Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Mountain Echo: Jew's Harps around the World

Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Mountain Echo: Jew's Harps around the World

Article excerpt

Mountain Echo: Jew's Harps around the World. 2006. PAN Glossary Series, 6. PAN Records PAN 1206. Annotated by Bernard Kleikamp and Tran Quang Hai. 19 pp. of notes in English. 15 colour, 2 b/w photographs. 1 compact disc, 41 tracks (74:21).

The jew's harp is often regarded as a toy that produces funny sounds. Ethnomusicologists know better, of course, but for those who do not fully understand what the instrument can do in the hands of capable musicians and in a context of predominantly indigenous beliefs and customs, this CD offers a good introduction. Over half of the forty-one tracks are published for the first time.

The examples cover well-known centres of jew's harp playing, such as Siberia and Southeast Asia, with some of the best pieces hailing from Yunnan (China) and Norway; other important areas (the Alps and Taiwan) are omitted. Lesser-known outposts are also covered, with rare examples from Papua New Guinea (Tekin Valley) made in the 1960s and one from Venezuela. The levels of musicianship and of recording vary but are generally more than sufficient. The coverage of instrument types, musical genres, and solo-ensemble combinations is extensive.

Two pages of excellent introductory notes by Tran Quang Hai give a concise summary of the current state of jew's harp research: typology and functions, geographical distribution in pre-colonial times (Europe, Asia, Oceania) and (post-) colonial times (Americas, Africa, Australia), and a useful timeline of historical facts and key figures in jew's harp playing during recent decades. …

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