Fitteafrotte: New Jaw Harps from Italy by Luca Boggio

DAN MOI Clemens Voigt & Sven Otto GbR
Fitteafrotte: New Jaw Harps from Italy by Luca Boggio - Fitteafrotte: New Jaw Harps from Italy by Luca Boggio

Pure coincidence brought Luca Boggio together with the Ribeba specialist Alessandro Zolt a few years ago. Both come from Piedmont and are jaw harp enthusiasts. Zolt researches the history of the Ribeba. Boggio forges jaw harps. The two work together for almost a year to make a copy of a Ribeba from Valsesia. In a conversation with Helen Hahmann from DAN MOI, Luca Boggio tells us how he deals with the forgotten heritage of the northern Italian jaw harps (Ribeba). Boggio started forging in 2019 and at 32 is a newcomer. You could already meet him at the Jew's Harp Society Congress in Berlin in August 2022 and he is also present at other jaw harp hot spots. His jaw harps are reproductions of 18th century ribebas that he sells under the label Fitteafrotte, an onomatopoeic rhythm pattern that emerged from a music session with friends.

I was already enthusiastic about music as a child and tried out a few instruments. At some point, I became interested in musical instruments from the world music field, such as drums. I also met a guy at that time who lent me a jaw harp. We played together. That was really fun. I was fascinated by the jaw harp and listened to the music of other jaw harpists. My interest went so far that I didn't just want to play. I wanted to make the instruments myself. That's when a spark ignited.

Luca Boggio has been making jaw harps since 2019. He comes from the village of Strona in Valdilana, about 60 km from Valsesia, the historic centre of jew's harp making in northern Italy. Luca sold his first instruments at a local market. The musician, ethnomusicologist and Ribeba expert Alessandro Zolt also strolled by his booth. The two struck up a conversation and arranged to work together to reproduce an 18th century Ribeba.

Alessandro Zolt showed me pictures of the instruments from Valsesia and his book on the Ribeba. We then met very often to work together on the copy of a Ribeba, which we eventually succeeded in doing.


At first, Luca Boggio did not know that he lived in the immediate vicinity of one of the once important jaw harp production sites in Europe. Only through Alessandro Zolt did he learn about the history of the Ribeba in Piedmont.

Of course, the old Ribebas had a decisive influence on my style of forging jaw harps. The first thing I wanted to do was to forge a typical jaw harp. I wanted to become perfect at that. After that, I set out to make instruments for sale that are not so complicated to make and that I can sell a bit more cheaply as a result. It takes me about two days to make a hand-forged Ribeba. I not only forge them, I also make the wooden boxes. This makes each instrument and each box unique.

The most difficult part of jaw harp forging is creating the reed, says Luca Boggio. This is the stage in the instrument's construction where the most mistakes can happen, such as the reed breaking.

It took me about a year to forge the first good jaw harp. I was lucky. Alessandro Zolt put me in touch with a woman who had three 18th century ribebas. She lent me the instruments for a whole year. So I was able to examine them closely and make copies. In the meantime, by the way, I am also working on copies of other jaw harps from the Middle Ages. These come from Liguria and we only have photos of these instruments.

Luca Boggio makes contact with other jaw harp makers and exchanges ideas. Every jaw harp and every way of making it is very individual, says the 32-year-old. In the summer of 2022, he attended the congress of the International Jew's Harp Society in Berlin and the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha. He also gave a workshop in jaw harp making with Aron Szilágyi in Kecskemét. He also wants to be back in Taucha in 2023 and also travel to Norway to the blacksmiths there to learn from them.

I am very interested in meeting other jaw harp makers, people who have the same enthusiasm. I also sometimes exchange instruments with other blacksmiths and learn from makers from Japan or Slovakia, for example. We all build the same instrument, but in detail we differ in our approach. Above all, I want to learn more about how others make the reed of the jaw harp.

Luca Boggios Ribebas in our shop

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