprinted.

For many years now it is the main Jew's harp of Italy. I never have seen another type from North-Italy or from the Italian Boot (peninsula). Except Sardinia and Sicily,... where are they?
The key is tuned low, always near CC, as far as I remember. They have a typical sound which is not rich on harmonics. You will hear the greasy sound in action on the (early) recordings of Emanuelle Calanduccio or the legendary Mario Ruspoli. You will also hear it by the Italian investigator of prehistorical sound-systems, mr. Walter Maioli.

 

khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Ivan Christophorov

хомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Христофоров Иван

One of the most impressive khomus-types from the
Siberian continent is this one from Ivan Christophorov
(photo: Izz van Elk)

Of all comtemporary Jew's harp makers in the Siberian Sakha Respublika (Republic of Yakutia), Ivan Christophorov rightly has been regarded as the top in making Jew's harps. And he is! His Jew's harps (khomus) are made out of a very strong, precious steel and iron, that will not oxidate. The oblong robust Jew's harps all have a fixed O-design that forms the base of the frame. His khomuses are polished and have received a very fine finishing touch.

The frame holds no other ornament than the personal signature of Christophorov himself, and an imprinted Cyrillic denomination for the Jew's harp's key. But I noticed that these last are not of the correct value: he mistakes a semi-tone (if I don't mistake) too high in notation. I have tested a handful of Christophorov-khomuses and I have to say that they were the most beautiful Jew's harps that I ever heard singing! The Jew's harps of Christophorov are tuned in the relatively low-pitched registers, the most between BB and G.

 

 

khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Pavel Nikolajevitch Mikhailov

хомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Михайлов Павел Николайевич

 


Very similar to the design of Christophorov is this
khomus from Pavel N. Mikhailov (photo: Izz van Elk)


It is said that he was a pupil of Christophorov. I have played and criticized only two khomuses of him: top-quality which in the near future only can be compared with the work of his master.
[no further information about the maker]

 

khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Alexander Jacoblevitch Prokopiev

хомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Прокопйэв Александьр Якоблевич




Traditional Jew's harp-design of the Yakut, made
by Alexander Jacoblevitch Prokopiev (photo: Izz van Elk)


[Review is absent - we only have one specimen]

 

 

 

khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Jegor Petrovitch Gogolev

Хомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Гоголев Егор Петрович


Yakutian design from master maker Jegor Petrovitch Gogolev (1924-1994) from the town Vilyuisk (photo: Izz van Elk)

He has been a khomus-maker in the old tradition, that's to say, he worked on the flow from shamanistic ritualism. In this obsolete tradition the Jew's harp-forgers were aimed to have the heavenly powers from a burning fire into their "iron-strings". Heavenly powers that could make the Jew's harp to a divination instrument. Jegor P. Gogolev (I've heard that there are also another few Yakut khomus-maker calling Gogolev) has been praised for his craft in steel and iron all his life, but in my opinion not every khomus out of his hands had the quality of a masterpiece. But I have to be careful: I only played on two specimens of him. Myself, I am an owner of one good Gogolev-khomus. I was also in the opportunity to try out a second Jegor P. Gogolev specimen, but this one was really of a less quality.

 

Khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Gogolev (junior)

xомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Гоголев (младший)



thin khomus with carved ornaments on the eye,
manufactured by Gogolev (mladshij - junior), Yakutia
(photo: Izz van Elk)

[Review is absent - we only have one specimen]

 

 

 

khomus

Yakutia (Siberia)

Revoriem Chemchoev

xомyc

Саха (Сибирск)

Чемчоев Реворием


A Siberian khomus from the maker Revoriem Chemchoev.
On the khomus-eye a sheet is fixed, showing two cranes,
and subscription 'buluu' (photo: Izz van Elk)

Likewise an honoured Jew's harp maker from the Russian republic of Yakutia. His Jew's harps are oblong, as in the Yakut tradition. They contain on top of the circular base a sheet of steel with an ornamented engraving. The khomuses made by this very shy man, are very loud, which seems to injure the depth of the tone and its harmonics. Oxidation is (as far as I could judge) very strong on the lamellas and the inside angle of the embouchure-fork of the Jew's harp. The harmonic range is quite well present in the drone, but (unfortunetly) the sound can be interpreted as too sharp and also a bit too tinny. Some people praise these khomuses, personally, I will keep them somewhere in the middle.

