About dariasblogs

Multicultural children’s performer DARIA has spent the last two decades performing in the US and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children. Along with five national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website (www.dariamusic.com) was given a 2009 Parent’s Choice Award and offers many great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.

“Gong Xi! Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

In 2014, Chinese New Year celebrations begin on January 31st and we welcome in the Year of the Horse.  We’re republished this popular post by writer and teacher, Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett, who shares her New Year experiences, memories, photos and songs with us. 

“Gong Xi!  Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

The fragrance of Mom’s special stew and the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” fills the kitchen just before Chinese New Year arrives. That’s the first memory that floods into my mind each time someone asks me about the Chinese New Year celebration. In my opinion it’s the best of all Chinese festivals and has been my favorite since I was a little girl.

Growing up with Chinese New Year
Links of sausage, strips of bacon, and cured fish hung to dry on bamboo rods (back then the equivalent of clothes lines in the West) in almost every yard. We would run around with friends from one yard to another to check out how soon these goodies would be ready to eat. The smell of all the cured meat was another one of the indicators to me that Chinese New Year was just around the corner. Vendors with all kinds of Chinese New Year decorations, such as large gold-nugget-shaped candy containers, cut-paper artwork, and spring scrolls with lucky words are everywhere in the open market and in the stores. For a small fee professional calligraphers will even write your spring scrolls for you with their big Chinese calligraphy brushes. Big and small rolls of firecrackers are being sold and traditional Chinese New Year music fills the air of the open market as you walk through the crowd.

The Fifteen Days of the Chinese New Year Celebration:

Preparations kick off – The preparations for Chinese New Year start on the 23rd day of the last month on the Chinese lunar calendar. On this day, the tradition is to send the “kitchen god” (the protector of the family and the most important of Chinese domestic gods in Chinese mythology) back to the sky to report to the Jade Emperor (the supreme ruler of all heaven and earth) about how the family has been doing the whole year. The portrait of the kitchen god is posted on the wall in the kitchen. Families might spread melted sweets on the mouth of the kitchen god’s picture so that he would go and say only sweet and good things about the family.

Out with the Old and In with the New – The next few days see a major cleaning of the house. All clutter should be removed, the house dusted from ceiling to floor and the bedding in each room thoroughly washed. “Chu jiu bu xin” (remove the old and decorate the new) is the concept behind this major clean up. We are also welcoming the new year by posting lucky, red paper spring scrolls on the front door. Phrases or words like “xin nian kaui le” (Happy New Year); “gong xi fa cai” (congratulations and prosperity) and “ fu” (good fortune) and “chun” (spring) can be been seen on doors everywhere.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve Family Feast – Chinese New Year’s eve dinner marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration. This is a family reunion feast bringing together grandparents, or even great grandparents, down to newborn babies. It is a celebration of the togetherness of the family. It is very important to have the Chinese New Year’s eve dinner with the family. People make every effort to be back in their hometown as soon as the festival holidays begin. For those who cannot make it for the dinner because of work or being overseas, parents will prepare a seat and set up everything for him or her to represent the reunion of every member of the family.

My mother always prepares ten dishes for the New Year Eve’s dinner and every dish is a special treat. Fish is a must-have dish. The word for fish in Mandarin Chinese is “yu” and it has the same sound as the Chinese word for “remaining” or “surplus.“ We never finish the fish dish because we want to save one big piece of the fish to symbolize a surplus of wealth and all things good in the new year. The Chinese New Year saying that goes with this practice is “nian nian you yu” – “every year (we) have leftover/surplus (wealth).”

Red Envelopes – Hong bao – 紅包
After the family meal, it is time to say lucky words to grandparents and parents and it is time for the Red Envelope. In my family we use the traditional Chinese style, we kneel down in front of Mom and Dad, and bow to say auspicious phrases like:
Xīn nián kuài lè     新年快樂        Happy New Year
Shēn tǐ jiàn kāng    身體健康         Good health
Wàn shì rú yì         萬事如意         May everything go as you wish
Gong xǐ fā cái         恭喜發財         Congratulations and prosperity
Then Mom and Dad give each of us a red envelope with cash in it. Instead of spending the cash right away the tradition is to put the red envelope under your pillow and so that it will keep you young and healthy. When the children are grown up and independent then it becomes their turn to give red envelopes to their parents. I remember how proud I was when I gave my parents red envelopes when I first started working.

Taboos
For the first few days of the new year, some families do not use knives or scissors in order to lessen the risk for cuts and accidents, which would signify bad luck for the year. Some families do not sweep the floor to avoid symbolically sweeping away their wealth. If something is broken like a glass or a bowl you will hear people immediately say “sui sui ping an”, which means every year is safe and peaceful.  Why?  It is a play on words, as the Chinese word for “broken” has the same sound of the word “year”. The rule of the thumb during this time is to say good and sweet things in order to bring on a good and sweet year.

