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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.

  • A Mouth Harp in a Bronson Movie

    Seeing a jaw harp in a movie is a rare moment: In the first scene of his film "You Cant Win 'Em All" (1970) Charles Bronson is passing some time by playing a jaw harp. Sound-wise, it’s not too fancy. That’s a bit of a shame as in the movie “Once Upon a Time in the West” Bronson makes an appearance as a harmonica playing gunslinger, and with the huge success of this Western there is hardly someone who doesn’t know the melody of the “Man with the Harmonica”. Would be nice, to see a jaw harp in an equal famous spot.

    Bronson’s brief appearance with a jaw harp is occasion enough for us to commemorate the silent Hollywood hero. On 3rd November Charles Bronson would have been 96 years old.

    No wind for sailing: in it´s first appearance Bronson plays his mouth harp quite bored, trying to kill time (00:30 min). Bronson takes up the jaw harp a second time, content with his latest business (03:34 min).

  • Dmitry Babayev talks about his secrets of making an excellent Jaw Harp

    It is the artistic approach that currently makes the jaw harps of Dmitry Babayev the most excellent and conspicuous instruments in the Russian-speaking world. Furthermore, the jaw harps leave his workshop in an immaculate state. In 2016, Dmitry won the jaw harp making competition. He sees his success in a serene manner connected with firm convictions. We spoke with him about the aesthetic side of making jaw harps and his personal access to those instruments.

    How did you get involved with making Jew’s harps? Has this something to do with your profession, or a family tradition? Do you have a musical background?

    Once I just started to play a harp, I loved to sit and look far ahead. And I decided to change that. I decided to make my own harp, one that is louder and more powerful. After I finished the first one I found it was good enough, so I made one more. And somehow the ball started to roll.
    Initially, I had no musical background, but later on I got musical education.

    How does a cautious instrument with a fragile sound like the Jew’s harp fit into today’s world? I saw some pictures you published on the internet connected to your harps. They convey a vintage atmosphere of old machines, nature, associations of loneliness and peace, immersed in a world that has nothing to do with the fast digital lanes of work and communication many people are running on every day.

    I represent the world with my instruments. I don’t think that the world with a lot of people running around is real. I think this world is just a moment, a particular reality. The jaw harp is an ancient instrument. I think that the history of the modern world is shorter than the history of the jaw harp. I feel that the jaw harp reflects reality much better. Despite that it is fragile, this instrument had a strong appearance in human history. It has had such an impact, that even now we cannot see its full influence on the world and the music.

    Are you following any metaphysical aspects in the conception of Jew’s harps? After all the Jew’s harp has often been described as an instrument, that is able to communicate between this world and another world (whatever we think of, when we say another world).

    I don’t see any mystic aspect in the conception of mouth harps; and it´s not my objective. Some people perceive as something strange or metaphysical what is just natural for me. In fact, jaw harps strike a connection between this and another world. But for me that other world is a world of culture (not in a traditional sense of culture). In that world the jaw harp was made. I’m skeptical about esotericism.

    What inspires you to shape the unique forms and designs of your Jew’s harps?

    Nature and the legacy of the ancient world, which by now are inseparable.

    How would you describe your aesthetic approach? I see so many beautiful pictures and settings with the Jew’s harps on your internet platform – it appears to me like a whole artistic concept.

    For me, to some extent harps are pictures. I make my instruments as though they are not just handcrafted products. I relate to harps as I’m an artist. Nowadays jaw harps for me are like a focus (in the optical meaning) of the vision of beauty; like I’m a mirror for the world around me.

    Can you tell us a little bit about your idea of the perfect Jew’s harp sound? I realized that your instruments have a very solid, sonorous, and buzzing sound. Very rich, actually. If you can tell us, what is the secret mixture of elements in the constructions of your Jew’s harps, so that the sound turns out to be really good?

    Regarding ideal sound: I absolutely avoid thinking about the ideal sound. At the moment I’d conclude I achieved gaining the ideal sound, I’d stop making harps.
    Secondly, understanding the essence of the instrument is the secret of a good sound. But there are two key aspects, if we are talking about material things. One is the skill to work with metal and the other is the skill to apply the right geometry.

