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International Jew’s Harp Festival 1998: Über die TeilnehmerInnen aus aller Welt und über die Geschichte der Maultrommel in verschiedenen Ländern (English)

About the Participants from all over the Worldand about the history of the Jew’s Harp in different countries!

The following article introduces the main represantitives of the international Jew’s Harp traditions. More than 10 years have passed since the Legendary Festival took place in Molln, Upper Austria. New talented artists on the mouth-harp have come up and should be mentioned in further resumes, Amsterdam 2006 has taken place – the article though gives a first fine impression of how diverted jew’s harp culture has been – and still is.



The history of the Jew’s harp in America began with the frontiers and traders who took Jew’s harps from England, France, and Austria with them to use it as barter objects in trading with the native American population. From the 17th century onwards Jew’s harps have been also produced in America. The Americans used the instrument primarily in folk and country music. When Western movies and ads used its “boing” as a special effect the Jew’s harp became widely familiar.

Today there are several famous musicians in the USA who use the Jew’s harp professionally in various forms from country to art music.

The First International Jew’s Harp Congress took place in Iowa City in 1984.

Since 1992 the ”North American Jew’s Harp Festival” has been organised in Sumpter Valley/Oregon. The organiser is the Jew’s Harp Guild, an association of the American Jew’s harp players.

Fred Crane

Lives in the State of Iowa, musicologist and editor of the Jew’s harp magazine ”VIM”, is regarded world-wide as the main expert on all questions related to the Jew’s harp.

Gordon Frazier

Born in 1958 in Idaho, grew up in a large, very musical family. At the age of 11 he taught himself to play the Jew’s harp. Plays Blues, Old-Time, Rock ’n’ Roll and improvises on the Jew’s harp.

Since 1988 he has been earning his living in Seattle by playing the Jew’s harp.

Bill Gohring

Born in 1945. He began to play the Jew’s harp in his childhood. When he is not engaged in building blockhouses he takes the stage or holds workshops on the Jew’s harp. Since 1991 he has worked as one of the few Jew’s harp producers in America. He is also the initiator and co-organiser of the North American Jew’s Harp Festival in Sumpter Valley.

Wayne Hankin

Comes from New York, composer and Jew’s harp virtuoso. He composed solo pieces for the Jew’s harp in which he has used the technique of the ”talking Jew’s harp”.

Etude #3 in A: ”The Alien” (1990): This song contains a dialogue between an alien in a space ship and his mother station. The mother station asks questions about the activities of mankind on earth. The following words are integrated in the song:

Hello. How are you today?
Radio, calling from planet earth.
Do you hear me?
Yes, we do hear you.
Oh goody, goody gumdrops.
That’s what they say in the USA.
OK, report, tell us what earthlings do?
They sing Jingle Bells.
Interesting. Now tell us, what other things do earthlings do?
They watch television.
Yes, TV. Guns, guns, shoot, shoot.
Interesting. Television, guns, guns, shoot, shoot.
Yes, and Jingle Bells.
Interesting. Very good. OK, OK that’s all for today.
See you later alligator.
OK, g’doy (that’s Australian).
That’s what they say in the USA.

Larry Hanks

Born in the Northwest. Folk singer, guitarist, Jew’s harp player.

Since the 1950s he has concerned himself with folk music. During the early 60s he began to play the Jew’s harp. He toured through all parts of North America and played at numerous Folk festivals and in Folk clubs. Later he also had gigs in Europe.

David Holt

Musician, entertainer and story-teller. Winner of the Grammy Award. He studied Biology and Arts in California. Later he moved to the Southeastern mountains in Carolina where he searched for old Folk songs and traditional music. In 1981 he started his steeply rising career as a solo musician and story-teller. The Jew’s harp is included in each of his programs.

Mike Seeger

Born in 1933, grew up in a family of famous musicians. He inherited folk music from his musical parents. Already in his youth he collected and noted down folk songs and worked as a musician. Beside the Jew’s harp he also introduces many other Folk instruments in his program.



Here Jew’s harp tradition extends as far back as the late Middle Ages. Nowadays, the Jew’s harp is called ”Trümpi”. It is used as a folk instrument. However, there is no Jew’s harp production in Switzerland.

