• A few jaw harp impression from the EXPO 2015 in Milano, Italy

    Our friend and jaw harp ambassador, multi-instrumentalist Gabriele Albanese has been at the EXPO 2015 in Milano. He sent us two video clips with a some musical impressions:

    Gabriele teaches how to play the jaw harp
    A Vietnamese folk band performs on traditional intruments including the Dan Moi jaw harp
  • 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.

  • Fair trade is part of the DAN MOI concept

    DAN MOI and Fair Trade

    DAN MOI is an interface for musical instruments and primarily for Jew's harps from various parts of the world. Musicians from numerous countries around the world rely on our range of wind, percussion, and auxiliary percussion instruments. For many of our instruments are not mass products, that is they do not originate from large-scale industrial production, but rather we obtain them through direct contact with the manufacturers. Since the foundation of DAN MOI a little more than 15 years ago, this direct contact to the producers and their home region has been a core concept.

    The foundations for DAN MOI were set at the first meeting with Jew's harps producers in the mountains of North Vietnam. At that time we took on the adventurous journey to the Hmong minority of Vietnam because it was completely impossible to buy one of their fabulous Jew's harps in Europe. Today, just as we have done since the beginning, we still get many of our instruments such as wood instruments directly from the families who make them. For many years we have maintained close contacts with numerous manufacturers. We stay in touch with the manufacturers by means of reguar visits to the local area.

    Three criteria are particularly important to us when assessing how fairly the instruments were produced: the sourcing of raw materials, the surface treatment and the working conditions at the production stage. The materials for our instruments are selected according to ecological criteria: we use no rare wood or other endangered raw materials but rather materials which reliably grow again. Our producers use no chemicals when treating the surfaces of the instruments. (Read more on Fair Trade in the Wikipedia)

    Certificate of Effective Support of Traditional Craft Production in Thuon Tin District, Vietnam Certificate of Effective Support of Traditional Craft Production in Thuon Tin District, Vietnam

    Our instruments, for instance, are manufactured in the workshop of a family business in Vietnam. By giving this workshop a long-term contract, new permanent jobs were created in a rural area. We purchase the finished instruments at higher prices than they would normally achieve on the Vietnamese market. This results in good wages and thereby promotes the well-being of the craftsmen concerned.

    As far back as the year 2006, the regional authorities in Thuong Tin in Vietnam certified us as a company that  "effectively supports traditional crafts". F.A.I.R.E., the regional organisation for fair trade, has also recognized us as a fair trade partner.

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