 

 

 

kubyz

Bashkiria
(South-East Eurorussia)

Robert Zagretdinov

кубыз

Башкирск

Загретдинов Роберт





a kubyz for children, design by
Robert Zagretdinov (photo: Izz van Elk)

The Jew's harps (kubys) of Robert Zagretdinov are originated from several undoubtly self-designed concepts. This man from the Bashkirian capital city Ufa is an experimenter on Jew's harps in an enthusiastic sense.

Beside the single-reed Jew's harps of different materials, he designed himself two- or three-reeds-in-one-Jew's harps, dual- and triple-tone Jew's harps clamped together as one compact set, a Jew's harp with a bell, a screw-type 12-tone Jew's harp and a slideway-type 15-tone Jew's harp with a handtrigger to raise glissandos.

He made himself an electronic Jew's harp that doesn't need the attack no longer from a playing hand. He originated Jew's harps for children (see photo above), and he made himself a set of 13 Jew's harps tuned in a chromatic scale. An admirable design is his Grusha-Jew's harp, a pear-form wooden case that is constructed around the frame of a metal Jew's harp. The player can make an extra (pitching-up) sound effect by touching his finger (or his thumb) on a hole in this wooden case.

Conspicuous is that this man is a designer of forms in which a Jew's harp can be presented. This does not mean that his Jew's harps are elaborated as musical instrument in a fine way. Sometimes far from that. Zagretdinov is not a forger or a specialist for the micro-sounds of the Jew's harp. The quality of his Jew's harps as sounding objects, is very often mediocre, sometimes even going down to an inferior level. He deserves my respect as a performer designing all his own instruments.

 

temir komuz

Kyrgyzstan

Orozobay Kenshinbaev

темир комуз

Киркизск

Кеншинбаев Орозобай

 

(foto: Izz van Elk)

[Review is absent - we only have one specimen]

 

drymba

Ukrain

Vasyl Shatruk

дрымба

Украйинск

Шатрук Васил



A tiny and fine singing drymba
from the maker Vasyl Shatruk in Ukrain.
Size: 4,25 cm (photo: Izz van Elk)

Drymba is the name of the vernacular Jew's harp of the Hutsul-population living in the Hutsulshchyna area of Ukrain and Rumania. Béla Bartók wrote in 1935 about the instrument in relation to the semi-liturgical customs on the Easter-days of the Hutsul in the border area of Rumania. This drymba made by Vasyl Shatruk is a very tiny, vulnerable instrument, which should be played by slight hands and fingers. Of most specimens the sound is very fascinating because of the bright clear harmonics that are very good to hear.

It is said that the shape of this Ukrainian drymba may be inspired on the design from the Austrian specimens, but I think that the opposite may be true as well (history will always keep its dark corners). The lamellas has a curious shape and may be seen as the most - too much - fragile part of the whole drymba. It recalls the shape of wooden lamellas on Jew's harps that belong to the old-equatorial population in Asia. One imperfection can be found in the sharp angle of the lamellas (going from the mouth part up to the plucking part). I'm sure that this causes a lot of unclear harmonics.

I once did play a lovely tune just on a very high-pitched drymba from Vasyl Shatruk. If you are a collector of fine Jew's harps for their singing qualities, you surely should purchase a gentle Shatruk-drymba from Ukrain.