Painter, poet, and musician. He is one of the most active and innovative Jew’s harp players and researchers of our time. He developed the first electro-magnetic Jew’s harp by the name of ”E.T.” (Electric Trümpi). With his humour and inventiveness he enriches the canon of pure folk music.



During the last years the small pocket instruments like the Schwegelpfeife, the Okarina, the harmonica, and also the „Maultrummel” experienced a strong impetus in Folk music.

Hans Jocher

Comes from Brixen, Folk musician and most famous Jew’s harp player in the regional folk music scene. He is the only South Tyrolean musician who uses the Jew’s harp on stage and has concerned himself primarily with the so-called ”pocket instruments”. His partner Michael Ramoner plays the Landsmannstrommel.



In Bavaria the Mayr brothers initiated a renaissance of the Jew’s harp in Alpine Folk music during the 1970s.

In the 19th century Justinius Kerner and Wilhelm Ludwig Schmidt (both physicians and poets of the Romantic Swabian circle of poets) used the Jew’s harp for therapeutic purposes.

Recently Regina Plate and Rudolf Henning established themselves as authors of standard literature on the Jew’s harp.

”Mittenwalder Maultrommler”

They are important representatives of the typical Austro-Bavarian playing technique. In the Bavarian Folk music the Jew’s harp is often accompanied by string instruments.

Alfred Hüttlinger

Sculptor and stone-mason. He and his sons play their own pieces using a very fine playing technique. The songs are arranged for two Jew’s harps and a guitar.

Günther Arnold and Anneliese Brandstätter

The amateur musician G. Arnold is a master in playing the Jew’s harp in a tuneful way. He and A. Brandstätter (harp) play Alpine folk music and favor interpretation of classical pieces like, for example, dances of Mozart.



Since the Middle Ages Austria has held a top rank in the European history of the Jew’s harp as a centre of manufacturing as well as performing. In the Alps young men used the Jew’s harp to attract the girls in a musical and erotic way when they wanted to climb up to their bedrooms. In the middle of the 18th century Father Bruno Glatzl of Melk Abbey fascinated his contemporaries playing the Jew’s harp. One of his pupils, the later composer Johann Albrechtsberger, created the first classical compositions for Jew’s harp. During the 19th century the Tyrolean Franz Paula Koch played in front of the political and artistic high society of Europe.

”Mollner Maultrommler”

In Molln there is one of the biggest and most famous historic places of Jew’s harp production in the world. However, only since 1992 when Manfred Russmann founded the Mollner Maultrommler have they started their own Jew’s harp playing tradition, which is represented today by the Jew’s harp ensemble of the Molln Musical School.

Manfred Russmann’s repertoire includes Folk music as well as free improvisations. The harmony of Russmann’s Jew’s harp and of his brother’s tuba is typical for Molln’s Jew’s harp playing style.



Alexander Horsch and Aron Szilágyi

Alexander Horsch was born in Berlin. Now he lives in Budapest and is an expert on shamanist music and culture.

Aron Szilágyi is the son of the Jew’s harp blacksmith Zoltán Szilágyi who is highly esteemed by many European Jew’s harp players. Aron plays the Hungarian Jew’s harp which is called ”doromb” and Alexander blows the Fujara.



Jerzy Andruszko

In Poland he is well known for his ”drumla” solo playing. He popularised the Jew’s harp in Poland, and is a life-long improvisor.



Phons Bakx and Enno Meijers

The musician and investigator of ethnocultures Phons Bakx is the only Jew’s harp professional in the Netherlands. In 1992 he published a book on the Jew’s harp ”The Thought Dispeller”. Enno Meijers is Phons Bakx’s student. In the presented pieces Phons Bakx works with the atmospheres that are created by the harmony of differently tuned Jew’s harps.

Kendall Rownd

Born in the USA, is living in Amsterdam. He is a Jew’s harp smith and an improviser who is most interested in the sound relation between the Jew’s harp and the synthesizer.



