Who and what is DAN MOI?
Universe of Sounds – The DAN MOI Philosophy
DAN MOI considers itself as a fair trader of musical instruments, close to the customers and the producers. Our team is motivated by the fascination with handmade sounds, effect instruments, and with jaw harps in particular. Today DAN MOI can offer more than 400 different jaw harps made by artisans from all over the world. Moreover, there are more than 200 percussion, string, wind, and sound effects instruments, such as gongs, shakers, Duduk, Shakuhachi, nose whistles, mouth bows or kalimbas. The customer base counts more than 10.000 persons worldwide by now. Furthermore, we supply to 800 retailer/shop owners.
The special thing about DAN MOI is that most of our instruments are made by instrument makers and mouth harp smiths we know personally. It is an important concern for us to be in contact and work together with the producers. DAN MOI’s continuing demand for jaw harps and percussion instruments led to the filling of 20 new jobs in Vietnam for example. This is one reason why DAN MOI is accepted as supplier by the “Fair Trade” in Germany. One important part of our work is to find new jaw harp makers and unknown producers. Only very few artisans produce mouth harps as a full time job. Most of them have other professions and make only a relatively small number of instruments per year. Our work would not be possible without intensive personal connections.
As a team we are pulled together by the enthusiasm and fascination with the instrument jaw harp. At the moment we are six staff members. Even in our free time all of us support DAN MOI in various fields to foster the playing of jaw harps and effect instruments. By being so close to our instruments we are able to check the quality of their sound and material before we hand them on to our customers.
We are travelers and musicians. We observe and explore. We are listening carefully when sounds are produced – in front of our own door, but also cross-border and worldwide. By taking delight in getting on to new sounds day by day and sharing this search with other people, the musical instrument trading company DAN MOI was founded in 2002 by the musicians and globetrotters Clemens Voigt and Sven Otto from Leipzig. When there is not enough space in the luggage for big percussion instruments or didgeridoos, then these guys are at least accompanied by a mouth harp when traveling…
En route: Clemens is our contact with the artisans
Clemens is our jaw harp hunter. After his community service he was traveling around the world for three years, working with a loam constructor, learning how to glass blow, helping in a carpenter’s workshop, and trading in bamboo. When didgeridoo and drum would not fit into his luggage anymore, another instrument became his permanent companion: the jaw harp. After playing the mouth harp for many years as Clemens’ passionate hobby, he first hit on the idea of trading in jaw harps through an encounter with the Vietnamese mouth harp Dan Moi: “I got to know my first Dan Moi through a musician friend and immediately fell in love with this kind of jaw harp. This is because of its playing technique – the Dan Moi is played on the lips only. Its sound is very delicate, soft, and rich in overtones. This has totally fascinated me.”
When Clemens noted that it was impossible to buy a Dan Moi anywhere in Europe, he decided to set out for Vietnam. He rented a motorbike for several weeks and drove across the North of Vietnam searching for jaw harp makers. He found them in the villages of the H’mong. Clemens bought a whole backpack full of Dan Moi jaw harps and returned to Germany with these instruments. The idea of the musical instrument trading company DAN MOI was born. In the following years Clemens made a lot of contacts with mouth harp artisans. And until today he is our connection to the producers in Sakha, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, and India, just to mention a few of the meanwhile almost 40 regions of origin.
Listening: Roxi detects new sound producers
Music has always played a central part in “Roxi’s” life. He formerly sang with the children’s choir of the Gewandhaus (Leipzigs world famous concert hall) and broadcast in Leipzig. Then he made a side trip into electronic music and DJ culture, and today he plays a good handful of musical instruments: Shakuhachi, Fujara, Kaval, Duduk, and of course the mouth harp. The idea to provide people with the whole range of jaw harps means to him a direct way to musical variety: “I am driven by the fascination with new sounds. It is exciting to hold an instrument in my hand without knowing exactly what it is, to attend to it, and to figure out how it is played traditionally, and how I would play it, or how we would apply it in an ensemble.
It is thrilling to be able to try one’s hand at the most different combinations. And the most astonishing thing is that it never ends. There is always somebody somewhere who plays a sound which you have never heard before. It is a universe. Each sound is a little star, and there are an infinite number of possibilities. And that’s fun!” Not least due to Roxi’s never ending passion for listening and searching, DAN MOI is today a musical instrument trading company which provides an incredible selection of musical instruments and sound producers.
Our team: Oli, Kai, Emmanuel, and Sebastian find your instrument
Meanwhile the DAN MOI team grew up to six staff members. Oli can be met at many of our jaw harp booths at trade fairs and festivals. He demonstrates how the mouth harps are played and advices you when buying an instrument. It is also Oli who keeps our database in order and who maintains the online shop.
Kai, Emmanuel and Sebastian coordinate our delivery department. You will reach one of them when calling or writing an email. They deal with all orders, prepare them for shipping, and they keep track of our range which is quite considerable by now.
