Jew's Harps

This category is dedicated to the jaw harp. History and background info, new models, playing tips etc.
  • Goayandi - Jaw Harps in Natural Organic Trance Music

    2014-goayandi-boom-4 (Medium)

    Since the primary musical instrument we started with obviously was the jaw harp, DAN MOI is trying to support a few jaw harp musicians once in a while. In this article we would like to introduce one of those bands merging live played electronical trance music with archaic musical instruments like didgerdoos, drums and percussions, and last but not least jaw harps. This French band is called GOAYANDI and they call their musical style "Natural Organic Trance".

    We asked François from Goayandi to briefly tell us the story of Goayandi and his personal relationship to jaw harps:

    "Goayandi got created 10 years ago; we were a group of friends gathering in the forest to jam with drums, guitars, didgeridoos et jaws harp around the fire.

    I first played drums and naturally the jaw harp came to me while I discovered this instrument through people in France, India and other places…

    I was fascinated by its sound, by its ecstatic and hypnotic power and its similitude with trance and electronic music. Playing a jaw harp with a drum for me is the best combination to make/translate trance music.

    For me it also represents a good way to meditate or dance.

    I tried several types but my favourite is the “Dan Moi” jaw harp, because it’s easy to play and it can be played only putting it at the lips. You don’t need to use your teeth and damage them!

    Also, the wide range of sounds of this instrument can give a multitude of colors and a cosmic dimension to the music played.

    For me, the jaw harp is the best synthesizer, multi effect, or dj filter ever. This instrument has the most psychedelic sound on earth; you don’t need a machine to make techno music, just play it, naturally, organically…"

    Goayandi on Tour

    Goayandi will be on tour again this year. Check out their tour calendar (will be updated soon!) here:


  • Speaking Jew's harps – how one can encode languages with the Jew's harp.

    In the year 1964 the French ethnologist Jacques Lemoine spent a number of weeks in the Saiyabouri province in North-West Laos. He had a tape recorder with him and during his stay among the Hmong people he recorded music time and time again. The Hmong are a number of indigenous tribes, who live in the mountains of South China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. One afternoon the ethnologist turned on his microphone exactly at that moment when two people began to converse using their Jew's harps. This conversation has been documented in the online sound archive of the Parisian CREM (Centre for the Research of Ethnological Music) here:

    CREM - LEMOINE,JACQUES - DUO DE GUIMBARDE - 1. Januar 1964 - 31. Dezember 1964

    The Jew's harps played on Jacques Lemoine´s recording are not simultaneously played in a duet, but rather one after the other. The first Jew's harp player listens to the second and then answers him. They send messages and sentences to one another, they translate words on their instruments. In order to transfer the spoken word to the Jew's harp, they follow in their mind the word they might sing and automatically imitate the speech melody with the Jew's harp. The pitch of the Jew's harp is based on the eight tones of the so called Miao-languages spoken by the Hmong.

    Patrick Kersale - Music and Singing of the Hmong in Vietnam

    And with the khen mouth organ, too, the Hmong encode words and entire sentences. The musical ethnologist Patrick Kersalé writes in the accompanying sleeve notes text to the CD "Music and Singing of the Hmong in Vietnam", that it is a case of complicated encoding which only those privy to it can understand. The Khen musicians also usually dance to their music. These dances are important, for example, at events such as funeral ceremonies. By means of the music played on the khen at funerals, they show the deceased the way to the next life and at the same time ensure that he can no longer find the way back into the world of the living.

    Ncas - Dan Moi - Hmong Maultrommel

    The Hmong jew's harp ncas (the instrument known as Dan Moi) is used by boys and girls for courting purposes. Kersalé writes: „When all are asleep, the boy makes his way secretly at night to the girl's house. Discreetly, the boy goes to the wall of the house behind which the girl is sleeping. The walls of the Hmong houses are made of wood, with holes between the wood planks so that one can easily hear what is happening outside. The two start a conversation, whose words are partly simulated by use of the Jew's harp.

    From time to time, the music ethnologist Tran Quang Hai, who is of French and Vietnamese extraction, has shown that the transfer of the spoken word to the Jew's harp can also form a source of inspiration for musicians from beyond the Hmong communities. In the documentary film "Mundton" he shows how the words "Hello, how are you. I'm very pleased to play the Jew's harp for you“ can be clearly played on the Jew's harp. In this manner, moreover, it is possible to simulate the sound of a robot. In any case, you can have great fun trying it out.

  • Clemens from DAN MOI demonstrates more than 20 Jew's harps in the TV series "La ruta del trompe"

    In South America, the Jew's harp is called the "trompe". It was the bold idea of the Chilean architect, video artist and musician Nicolás Matzner Weisner to follow the Jew's harp on its way around the world. The result was eight 15-minute video episodes, the second series of which is already being aired on the Chilean TV station Canal 13 and which can be seen online at with English subtitles. It is rare to find such an unconventional and fascinating TV programme as "La ruta del Trompe". Clemens Voigt of DAN MOI was given the role of Jew's harp guru in the series.

    La ruta del trompe

    "La ruta del Trompe" goes in search of the origin of the Jew's harp. For this purpose Nicolás Matzner travels to various different cities and places all over the whole world: He begins in his grandmother's museum in Santiago de Chile, travels to Brüssels and Barcelona, to Sicily and Bali, Vietnam and China, and in Leipzig, too, he stops off in Taucha at the Ancient Trance Festival. Everywhere he goes, he meets male and female musicians. Playful, surprising, and immanently musical. Because Nicolás doesn't just speak and describes to the audience what he sees and experiences. Everything that he says is made up of rhymes, speech song and rhythm.

    Each series is a note on the scale and is given a colour: "Red: colour of colours. blood and fire." – in the fifth, red episode of "La ruta del Trompe" the path leads to Madrid to the fanzine scene there, accompanied by the pulse of the Jew's harp. Light blue, the tone Ton "Si" (B) travels through Sicily in search of the Marranzano. Episode eight deals with the"Jew's harp players' conference" (Encuentro de Tromperos) in Taucha near Leipzig. The film documents the 2014 Ancient Trance Festival and shows Franz Harrecker making a bamboo Jew's harp.

    By profession, Nicolás is actually an architect. His eye for the art of construction can be seen in his videos: domed roofs, house arrangements and open public spaces form the backdrop for the production. "For me architecture and music are one and the same thng", the Jew's harp world explorer says, "architecture divides and organizes space, music divides and organizes time." His passion for playing the Jew's harp was awakened by his grandmother's collection, who, as an ethnologist always brought back instruments from her travels. "Later then, when I began travelling myself, I always had a Jew's harp in my baggage", Nicolás recalls, "the reason one encounters Jew's harps all over the world is perhaps precisely because people simply throw the instruments into their bags and take them with them everywhere."

    Anyone who enjoys these virtuoso videos will not be able to stop watching them one after the other. The drawing power of the images with speech song and the Jew's harp stories is irresistible. On top of that, the end of each video by Clemens Voigt presents the audience an instrument belonging to the DAN MOI collection. In the second series of "La ruta de Trompe", he demonstrates more than 20 different Jew's harps from all over the world. Bien bacán! No lo pierdes!

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