    Could you tell me about your perception of the Jew’s harp in Russia? Which status does the instrument have in Russia? Can you observe a development of a community and if so, how would you describe it?

    I´m not interested in this question very much. I only can say that there are a lot of different folks and cultures in Russia that have known harps since ancient times. Attitudes and perceptions of a jaw harp in these cultures are absolutely different. Therefore the status of a jaw harp is different. It is hard to compare the Khomus from Yakutia and the Russian jaw harp. I only can say that the Russian jaw harp has been forgotten until recently. Now, thanks to many people (I cannot fail to mention Vladimir Markov) this instrument is having a comeback. Some images of archeological findings were published and some masters now make copies. Many try to re-establish the old Russian style of playing and understanding how it sounded. This is something unique to the Russian jaw harp as opposed to a modern jaw harp culture, where people just play the way they want. But I don’t know much about that.

    Where do you see the potential of the Jew’s harp (looking at the next years to come)? One could think that it is very brave and maybe risky to dedicate one’s work and life to making Jew’s harps only.

    This instrument gains popularity among people. Moreover, the Russian jaw harp still isn’t very well known. It was forgotten and not remembered for some time. This struck a gap in Russian musical culture and it’s the reason why I think it has potential. At least, more and more people are interested in jaw harps.
    I personally think that it is risky to work for people you absolutely don’t know. I’ve had this experience in my life and I didn’t like it. I can’t say I only make harps. I also make knifes, axes, and I want to study design. I´m interested in many things, which are not associated with the production of harps.

    This interview was made possible with the translation help of Daria Chernega.

  • Relaxation and movement: Francois Cesari and his music stories for children

    I enjoy the fact that I can open up the infinite world of sounds to a new generation”, states Francois Cesari in an email to us. Since 2015 DAN MOI supports the French jaw harp player and percussionist who was part of the trance music band Goayandi for a long time. His new band project is called Watt The Foxxx. When Francois is passionately talking about a new generation, it’s children aged between 6 months and 6 years that he has in mind. For the last 2 years he’s been regularly sharing sound experiences with them. On this mission, too, the instruments from DAN MOI are involved.

    Francois Cesari with a group of children making a pair of cymbals sound.

    In my music educational work I connect music with imagination. Together with the kids, I make up stories. But we not only talk, the animals and plants make sounds, too, and thereby come to live. If it’s about a turtle, I play the Handpan drum. Then the turtle meets other animals, which are all symbolised by sounds, such as frogs and birds.” The mood and the ideas of the kids play a central role in his approach. Eventually, the kids should be motivated to grab a music instrument themselves, or at least develop a stronger awareness of music and sound.

    Naturally, sound and movement are not disconnected. Francois’ method aims on stimulating the motor skills of the children and animating them to move and dance. Finding tranquility via sounds is equally important. “The babies are virtually hypnotised by the instruments. When they listen to the mouth harp, kalimba, wind chimes, or bells they become quite and relaxed. With the 2 year old kids or older you can do more things. For instance, I use bells, bird voices, Shaker, and Vibraslap. Each sound is assigned to a character and a certain motoric movement in the story.

    A DAN MOI Mouth Harp played by Francois with his former band Goayandi.

    When Francois is visiting a nursery with his program, he is getting maximum attention. The mix of listening, moving, and speaking helps the children to focus. Francois uses the instruments of DAN MOI for many of the exercises. He says, it is really a beautiful thing to see how sensible the children react to the auxiliary percussion and percussion instruments. “Your instruments are inspiring the kids to experience a vast variety of emotional moments: Sometimes, I use the jaw harp like a robot. Then they laugh. The thunder drum is making them awake and they are a little scared as well. They are surprised by the bird voices and they love dancing with the drums and percussions the most.

    The french percussionist Francois Cesari playing a live concert.

    A stimulating and active early musical education is what Francois Cesari desires. He made a lot of good experiences with that approach and he even considers putting it down on paper, so that other people can use it, too. Francois’ lessons are not only well remembered by the children. The teachers and parents are inspired by the playful way of dealing with music, too. They carry on doing some of the exercises with the kids themselves.

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