 

 

 

komus

Altai (South-Central Siberia)

Vladimir Potkin

kомус

(Горно) Алтай

Поткин Владимир


Vladimir Potkin is a Jew's harp smith from the area of Gorno-Altajsk in Southern-Central Siberia, who produces on all points very fine specimens of komuses. His Jew's harps belong to the best selection of Jew's harps that ever were in the former Antropodium-store. For years I have been satisfied with the tiny Potkin-komuses. For that reason Antropodium has sold them, and they were sold the most too. They were made in different qualities, but all in one steady design to behold. [Antropodium chose this design for the link-clicks in this website]

The Jew's harp is heteroglottic formed by a (silver-colored) steel lamella and a (gold-colored) frame of brass. It is not longer than about 61/2 cm (21/2 inch). The dynamic of the singing tone - it depends on its quality-class - varies very well and can be qualified on the whole as relatively mellow. The lamellas are lightly vulnerable for oxidation. A player should keep the embouchure-part dry after playing. The tone is noteworthily clear in its harmonics (for my ears especially when manufactured in A or B-flat). This will be appreciated by a lot of serious komus-players. The Potkin-komuses are very often not in key, but they will float between G and B-flat. Sometimes the quality of the Potkin-komus is collapsed.

 

morchang

North & West India

Maker unknown

 


Robust, oblong and high-pitched morchang from Gujarat,
West-India, with carvings in its fork (photo: Izz van Elk)

 

India has a rich tradition for Jew's harps. In the north of India they play on the morchang, in the south they play on the morsing, and obvious the latter is more practiced in Indian music. Morsings and morchangs will be forged in different qualities and sizes (in the review below I will mention the varied adivasi-specimens). In general they will show a strong workmanship and will be forged in a typical Indian way: (relatively) soft metal for the lamellas opposite to a (relatively) hard metal for the frame.

The morsing (and also the morchang) will have a very high-pitched sound, which is also characteristic of instruments belonging to the tradition of the tala, the directives for rhythms and metrics of the classical Indian music. They often have a rich harmonic range, but not too sharp. A robust, sometimes oxidation-prone Jew's harp, a bit rough to see and to feel in the hand. In general: unpolished frames. Not the easiest instrument for western and European hands, I think.

 

morsing

South India

Maker unknown


A morsing from Maharashtra in India (photo: Izz van Elk)

A rather stiff but shining morsing from the area near the Indian city of Poona in Maharashtra.

 

 

čang

Afghanistan

Uzbek-population

 

Uzbek-čang from Afghanistan shows a tapering fork-shape of the frame and not,
as usual, with open circular bends towards the base.
(photo: Robert Mulder, Groningen)

In the continental area between the Middle-East and the Indian peninsula, metal types of Jew's harps are generally the vogue among the numerous (semi)-nomadic populations. There certainly is an essential difference between the robust morchang- and morsing-types of India (seen in the previous review), and the thin Jew's harps forged by the hands of Uzbek-people of Afghanistan, as shown here above. This čang-type was a very common mouth-instrument among the European travelers who went to the Near East during the sixties and seventies of the previous century. Tiny and not unfriendly in their "speech". Specimens of it were in circulation in Holland and easy to purchase.... then! Now they are rareties to find, and kept as a real collectors' item.

 

 

 

čang, morčang

Afghanistan, Nepal, Rajasthan

semi-nomadic populations, Jajmani-casts, Indian adivasi

  

from left to right: Jew's harps from Nepal, Afghanistan
and (the two at the left) Rajasthan (photo: Izz van Elk)

In the continental area between the Middle-East and the Indian peninsula, metal types of Jew's harps are generally the vogue among the numerous (semi-)nomadic populations. There certainly is an essential difference between the robust morchang- and morsing-types of India (seen in the previous review), and the thin, sometimes defective Jew's harps that are forged by the hands of nomadic people, the casts of Jajmani-musicians in Rajasthan and several adivasi-populations in India. The latter even more carve wooden Jew's harps.

Over this vast area, we can speak of metal types that are converted in the one or another way. It seems that the latter types don't have any particular design. But they all have a striking quality in common on the wrought iron. In general, the sound of all these frail high-pitched Jew's harps is very limited. They often have an immediate lack of dynamic sound. Frames are almost unpolished, except those that are coated with gold-color and (sometimes) with inlaid multi-colored ornaments.
It becomes clear that nomadic people on their way, will not deepen out the different qualities of iron as far as it seems to happen among sedentaries. It's the basic thing, that they are able to make Jew's harps which have to be forged in flames and sand of the desert. After all they have them ready for playing, for sale and for barter.

