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The DAN MOI Jaw Harp Blog ♫

In our Blog we write about Jew´s Harps and other musical instruments, about ourselves and about events and artists connected with us or our instruments.

  • Jaw Harp Festivals – Calendar 2019

    1-2 February Parmupillifestival, EST
    10-12 May Gjovik Music Week, NO
    18 May La Fete de la Guimbarde, FR
    20-23 June Marranzano World Fest, I
    26-28 June North American Jaw Harp Festival, USA
    4-7 July Rudolstadt Festival, D
    19-21 July Le Reve de l´Aborigene, FR
    8-11 August Ancient Trance Festival, D
    23-25 August Krutushka Festival, RU
    20-22 September Norwegian Jew´s Harp Festival, NO
    28 December Global Vibes Festival, HU
    February 2020 World Mouth Harp Festival, INDIA
    August 2020 International Jew´s Harp Festival and Congress, CHINA (tbc)

    MAY 2019
    10-12 May Gjovik Music Week, NO
    18 May La Fete de la Guimbarde, FR

    Every year in May, the Norwegian jaw harp scene and lovers of international folklore music are on a pilgrimage to the Music Week in Gjovik. There, one can not only learn to forge a jaw harp and to play it. There are also seminars for the flute and the Langeleik as well as for dancing and singing. The gathering takes place from 10-12 May 2019 in Gjovik.

    On 18 May 2019 in France a one-day jaw harp festival, La fête de la Guimbarde is being hosted for the first time. Following the initiative of some lovers of the jaw harp and the local tourism association of Vertolaye (in Central France) a festival day with 6 artists such as Aron Szilágyi, Tikaille and Amaury le Barde performing is being organized. Also, there are workshops with diverse jaw harp smiths and workshops for jaw harp playing on the offer. Furthermore, Harm Linsen and Luc “Tchen” Yayer have signed up for public lectures.

    June 2019
    20-23 June Marranzano World Fest, I
    26-28 June North American Jaw Harp Festival, USA

    Marranzano, the Sicilian word for jaw harp, is the name giver of the local jaw harp festival. The Marranzano World Festival is regularly happening every July. The musician and music ethnologist Luca Recupero from Catania, who is known through the Band IPERcusSONICI, is the host and pro bono organizer of this happening. Luca tracks down the traces of the jaw harp in the history of Sicilia and attempts to revive the tradition around the pocket instrument. The 10th anniversary of the festival is going to be celebrated from 20 to 23 of June 2019 in Catania. Until now guests like Tran Quang Hai, Aron Szilágyi as well as other exicting Sicilian bands and musicians like Jacarànda, Matilde Politi, and Maura Guerrera registered.

    In North America we can also find a festival, i.e. the North American Jaw Harp Festival, that is hosted on a regular basis. In 2019, it will celebrate its 24th anniversary from 26-28 June in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The festival is being organized by a group of jaw harp fans that are spread over different places in the US. The festival features concerts, an open stage and workshops.

    JULY 2019
    4-7 July Rudolstadt Festival, D

    The white-haired folk fan of the first hour meets the 15 year old neo-hippie girl, the scholar for old music meets the neo jazz expert” writes the Weser Kurier, a German newspaper, about Germany’s biggest world music festival. The Rudolstadt Festival is also one of the most important festivals for folk and world music in Europe. Rudolstadt is blessed by thousands of festival visitors. More than 25,000 people per day come back year after year to enjoy the special flair and the choice of music. Almost 30 stages are spread over the whole town: in the park near the river Saale, at the marketplace, and in small courts of the inner city and last but not least high over the town on the castle Heidecksburg. In four days one can see on average more than 120 bands and artists from 40+ countries. One will seriously struggle to find such a musical and cultural concentration somewhere else. In 2019, the musical focus will be on Persian music as this year’s featured country is Iran. As always, the festival starts at the first Thursday in July, from 4-7 July 2019.

