In September 2014 the Norwegian Jew's harp enthusiasts and enthusiasts from other European countries met on the Karljohansvern peninsula on the south coast of Norway. The Jew's harp festival has become a nationwide attraction. Along with concerts and workshops, Jew's harp players have above all the opportunity to exchange ideas about playing techniques, music pieces Jew's harps and the latest news. The festival first took place as early as 1955. Three years later, the Jew's harp specialists of Norway founded the Norwegian Jew's harp forum, with the aim of extending and spreading knowledge about the Jew's harp, cultivating the construction of Jew's harps and stabilizing the music on the Jew's harp, as well as conducting research into the instrument.
Resulting from that a network consisting of smiths, scientists and musicians sprang up which, among other things, run and administer the munnharpe.no website where numerous links to relevant Jew's harp websites are listed. In 2006, the double CD "Fille-Vern – Old and new masters on Norwegian Jew´s Harp tradition" (Fille-Vern. Gamle Og Nye Mestre I Norsk Munnharpetradisjon) was released, on which recordings from the archive of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation from the years 1937 to 1970 were published along with some current recordings of tunes. Furthermore, a newsletter appears four times a year, compiled by the well-known folklorist Bernhard Folkestad, and this is also published in English.
At the international Jew's harp congress in Taucha, Germany in 2014, Bernhard Folkestad told of the many Jew's harp players that one meets at the"kappleiks" - music competitions - in Norway. These folk music competitions take place at local, regional and national level. Along with Jew's harps there are also, among other instruments, fiddles, langeleiks (zithers), flutes and accordeons to be heard. Experts judge, among other things, the standard of the playing technique, the melodic and rhythmic consistency and the interpretations of the folk melodies played. The best performers receive a prize and then advance to the next level of the competition. At national level up to ten musicians compete.
The first Jew's harp found in Norway, is estimated to be about 800 years old. Bernhard Folkestad writes that in Norway Jew's harps had always been played and the instrument only vanished from the scene after World War II. In the 1990s musicians rediscovered the Jew's harp. Traditionally, it is melodies that are always played on the Jew's harp in Norway. In Norway dance and folk music songs are played on the Jew's harp and the feet are often used to tap out a clear and audible rhythm. According to Bernhard Folkestad, many melodies were adopted from other instruments such as the fiddle or or the langeleik (zither). The Sami, too, incorporated the Jew's harp into their cultural experience. Although it is not a traditional Sami musical instrument, the Jew's harp still received its own name, in Saami the Jew's harp is known as the "njálbmefiolaš", the mouth violin.
The next opportunity to experience the Norwegian Jew's harp scene will arise September 25th till 27th 2015 in Dovre. There will be workshops on instrument building for Jew's harps and flutes as well as courses in playing the Jew's harp and the langeleik. More information can be found on the website of the Norwegian Jew's harp forum munnharpe.no closer to the event.