The only Scandinavian country with a continuous tradition of Jew’s harp playing and production. The centre of the ”munnharpe” (= mouth harp) can be found in some of the southern valleys. Since 1994 there has been a Jew’s harp festival in Fagernes every year. There is a close relation to the Norwegian Folk dances. Therefore, the players support the rhythm by stamping with their feet.

Ånon Egeland

Music teacher and researcher. Organiser of the Norwegian Jew’s harp festival.

Svein Westad

Musician and president of the Norwegian Jew’s Harp Association.

Folke Nesland and Asgeir Öybekk

Jew’s harp smiths. For the Norwegian Jew’s harp it is characteristic that the tongue is stuck like a wedge into the pierced frame of the instrument.



Since the Middle Ages there has been a tradition of playing the ”Munniharppu” in Finland. In the 20th century the interest in the Jew’s harp decreased. However, since the end of the 1960s a renaissance of the Jew’s harp can be noticed. The Jew’s harp is often used at weddings together with the fiddle.

”Tapani Varis Ensemble”

The professional musician Tapani Varis who studied wind instruments at the Sibelius Musical Academy is the founder and chairman of this young ensemble.

The student Piia Kleemola plays the fiddle and the yohikko, a kind of bowed harp.

Marja Pettinen studies musicology at the university of Helsinki and plays the flute and the munniharppu.

Teemu Korpipää, who is a student of the Sibelius Musical Academy, is the sound technician of the ensemble and thus mainly responsible for the celestial scope of the sound.



Among all the Turkic peoples of the former Soviet Union the Jew’s harp has a very long tradition. Today’s Mongolia is regarded as the cultural centre of the Turkic people and as one of the places of origin of the Jew’s harp. Traditionally only women used to play the instrument.

During the Stalinist era shamanism and the playing of the Jew’s harp, which are closely related among some Turkic peoples, were prohibited and suppressed. Nevertheless, the older generation was still able to pass on the tradition of the Jew’s harp playing to their grandchildren when the revival of the ethnic cultures began during the 1970s.

Among the Turkic peoples of the former Soviet Union the Kyrgyz, the Uzbek, the Turkmenian, and the Kazakh people play the Jew’s harp. On the territory of the Russian Federation the Jew’s harp plays an important role in Bashkortostan, in Khakassia, in the Altai, in Tuva, and in Sakha-Yakutia, all regions that are dominated by Turkic peoples.

Robert Zagretdinov

Learned to play the ”kubyz” from his mother who played a Jew’s harp made of wood. For many years Zagretdinov worked as a shepherd in the small village in which he grew up and so he started to imitate the sound of nature on the kubyz.

The imitation of animals and nature is typical for his playing style. After his musical studies in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, he has been working as an accordion teacher for 25 years. He founded the department for kubyz at the Musical Institute in Ufa. In 1991 he developed an electronic kubyz. Zagretdinov is regarded as an international master of the Jew’s harp.

Rayap Vadutov

Professional accordionist and soloist at the State Philharmonic of Bashkortostan. He also works as a music therapist.



The republics of Altai and Tuva are regarded as the centres of overtone singing and shamanism. Many Jew’s harp players from these regions are therefore the connecting link between playing the Jew’s harp and overtone singing and the conjuring up of a ”mystical” atmosphere.

Bolot Bairyshev

As the 10th of 17 children of a farmer’s family Bolot grew up in the Altai mountains.

He was taught to play the Jew’s harp by his grandmother who used to play by the fire in the evening and by his uncle who was a famous ”khomus”-player. In 1992 his international career began when he won in the competition ”The Voice of Asia”. Later he played with Joe Zawinul and with various musicians from Jamaica and the USA. After some painful experiences with the Western market economy he has been working as an independent musician since 1994.



Sakha-Yakutia is one of the world’s main centres of Jew’s harp playing and production. In Yakutia, the ”khomus” was the instrument traditionally used by women to express their feelings.

The revival of the khomus in the 1970s was mainly due to the enthusiasm of Ivan Alexeyev.

In Yakutian Jew’s harp music the main emphasis is not placed on the melody, but on the imitation of individual feelings, characteristic moods and Nature’s sounds as well as on lyrics of the so-called ”talking Jew’s harp”.