Fair Trade and Ecology: Fair trade is part of the DAN MOI concept
DAN MOI is an interface for musical instruments and primarily for Jew's harps from various parts of the world. Musicians from numerous countries around the world rely on our range of wind, percussion, and auxiliary percussion instruments. For many of our instruments are not mass products, that is they do not originate from large-scale industrial production, but rather we obtain them through direct contact with the manufacturers. Since the foundation of DAN MOI a little more than 15 years ago, this direct contact to the producers and their home region has been a core concept.
The foundations for DAN MOI were set at the first meeting with Jew's harps producers in the mountains of North Vietnam. At that time we took on the adventurous journey to the Hmong minority of Vietnam because it was completely impossible to buy one of their fabulous Jew's harps in Europe. Today, just as we have done since the beginning, we still get many of our instruments such as wood instruments directly from the families who make them. For many years we have maintained close contacts with numerous manufacturers. We stay in touch with the manufacturers by means of reguar visits to the local area.
Three criteria are particularly important to us when assessing how fairly the instruments were produced: the sourcing of raw materials, the surface treatment and the working conditions at the production stage. The materials for our instruments are selected according to ecological criteria: we use no rare wood or other endangered raw materials but rather materials which reliably grow again. Our producers use no chemicals when treating the surfaces of the instruments.
Our wooden sounding animals instruments (except owls and dolphins), for instance, are manufactured in the workshop of a family business in Vietnam. By giving this workshop a long-term contract, new permanent jobs were created in a rural area. We purchase the finished instruments at higher prices than they would normally achieve on the Vietnamese market. This results in good wages and thereby promotes the well-being of the craftsmen concerned.
As far back as the year 2006, the regional authorities in Thuong Tin in Vietnam certified us as a company that "effectively supports traditional crafts". F.A.I.R.E., the regional organisation for fair trade, has also recognized us as a fair trade partner.
But lately our range has also been more and more extended by instruments of European producers. Every so often we discover one or another little workshop where instruments are lovingly hand made, which are of high quality and have an exciting sound. These instruments tremendously enrich our selection.
The DAN MOIs spend a lot of time on the road
Searching for mouth harp producers
An important part of our work as mouth harp experts is to always search for still unknown jaw harp makers. Many mouth harp artisans make these instruments rather in their free time and not in a commercial way. But through a lot of experience, many contacts, much patience, and through helpful hints by our fans and customers, we always manage to find new models which we can offer you here on our website.
It is a lot of fun to be part of mouth harp, didgeridoo, and overtone festivals. There you can appeal to us directly and try everything of our range out – in case we have our own booth.
Now and then we are invited as mouth harp experts to give presentations on these instruments.
Music Trade Fairs
Musical instrument shops are also customers of ours. Therefore, being present at important music fairs – notably the one in Frankfurt – is part of our routine. There we can also catch up on current developments ourselves and sometimes discover new and interesting instruments which supplement well our range.
Ancient Trance – The International Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music
The passion for playing instruments ourselves and the fascination with the mouth harp is what makes DAN MOI unique as a musical instrument trader. On top of the usual daily working tasks, all the DAN MOIs are engaged with the subject mouth harp even in their free time. Clemens and Roxi, together with other musicians, have been trying out the possibilities with these instruments by playing in the band Little Tongue Vibration Orchestra. The two are also members of the International Jew’s Harp Society, and as contributors and musicians they visit conferences and meetings of mouth harp players.
To foster the jaw harp playing, the DAN MOIs together with musician friends from Leipzig founded the association Maultrommel e.V. which today hosts the annual Ancient Trance Festival in August in Taucha near Leipzig. The festival arose in 2007 from the desire to provide traders, customers, musicians, and friends with an occasion to meet and exchange ideas. The title Ancient Trance refers to the centuries-long history of the jaw harp as trance and dance instrument on one side. On the other side it points out the bridge building to contemporary trance music. First starting off as an evening event the festival had the potential for a weekend filling program. It presented the opportunity to demonstrate what nowadays is musically possible with the mouth harp. Therefore the festival has become an international platform for traditional and contemporary concepts of jaw harp and overtone music. One of the festival’s highlights so far has been the congress of the International Jew’s Harp Society in 2014 in Taucha. There all key personalities of the mouth harp scene, from musicians to experts through to academics, met and exchanged views about current trends in the field of jaw harp in workshops, presentations, and concerts.
We love Jew's Harps and Jew's Harp Music. We are involved in it in our leisure time, too. And we would like to contribute to the Jew's Harp "community". Therefore some of us and some Jew's Harp friends founded the Maultrommel e. V. (www.maultrommel.org). The main objects of the Maultrommel e. V. are the advancement and promotion of "Jew's Harp culture" in general and the organization of the Ancient Trance Jew's Harp Festival in particular. Of course there are other projects planned in future, too.
If you are interested in contributing as a member of the Maultrommel e. V., just have a look at the Maultrommel e. V. website.