    AUGUST 2019
    8-11 August Ancient Trance Festival, D
    23-25 August Krutushka Festival, RU

    The Ancient Trance Festival (ATF) in the restless town of Taucha near Leipzig is known as an established name by world music and jaw harp fans. The ATF began 15 years ago as a small, compact concert moment for jaw harp music. Transcendental, hand-made live music, environmentally conscious partying and workshops that invite to join: the concept of the festival has been so successful that the weekend in August has found its regular spot in the festival calendar. The festival team works by the principles of Sociocracy – self-governed and in conscious harmony with the powers of nature and the festival organizers. That is why the ATF team regularly takes a well-deserved one year break as this event is organized during the free time of all members. This year marks the 10th anniversary. From 8 to 11 August more than a few jaw harp virtuosos will mingle with world music bands and solo artists in Taucha. So far, confirmed bookings are: Airtists, UUTAi and Vassvik.

    As always, the Krutushka Festival is a solid booking for the jaw harp festival agenda. It regularly happens in August in Russia and in particular reflects the world music scene in Russian-speaking countries. There, one can always spot the most excellent players.

    SEPTEMBER 2019
    20-22 September Norwegian Jew´s Harp Festival, NO

    In Norway, one can find one of the most vibrant jaw harp scenes in Europe. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another highlight of the European jaw harp calender is the Norwegian jaw harp festival. This year, it is being hosted from 20 to 22 September in Rauland in the province of Telemark that is located in the South of Norway. The invitation comes from the Norwegian Jew´s Harp Forum (Norsk Munnharpeforum), which was founded in 1998. Kudos to the forum as year by year they make numerous possibilities for the continuous exchange of knowledge around the topic Munnharpe happen. The 150+ members of the forum meet annually in September at the Norwegian Jaw Harp Festival. On top of concerts and workshops the jaw harp players are gathering to exchange playing techniques, tunes, jaw harps and news from the scene. The festival took place for the first time in 1995.

    FEBRUARY 2020 World Mouth Harp Festival

    In Southern Asia, the most important happening for jaw harp music is the World Mouth Harp Festival in Goa, India. Since 2013 it is being organized by musician and jaw harp specialist Neptune Chapotin. The festival is regularly happening in January and the next one is announced for 2020. One experiences exciting music from different regions of India as from South Indian Bangalore, the Northern provinces of Rajasthan and Gujarat, or from Assam. Not only jaw harp virtuosos, but also musicians with diverse Indian music instruments as well as beat box artists and didgeridoo players perform on stage.

    AUGUST 2020 International Jew´s Harp Festival and Congress, CHINA (tbc)

    The meeting of jaw harp players and scholars is a sequel to the last congress that happened in 2014 in Taucha. Back then, more than 30 international jaw harp specialists met for presentations, concerts, discussions and workshops in Taucha at the same time as the Ancient Trance Festival. Not only the conference, but also the challenge cup “Global center of the jaw harp” will be moving from Taucha to China. That’s why the hosting town of the conference will also receive the cup. By the way, the first meeting of its kind happened in the year of 1984 in Iowa City, USA.

    Single events

    The Austrian Jaw Harp Association regularly hosts concerts in Northern Austria, e.g. in Molln or at the castle Schloss Feldegg.

    We also would like to point you to the events of the Japanese Jaw Harp Society Nihon Koukin Kyoukai, located in Tokyo, which is basically organized by Leo Tadagawa.

  • Queen of the flutes: the bass flute Fujara

    During the opening celebrations of the cultural centre of the Slovakian town of Detva, which was conducted by the president of the parliament (and the later president) of Slovakia, Ivan Gašparovič, he gave a memorable present at the reception of his guests. He accepted the invitation of the host to play a piece on the Fujara that calls the very region its home. Without a moment of hesitation, Gašparovič began to play a piece on the bass flute that has the height of a man. No other gesture could have conveyed to the town of Detva that Gašparovič is connected to Slovakian culture. 

    Photo by Tibor Szabo.

    Detva is located at the bottom of a valley near the West Carpathians in Central Slovakia. Since the 1960’s, the small town is well-known as a centre of vivid Slovakian folklore. Detva is also the cradle of the shepherd’s flute Fujara. In the memory of the Slovakians, the Fujara has accompanied the concept of national sovereignty and independency for more than 300 years. With the founding of Slovakia in 1992, the Fujara became not only a cultural, but also a national symbol. Ivan Gašparovič himself was often giving one of these extravagant instruments as a gift to his state visitors. The Fujara can be seen in this field of tension between national roots, cultural adaptability, and modern adaption.