Firecracker Fun
On the New Year’s Eve families stay up late to enjoy family time and catch up with the visiting brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The most exciting time of the evening for me was when we set off firecrackers. There are all kinds of firecrackers, some spin, some fly, some hop, some shoot high and some have beautiful showers of sparks with a huge explosion at the end. We play hard and stay up past midnight. The tradition of staying up late on New Year’s Eve is good luck and is said to give parents long life!  At midnight we set off the long strings of firecrackers to welcome in the new year!

The 15th day of the Chinese New Year – Lantern Festival
Lantern festival marks the completion and the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.  On this day, children carry lanterns around in the park or in the neighborhood. When I was a little girl my brother and other neighborhood boys would help me make a lantern out of a tin milk can. We used nail and hammer to poke holes on the bottom of the tin can and then placed a candle inside. An iron wire will be attached to the top to make a handle and then a wooden stick will be attached to the wire to carry the lantern. The older boys would use bamboo sticks to make torches. As soon as it got dark, you would see the torches and lanterns everywhere. Now, we don’t see torches or tin lanterns anymore. Instead, you see beautifully designed paper lanterns with battery-operated lights for children. It is always a fascinating scene when you walk in the park and see hundreds of children carrying their flashing lanterns around.

Music
Music is an important part of the Chinese New Year just like Christmas carols are an important part of that celebration in the West. We hear traditional New Year’s tunes on the radio, on TV, on the street, in the stores and in the markets. The one you will hear over and over again is the “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” song. It is a fun and easy one. Below is a short version of it for you in pinyin along with the English translation. You can listen to it here. I hope you enjoy it.

Měi tiáo dà jiē xiǎo xiàng (Every big street little alley)
Měi gè rén de zuǐ lǐ (In everyone’s mouth)
Jiàn miàn dì yī jù huà (The first sentence (we) say when (we) see each other)
Jiù shì gong xǐ gong xǐ (Must be” “Congratulations! Congratulations!”)
Gōng xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ ya, (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)
Gong xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Celebrating away from “home”
Now I am far and away from Taiwan where I grew up. What I always do when the Chinese New Year is approaching is call my Mom and ask her what she is doing She tells me she is preparing the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” and that she has started the stew. I tell her that I can smell it already. She chuckles and replies “How is that possible?” Then my Dad takes over and tells me it indeed smells incredible and that he will mail the dish to me by international express carrier to ensure its freshness. We all end up laughing about the idea and sharing the great memories we have for the festival. This is what I love the most about the Chinese New Year – the celebration of the family!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Have a fantastic year of the snake!

About The Author – Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett (whose Chinese last name literally means “bear”) is the mother of two young bilingual children and the author of the “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!” audio CD, a Chinese learning series for young children. She homeschools her children in Mandarin Chinese and is a native Mandarin Chinese speaker who is passionate about teaching and learning – and having fun while doing both!  For more information about “Miss Panda” visit her at on the web at misspandachinese.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Feliz Navidad… and a Merry Christmas, Puerto Rican Style!

Puerto rico bongosGenerations of music fans have learned to say Merry Christmas in Spanish from this popular holiday song.  Written by Jose Feliciano, a singer, songwriter and virtuoso guitarist from Puerto Rico, this happy little song is perfect for teaching easy phrases in Spanish or for just adding to your family’s soundtrack of Christmas fun.

The lyrics are simple.  The first verse is in Spanish:

Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,
Feliz Navidad, Prospero año y felicidad . . .
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,
Feliz Navidad, Prospero año y felicidad . . .

And the second verse is in English:

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart

And, although “Feliz Navidad” is loved all around the world, you can use the song to learn more about music and holiday traditions from other lands, such as Puerto Rico.

guiro iconDid you know that there are musical groups that go door to door serenading during six weeks of Christmas festivities in Puerto Rico?  Called “parrandas”, “asaltos” or “trullas”, these music groups go from home to home and play bright, upbeat songs, with the same instruments you hear in the version of Feliz Navidad below – guitars, bongo drums and a percussion instrument called a guiro.

Music is important all aspects of the extended holiday celebration in Puerto Rico and the Christmas tree is decorated to symbolize the musical groups as well as the Magi or Three Kings.  For many, the Christmas season begins after Thanksgiving and ends in early January.  During that time you may often get a visit from a band of musicians who will celebrate the season with you and stop to eat and drink at your house as they travel on their way.

Want to learn more about Christmas in Puerto Rico?  Check out the great links below.  Or have fun with your own version of the holiday, wherever you are.  Color a festive guitar.  Make your own guiro!

Or wish someone you love a “Feliz Navidad!”

