A life with the Jew's Harp: Neptune Chapotin and his market stall in Goa, India

DAN MOI Clemens Voigt & Sven Otto GbR
A life with the Jew\'s Harp: Neptune Chapotin and his market stall in Goa, India - A life with the Jew\'s Harp: Neptune Chapotin and his market stall in Goa, India

Neptune Chapotin was born in India, lived for 15 years in the United States and then returned to India, Goa, where he, down to the present day, spends most of the year. He is now regarded as a person who knows the Jew's harp scene in India, Nepal and Pakistan very well. The people of Arambol, Goa, know Neptune Chapotin as the man with the Jew's harp stand at the weekly market, who shows passers-by, including many tourists, until late at night, how sounds can be educed from this small metal instrument. Many people stop at the stall, some linger for hours and play their way through the collection of Jew's harps from around the world. What Neptune offers to people is above all convincing, because the 30-year-old lives for the Jew's harp.

How Neptune Chapotin fell for the Jew's Harp

Neptune held his first Jew's harp - or Mouth Harp as he prefers to call this instrument - in his hands when he was 12 years old. His mother had brought the instrument back from a journey to Afghanistan in 1969. He tried to play it but soon put the instrument aside. When Neptune´s family moved to India, the Jew's harp was left behind. Then in 2002, in Sweden, he encountered the Jew's harp again, this time inconspicuously and more as a minor matter in a tourist shop. He hesitated briefly but also did not take the Jew's harp with him this time. Nevertheless, the instrument found a deep place in the Chapotin´s memory, in the meantime he began to dwell on the missed opportunities and absolutely wanted to acquire a Jew's harp. When finally the third opportunity knocked and at a music store in South India several moorsings were offered for sale, Chapotin seized it. In the following months he dedicated all his efforts to the instrument, looked for new sounds and practiced stroke speed and precision. As a Jew's harp player he sounds unique today - his personal playing technique combines autodidactic elements with musical styles from various Jew's harp schools, including Yakutia, Norway, Vietnam, Pakistan and India.

Neptune Chapotin plays Moorsing Jaw Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

Neptune Chapotin's small Mouth Harp stall in Goa

Since 2009 Neptune shares the fascination which the Jew's harp exerts on him, once a week with new people interested in it at the stall in Goa. Some people return months or even years later to the stall, Chapotin says. "They admit to me that they just couldn't forget the instrument after playing it at my stall." Chapotin knows exactly what is spread out on the cloth of his Jew's harp stall.

A journey around the world to meet the Jaw Harp artisans

At every opportunity he himself travels around the world to meet Jew's harp players and blacksmiths. He is convinced that every instrument had its own soul, its own character. "Each instrument maker has his personal story with the instrument. Some have been passed down from generation to generation, some simply taught themselves how to make a Jew's harp. The creation of a Jew´s harp can involve many techniques and hand grips." Chapotin looks over the shoulder of the smiths, creates some instruments and also learns melodies of different Jew's harp styles and cultures.

The Mouth Harp Festival of India

For the active Jew's harp scene in south Asia, Neptune Chapotin has become a central network point. For a long time, he saw it as a shortcoming that in India, in a culture rich in Jew's harp music, there had never been a separate, independent stage for Jew's harp music. Where do Jew's harp players meet? "It is a strange phenomenon, normally all Jew's harp players carry a Jew's harp around with them in their pockets, they love to play it. But they do not know who else plays. For one cannot recognize a Jew's harp player until he takes his Jew's harp out of his pocket and plays." A festival, says Neptune Chapotin, is a fantastic place to meet and play with other musicians who also play the Jew's harp. The World Mouth Harp Festival of India, which took place in january 2015 for the third time was developed for this exact reason. Each year, international guests, including more and more mursing players, come to the festival in Arambol - a sign that in India too, a revival of Jew's harp music may have begun.

Mouth Harps from India

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