    It is the distinctive size, the form and the sound that make the Fujara something special among the European flutes: its sound is deep, smooth and organic. At the same time, it also sounds agile, strange and futuristic, which is due to the dazzling high overtones up to 4 octaves. The melodies originate by skillfully combining hand movements with overblowing the basic tones. That’s how those special sounds come to life. They roar, flow, gently scream, call out, and time and again find rest in murmuring sound colours.

    Instrument of Outlaws and Shepards

    Among the Slovakian Fujara masters there are names like Pavol Smutný, Tibor Kobliček, Juraj Kubinec and Dušan Holík. They know how to play the traditional way. The Fujara music is based on a handed-down repertoire of shepherd’s and bandit’s songs. Yes, bandits and thugs were also companions of the Fujara. As the history of Central Slovakia goes, they were supposedly living on the meadows and in the woods, practically close neighbours of the region’s shepherds. When shepherding the herd, the shepherds were playing various flutes. Two of them are well-known: the little Koncovka and the big Fujara. The Koncovka is sometimes called the little sister of the Fujara. Its size is approx. 50 cm and it does not have any grip holes. The tones are merely generated by overblowing and opening as well as closing of the lower opening of the flute. The bigger flute, the Fujara, was considered as the instrument of the herd leader and highest-ranking shepherd. The smaller Koncovka was rather played by his assistants. That is also one of the reasons the Fujara is being called the “queen of the Slovakian music instruments”.

    The above-mentioned close vicinity of shepherds and social outsiders is reflected in the portfolio of the Slovakian songs: those songs do not merely tell about the life with nature and an emphasis on humane and sincere interconnections. Those are also improvised pieces that reconstruct the flow of the river or the murmuring of the trees. The disenfranchised people that lived outside of the villages incorporated the call for justice and freedom against occupation and suppression into their songs. The robbers and the bandits of the 17th century are also the ones that are considered as fighting for Slovakian independency. Their most well-known representative was the robber Juraj Jánošík who today is regarded as a national hero.

    Fujara Playing Technique

    The handed-down songs for the Fujara combine instrumental play and singing. That’s why the Fujara players have been good singers, too. A performance usually begins with the signature motif, a signal that is called rozfuk. The whole range of tones is played from the highest until the lowest tone of the instrument. Traditionally, on the Fujara a 12-tone, Mixolydian scale is being played. After the opening tune rozfuk follows the first strophe, which is freely played with rich improvisations. Right after the Fujara player stops playing, he starts singing the strophe, to present the text to the listener. The master Ladislav Libica gives an example of such traditional performance in the recording of the tune “Kade idem, vsade trniem”, „Wherever I go, I tremble“: 

    The size of the Fujara is impressive. Its tube is up to 200 cm long. It is rarely shorter than 140 cm. The player holds the instrument vertically in front of the body. Due to its length, the Fujara is played with a mouthpiece that is connected to the body of the instrument and thus makes it easier to play. The blowing technique is similar to the one of the South American Moseño flute. That is why the Fujara (same as the Moseño) is relatively easy to play. Equally to the recorder the tone is generated by a so-called windway. The player blows air through the pipe and a tone emerges instantly. The challenge of playing the Fujara well lies in applying the correct grip and breathing technique.

    The Fujaras have three grip holes at the front and they are located at the lower third of the instrument. The player often needs to stretch his or her arms to reach the grip holes. The middle finger of the left hand covers the most upper grip hole. The right hand is being led to the lower tone holes. The thump of the right hand covers the middle grip hole and the middle finger the lower tone hole. In general, the Fujara does not have a grip hole for the thump at the back of the pipe. A video shows the fingers of the highly recognized Fujara master Dušan Holík at work:

    Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the origins of the Fujara. There is certainty that the making of those instruments can be dated back to the 17th and 18th century. Possibly, other music instruments of the art music sector played a role in its evolution. The bassoon and the Baroque bass recorder may have provided inspiration for making the Fujara. 