Many of the best Jew’s harp smith are relatives of shamans. The Jew’s harps of the smiths Gogolev, Burtsev, Innokenty, and Mikhailov are regarded as some of the best Jew’s harps in the world. In Yakutsk, the capital of Sakha-Yakutia, there is the world’s first Jew’s harp museum. In 1991 the Second International Jew’s harp Festival took place in this city.

Ivan Alexeyev

Founder and leader of the ensemble ”Algys”, teacher of Yakutia’s best native Jew’s harp players, president of the Yakutian Khomus Association and an untiring promoter of international research on the Jew’s harp and its revival.

Spiridon Shishigin

Headmaster and teacher of mathematics in Pokrovsk. A musical development from a technical brilliant show to a subtle expression of feelings. He is also working as a music therapist together with a colleague. Shishigin belongs to the best Jew’s harp players in the world.

Marfa Badaeva

The 76-year old Mrs. Badaeva was the oldest participant of the Festival. She comes from Vilyuisk where the most traditional Jew’s harp playing technique has been cultivated, which is characterised by constant rhythms and the ”talking Jew’s harp”.

Kim Borisov

The 16 year old Kim was the youngest participant of the Festival. He got a scholarshop for extraordinarily talented students by the Yakutian president.



Since the 1980s revival of the Jew’s harp, which is called ”shan-kobys”.

Yedil Khusainov

Studied at the musical conservatory, lives as a composer in Almaty.



In Kyrgyzstan the Jew’s harp is called ”temir-khomus”, the name of the accompanying string instrument is ”khomus”.

Rimma Madvarova

Music teacher, founder and leader of the ensemble ”Keremet”. In 1983 Mrs. Madvarova developed a method of notation for the Jew’s harp. In 1971 she played the temir-khomus at the 24th Party Conference of the CPSU in front of Brezhnev, Ulbricht, and Castro. According to Mrs. Madvarova the party leaders wondered about the origin of the celestial sound of the Jew’s harp just as Goethe, Humboldt, and Jean Paul had wondered when they became witnesses of the Jew’s harp renaissance in Europe during the 19th century.

Dinara Kadyrkulova

Music teacher for temir-khomus and khomus in Bishkek.

Ainura Arystanova

Studies English language and economy at the university of Bishkek. Like Dinara she is a student of Rimma Madvarova.



In Japan Jew’s harp music is common among the women of the Ainu, the indigenous population. The Ainu live in a reservation on the island of Hokkaido. Their Jew’s harp is called ”mukkuri”. It is made of bamboo and belongs to the group of Jew’s harps with a frame.

Leo Tadagawa

One of the main Jew’s harp experts in the world. Editor of the Jew’s harp magazine ”Koukin Journal”. Married to the Yakutian Nadya.

The ”Mukkuri” Ensemble

The Ainu often combine their Jew’s harp music with dancing and singing. The ”Harvest Festival Song” on the present CD is played by Shigiko Teshi, Emiko Isojima, Midori Toko, Saki Toyama, and Eiko Yamamoto.

Shigiko Teshi

The song was composed by Shigiko Teshi during her stay in Yakutia. The influence of Yakutian overtone music can be heard.



Trân Quang Hai

Professor at the Institute of Ethnomusic in Paris. Scientist and musician. Founder and member of many Rock, Jazz, and Avant-garde bands. Expert on overtone music. Trân Quang Hai developed his own Jew’s harp which fulfils his needs for a high-energy Jew’s harp playing style.



The music of the local Jew’s harp called ”morsing” is mainly cultivated in Southern India. It is characterised by its percussive style.

Ramesh Shotam

Born in Madras. Ramesh Shotam studied at the Karnataka College of Percussion. He co-operated with musicians like Charlie Mariano, Carla Bley, Steve Coleman, and Markus Stockhausen. He works as a composer, musician, and teacher.

Tobias Ott

Comes from Bavaria. Tobias Ott is a member of the band ”Shruti Box”. He is the owner of the label ”Bandaloop” which is specialises in the production of percussive music.

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