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Here you can read exciting articles about some of the protagonists of the jaw harp and ethnic music world.
  • A life with the Jew's harp: Neptune Chapotin and his market stall in Goa, India

    Neptune Chapotin plays Moorsing at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

    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.

    Neptune held his first Jew's harp 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

    Since 2009 Neptune Chapotin 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.
    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.

    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.

  • Utae Ehara: The Mukkuri Jaw Harp of the Ainu people as a mean to establishing contact

    Utae Ehara plays Mukkuri

    The name Utae in Japanese is composed of the characters "song" and "poem". The Mukkuri Jaw Harp player Utae Ehara now lives in Tokyo. However, her family history is closely entangled with the island of Hokkaido and the culture of the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan. Nowadays, not all Ainu people in Japan speak openly and freely about their origins. Many people are trying to deny their cultural history or hide it completely. Seven years ago, Utae started to deal with her cultural background. Music and dance have given her the possibility to access to the Ainu culture and to identity herself as an Ainu.

    Although music, singing and dance did not play a particularly important role in her family, Utae´s mother was the one who kept the memories and traditions of the Ainu alive. Her father once said to her, "I am proud to have a daughter who can say out loud that she is a member of the Ainu people and strives to carry on the culture of the Ainu." When her father died, Utae suddenly realized that it was up to her, together with her mother to preserve the cultural heritage of her family. After many years of it not being important to Utae where she came from, she became aware that her origins were important to her. When she was in her mid-twenties, she began to search for her history and the history of the Ainu. The Mukkuri, she says, was the medium that paved her entry into the Ainu culture. Many young people today, says Utae, want to know more about culture. Music and dance can open important doors in the search for one's own identity.

    As a child Utae often saw people who played Mukkuri Jaw Harps. But she did not see herself as part of the indigenous culture of Japan. Today the Mukkuri makes her understand: "I am Ainu." From the women in the "Ainu Culture Center" in Tokyo she learned how to play the Mukkuri. Nearly all women there play Mukkuri, it is less important to be able to play an instrument that is relatively difficult to play perfectly. It is far more important to share and pass on the knowledge of improvisation and the feeling when playing Mukkuri. "First of all I came in contact with the Ainu culture via the Mukkuri. Then the instrument became a tool for me to establish contact and to exchange information with other people. It's hard to play the Mukkuri, so I asked people who could play it already, young people and old. They taught me how to play the Mukkuri."

    "The Mukkuri has become interesting to me because you can produce very diverse sounds with this simple piece of bamboo. As a musician, who performs with the instrument on stage, I try now to tonally reflect my own very subjective emotions and experiences. The Mukkuri also become a tool for me to tell others about me." Utae hopes that she can link her entire life with the Ainu culture. Under the name "Hapo ne tay" - in the language of the Ainu it means something along the lines of "the mother's forest" - she organized an exhibition project in recent years. Bearing this name, a forest exhibition took place in a woodland near the city of Obihiro in the southeast of Hokkaido, where the Ainu's artistic works were displayed. The exhibition took place within a framework of workshops and concerts around the Ainu culture. Today Utae Ehara designs "Hapo ne tay" T-shirts, that recreate Ainu designs.

  • "The Jew's harp can make the world a better place."- The Marranzano specialist Luca Recupero

    Luca Recupero - Jew's Harp PlayerLuca Recupero works as a musician, concert organizer and workshop leader for Sicilian Marranzano jew's harps. As organiser of the Marranzano World Festivals in Catania he started a reflection process on the cultural heritage of the Marranzano in Sicily. In his role as musical ethnologist he began to search during the past 10 years for the roots of the Jew's harp music in Sicily. Today he is seen as central player in the network and an ambassador of the jew's harp tradition in Sicily.

    "My musical roots lie in Rock and Blues and in the experimental music scene. I didn't learn to play the Sicilian Jew's harp, the Marranzano, in Sicily but rather did so in Amsterdam in 1996 during my Erasmus studies. I got to know the Swiss musician Antenna Tony Monorail and played a lot of music with him. It was strange, the further away from Sicily I went the more I discovered about the musical traditions of Sicily." Luca Recupero, a trained E bass player, learned little by little how to play a variety of musical instruments from a different cultures including, among others, Indian music, learned how to play the Tabla and immersed himself in the Gamelan music of Indonesia. In the year 2000 he did a Master in music ethnology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. "These musical excursions into other cultures raised a desire in me to return to Sicily and to search for the musical roots of the local Marranzano music. Today I am located between the worlds, between the traditional and the experimental elements in music." says the Sicilian, born in 1973.

    "I believe the Marranzano is an instrument to connect worlds, planets, and galaxies with each other. The Jew's harp creates a resonance in your entire body. Along with the voice the Jew's harp is the only instrument, where the musician is the actual source of the vibration and the vibrating element." That is particular to the Jew's harp, that its sound can bring people in contact with themselves and with the universe. Luca confirms, "I think that the Jew's harp has the ability to make the world a better place."

    For more than ten years, Luca Recupero has devoted his energies to making the population of Sicily again aware of the Marranzano and to re-establish this tradition as a valuable part of Sicilian culture. In Catania he organizes Marranzano workshops, concerts with Jew´s harp virtuosos like Leo Tadagawa and Tran Quang Hai, and the Marranzano World Festival (MWF). The MWF is completely dedicated to the Marrazano, the local and global styles of playing it. Since 2005 the festival takes place in Catania every two years and by now attracts Jew's harp fans from all over the world. "Through the Marranzano, people get to experience their own culture and at the same time also learn about different other cultures. The Jew's harp comes from the past but equally follows a course to the future, this is what makes the instrument fascinating in my view. It is almost a sacred intersection between worlds."

    Ipercussonici 2008 in Tokyo, Japan Ipercussonici 2008 in Tokyo, Japan

    Besides, Luca Recupero remains an active musician, amongst others in the formation "Ipercussonici". The band was founded under his leadership in Catania in 2002 . From a musical point of view, the music of Fela Kuti and of Rosa Balisteri meet at Ipercussonici - Ipercussonici moves between completely different musical traditions, yet they always return to the music of Sicily and set out to develop a music of the future through this balancing act. Their style ranges from Blues, Reggae and Rock but is also influenced by modern music developments such as rap and electronic music. So far the group has published two albums: Tutti pari (2008) and Carapace (2013). Both albums may be considered as a manifesto against racism, for peace and for cultural diversity.

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