    The Fujara in the 21st Century

    Any Fujara is unique and something special. The instrument is still being hand-made. That is why every single one of them follows an individual aesthetic and tonal concept. Over the years, responding to demand the construction method was continuously adapted to the needs of the musicians. Today’s instruments meet the current needs as they are easily transportable, perfectly tuned and therefore combinable with other instruments. The distance of the grip holes, too, is slightly more convenient if compared to older instruments.

    The length of DAN MOI Fujaras are 150 cm or 170 cm and they are made of elder-wood. They have a splendid production quality, are well-tuned, and carefully treated to last for a long time. The flutes are tuned to the 4 basic tones A2, B(H)2, C#3 and D3 or G2, A2 B(H)2 and C3. The newly developed Fujara Integral, with which you can improvise wonderfully, can be played more intuitively. The range can be extended by many tones of the overtone series. When blowing the breathing air into the instrument with a varying intensity more tones of the overtone range can be produced by applying the “overblowing” technique. The Fujaras of DAN MOI are made by a Slovakian instrument maker who has his studio in Czechia. The Fujaras have a delicate ornament in the upper part of the flute. The surface of the flute is treated with linseed oil. They also bear a valve by which condensation water emerging during playing can be discharged.

    Today, there are more Fujara players than ever, not only in Slovakia, but also in other countries of Europe and the American continent. Meanwhile they are rarely shepherds, but work e.g. as doctors, teachers, electricians or lawyers. New compositions for the melancholic bass flute emerge, and more and more people become interested in the instrument. For many years, musicians from jazz or world music have discovered the Fujara and have been bringing her into play in various settings. Musicians as Marco Trochelmann, Bernhard Mikuskovics or Max Brumberg have made the Fujara popular beyond national borders. Nowadays, the Fujara with its touchingly deep and smooth sound is used for therapeutic purposes or for meditation.

    In Slovakia itself awareness for the Fujara has been significantly raised with the won independence in 1993. After the founding of the Folklore Festival and with instrument research in the 1960’s a first increase was already perceivable, in 1975 a Fujara competition for players and instrument makers followed. The latter can be seen as the starting point for the revival of the instrument and its repertoire. The Fujara has become known throughout Slovakia, though its traditional centre is still located in the region of Podpol’anie, Central Slovakia.

  • The acoustics of the jaw harp: Robert Vandré and the fascination of jaw harp physics

    Where is the connection between playing the jaw harp and speaking? Robert Vandré says one learns a lot about the jaw harp when dealing with the physiological and psychological speaking processes. There are similar patterns at work that generate the sound while speaking or playing the jaw harp, e.g. the movement of the tongue or the various resonant spaces in the area of the head. Robert Vandré is a hobby musician and for over 20 years a jaw harp acoustics specialist. Vandré is author of a jaw harp school and an authority for meticulous jaw harp acousticians as he examined and measured the instrument very thoroughly. Currently, there are only a few studies about acoustic parameters of the jaw harp. His website rvandre.de that is online since 2002 is one of the few sources that comprehensively analyse the sound properties of the jaw harp based on substantiated figures. That is why it is a treasure for instrument researchers and acousticians, but at the same time for jaw harp players that are seeking a better understanding about the functionality of the instrument. Helen from DAN MOI met Robert in 2017 at the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha, near Leipzig.

    Quote: http://rvandre.de/toene.html

    The mouth harp as natural scientific object

    I’ve been always very interested in the acoustic conditions of the mouth harp. I am a natural scientist, ecologist and am working as a soil scientist and a botanist. Music is my hobby. So I have a completely different approach to those instruments, if compared to other jaw harp players. Of course I am alsointerested in the feel and how jaw harp music is influencing the soul, butI alsolook closely at the different factors and want to know how the instruments work on a physical level. I am rather a technician who says: that is rhythm, that melody, that happens via the diaphragm, those are the fingers, that comes from breathing, that is articulation.