The lamellas of these types, sometimes as thin as long strong needles, are reminiscent of obsolete manufactures of thin Jew's harps of tough wood. Yes, in these types the acculturation between the wood and the iron can be perceived. Sometimes the two parallel extremes of the fork diverge so much, that it causes almost the absence of an audible tone. Anyway, it is nice to have such a specimen in your collection, and a lot of collectors would like to have it.

 

 

chang, čang

Pakistan

Peshawar



A chang originated by the Peshawar-peoplefrom Pakistan. The frame
is casted from brass, and ornamented with red-pink
spots and cross-motifs (photo: Izz van Elk)

 

 

 

machinga

Nepal

Sunawar-population

Fine forge work can be found in this striking machinga from the Sunawars, Nepal. Size of the frame is 3,75 cm or 1,5 inch (photo: Izz van Elk)

You'll discover how subtle hands must be if you play a machinga from the Sunawar. You need very small hands to handle this miniature Jew's harp. Among the Tamang-people in the east part of Nepal one will find a same miniature type under the vernacular name gon-kap.
The craftwork will amaze if you notice masterpieces among them. And they are strictly in key too! The miniature sound sometimes is so very clear and bright to hear the melody that you bring in. It will enchant you. But use the most tiny hands you have!

I don't know exactly what has happened, but among the specimens of the parcel that I have tried out, several were completely defect, and only because of the transport to Europe, I guess. The traditional used cylindrical case for individual protection of the Jew's harp, was absent. It's hard to believe that these forge-masters from Nepal will make a mess of it, for there's too much devotion to observe in these instruments. It will not be easy to get one in your collection, I think. Try the museumshop of the Royal Institute for the Tropics in Amsterdam.

 

 

ncaas, rab ncas, đan môi

Thailand, Laos, Vietnam

Tam Than
Hmong-populations

 

 

A miracle of sounds is this idioglot brass Jew's harp
made by the North-Vietnamese Hmong-population
(photo: Izz van Elk)

I never saw so many people, asking me for this very special Jew's harp from South-East Asia. It must be a goldmine if you have them to offer now in Europe. And its already a pitty, because the ncaas will be sold for 15-30 euro's or dollars, while you may find them for a few pennies near the source in the streets of Vietnamese towns, in the hands of people who have had a hard labour on their production. And that is how it goes.

This very thin Hmong-Jew's harp has every fashion that makes a Jew's harp wanted. It is equal to the oblong models of wood, but it is made out of brass, and will be protected in a cylindrical bamboo case (see photo beneath). It seems that the metal has been hammered out, or better: has been rolled. One of the special rab ncas-makers from Laos is mr. Chong Moua Lee, in Vietnam lives đan môi-maker mr. Tam Than.
In Japan, quite far from the Hmong-regions, the maker Mahito Nagase is making copies of this fine idioglot Hmong-Jew's harp. He manufactures them from beryllium bronze, which is very light of weight and white of colour.

Đan môi's from the Vietnamese Hmong-population packed up into their bamboo-cases with decorations. The decorations consist of beads, twisted woolthreads, ornamented bandages of textile, colourpaints and even vernacular coins.
(photo: Clemens Voigt, Leipzig)


The lamella (mostly single, sometimes double) is designed in a oblong V-shape. It is carved or frased out in the metal, with ňne little, very important detail: nňt going through the total layer of the brass so that it will be open. It seems to be scoured at the other side of the Jew's harp, easy and slow, till the very moment the complete lamella comes idioglot free of its frame. Well-rolled brass will show you a long sustaining oscillating lamella, that doesn't hit the frame. The glottises are microscopic narrow openings.

The sound is long and sharp. You don't have to put it at your teeth, just to the lips. It will sing in all directions. No, it's not a good Jew's harp for fast rock 'n roll rhythms. But it will refer you to its mytho-animistic background reputation as an audio-enticer of nature-spirits. You soon will understand.

For sale: dan mois Hmong Vietnam - click here

 

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