    Robert Vandré acoustically examined and measured the jaw harp and evaluated the data. He recorded the tones of a jaw harp and by support of a computer software he measured the frequency range of those tones. The range displays the overtones that resonate in a jaw harp tone (photo frequency). Since the year 2002 Robert Vandré is having a website called rvandre.de, where he documents and provides public access to this research. The graphs show what overtones are present in a sound to what degree, which helps to understand how a sound is physically built. The outcome of the research was astonishing, says Robert Vandré, “I was very surprised how regularly the pattern of the sound the tongue generates is”. Due to his measurements one can comprehend how the jaw harp works: each jaw harp has a basic tone and all other tones of the mouth harp are overtones of the basic tone that can be generated by specific movements of the mouth and throat area.

    "I discovered the jaw harp many years ago at a festival. There were jaw harps from Schwarz, Austria. So I bought one and played a little on it. At first I was thinking of Snoopy from the Peanuts. He is playing the jaw harp, for instance in the bus. So I tried around a bit and came to the point, where I could play melodies that others in my surroundings were able to guess. Then the instrument was lying around for years and I forgot about it until I went to the music fair in Frankfurt. That also was many years ago. There was a booth with Hungarian jaw harps from Szilágyi. I bought one and on the train ride back home it totally got me: It was really cool to play a good jaw harp and to try out things on it. And that really triggered my curiosity: how does a jaw harp work, what is the physical background? I started to try around, to think about it and read things, for example from linguistic scientists who describe how a tone is generated and formed in the vocal tract."

    Play the Jew's Harp Like a Virtuoso by Robert Vandré

     

    How choose your jaw harp

    The acoustic curiosity is not limited to a theoretical level. Robert Vandré developed his own technique on how he improves mouth harps that do not sound as well. “I love to play the jaw harps of Josef Jofen who unfortunately does not make any more as he retired. I also like to play on Schlütter’s and Szilágyi’s jaw harps as they both are very good. If one does not sound so well I take pincers and shorten the end of the tongue that one strikes with the fingers. The tone pitch isn’t right anymore, but I don’t care. These are my best jaw harps today.

    To find a good instrument is for beginners already very important. But how does one find a good beginner’s instrument? “If there is the opportunity at a jaw harp booth it is a definitely a good idea to try out a couple of them.”, Robert suggests. “It is important to choose an instrument with a soft tongue, so that the tongue of the instrument does not vibrate with too much energy at the teeth. The jaw harp still should have a good sound.” For Robert the secret of a well-sounding and well-playable jaw harp lies in the length of the bended part of the tongue. As described above, it should be short, so the counteracting vibration is not too strong. Then the instrument can produce a beautiful sound.

    Quote: http://rvandre.de/spieltechnik.html

    To play with body control

    Like most jaw harp players, Robert is an autodidact, but eventually he has passed on his knowledge to others. To give beginners a better start he compiled his knowledge in a course that is also published as a book. Every now and then, Robert Vandré also conducts workshops for jaw harp beginners and advanced players.

    What keeps me going with the jaw harp is that the sound reaches the inside and it really gives pleasure. It’s just so nice to play. I also enjoy playing the jaw harp in body control, i.e. controlling my breath as Aron Szilágyi demonstrates in a beautiful manner. Controlled rhythms, controlled pieces, chorales, folk songs, so really playing music on the jaw harp and not only sounds. That is what I am interested in. I’d like to make some proper music with it. As I discovered the jaw harp for myself it was virtually non-present in public space as far as I remember. Merely the sound of the coil spring as a sound effect showed up here and there.

    Apart from that there was the jingle of the German kid’s programme “Sesamstraße”, but there the jaw harp plays only 2 tones in the rhythm. The jaw harp as a melodic instrument did not seem to be present at all. As far as I see it, there is almost no living jaw harp tradition in Germany, apart perhaps towards the Alpine area, around Molln in Austria. There, playing the jaw harp was completely re-invented. Here in Germany, the world music scene has brought the jaw harp back to life, more precisely the people dealing with spirituality, who gain access to the jaw harp via the feeling.

    In 2007 he has seen really good jaw harp players for the first time at the Ancient Trance Festival that back then was hosted in Leipzig, says Robert Vandré. “To watch the good players live was my motivation to keep on dealing with jaw harps.

    Robert Vandré playing "Abendspaziergang":

     

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