Links And Activities

Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions from El Boricua

http://www.elboricua.com/traditions.html

Folklore and Christmas Traditions From “Welcome To Puerto Rico”

http://www.topuertorico.org/culture/folklore.shtml

guitar coloring pageGuitar Coloring Page

http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Guitar%20Coloring%20Page.pdf

Hear a Guiro

http://www.dariamusic.com/guiro.php

Color A Guiro Online

http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Guiro.php

Make Your Own Guiro from Recycled Materials

http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Guiro.php

Feliz Navidad Lyric Sheet Print Out

http://www.dariamusic.com/feliznavidad.php

DARIA’s Feliz Navidad on I tunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/celebrate-season-multicultural/id344193347

DARIA’s Feliz Navidad Amazon mp3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00302IO26/ref=dm_dp_trk2

Bead Your Own African Shekere

traditional-shekeres-from-around-the-world- A shekere (or sekere) is a beautiful and unique instrument originating in West Africa that appears in various shapes, sizes and forms throughout the continent of Africa.  Made from a simple dried gourd with a beaded “skirt”, shekeres are a great addition to any environment where children are learning about music or world cultures.

mini shekere for storeIf you’re finding it hard to locate or purchase a shekere for your classroom, home or homeschool, you might consider making your own.  Other then the dried gourd, the additional materials are easy to find and the beading process is “easy to moderate” for beginning crafters.  In fact, since the stringing and beading is the part of the process that generates the most questions and confusion, we’ve partnered with Carrie P. from a wonderful blog called Crafty Moms Share to develop a step-by-step tutorial for making your own dried gourd shekere.  (Complete gourd tutorial and other related shekere posts can be found at the links below).

beads for shekere kitsBeads, Seeds, Nuts or Seashells

Along with beads, almost any small, roundish, rattling object can be used as the noise-makers on a shekere.  If you take a close look at the shekeres pictured above, you’ll notice beads as well as seeds woven into the netting.  In Africa, some shekeres also use seashells or hard seeds or nuts with holes drilled though them as part of their unique design.

Add Some String

The skirt of a shekere is created from a type of string or twine that is durable and will not break or stretch.  Since cotton twine will stretch, nylon or hemp is a better choice for creating a working shekere.  Because the top circle or collar of the netting holds all the other strings in place, some craftspeople pick a thicker string for this or braid the twine for a more durable start to the project.

shekere skirt no beadsAnd Some Knots!

With your collar in place around the gourds neck, you are ready to add the strings.

Cut a number of strings (enough to fit around the gourd) approximately 30 inches long.  Fold each string in half and make a slip knot with it around the collar.  To make a slip knot, put the folded string under the collar with the fold on top and then bring the ends through the loop of the fold and collar and tighten.

Once you have all the strings you desire in place you will tie a loop knot to secure each location. A loop knot is where you make a “6” with your strings and bring the end through the loop of it. This is the type of knot we will be using for the rest of the project.

starting to beadAdd The Beads

Here are Carrie’s great suggestions for getting the hang of adding beads to the skirt:

Adding the beads is where you creativity really comes into play.

You can do many different things with the beads. Some put a bead on each string, others put two strings through a bead. Some put a single bead between knots and others go up to three beads before knotting. The important thing is to work with a string from two different knots.

Once you have your bead(s) in place, tie a loose loop knot. I re-started many of mine because I did not like how the first round looked and found they lay better with looser knots.  Do an entire round before starting the next.

Once you have one round complete, start the next.  Stay consistent with however you’ve started with beads and knots, but again you want to use strings from different knots. This will bring the beads in the first round closer together. Continue doing a round at a time until you have the skirt you want.

finishing the bottomFinish The Instrument!

Here are Carrie’s two descriptions for two methods of finishing the skirt and completing the shekere:

Method 1: The first is to have another loop similar to the collar (braided if you used braided) and the same size. Then you tie your ends to the loop so it hangs loosely below the gourd.

Method 2: If your gourd is small you can take an 8-inch string and tie the ends together. This is easier to do with another person holding your shekere for you to tie them together.

colorful kids shekere beadedMaking Music!

If you take a look at the resources below you’ll find many wonderful ways to check out the sound of traditional shekeres or explore music with the ones you’ve created.

Enjoy!

Complete Tutorials

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Make-Your-Own-Shekere-African-Percussion-Instrument-Tutorial-992550

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/collections/34585-all-products/products/4084121-make-your-own-shekere-african-instrument-tutorial

tall-and-thin-sekere--PMLinks and Resources

Hear A Shekere

http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a Shekere Online

http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Carries Crafty Moms Share Blog
craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/‎

Sekere.com – Beaded Sekeres from Master Craftswoman, Sara Fabunmi

http://www.sekere.com

Cultural Value of the Shekere, Article By Sara Fabunmi

http://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-cultural-value-of-the-sekere/

Make a Classroom Shekere (From A Gourd)

http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/easy-gourd-shekere-for-a-child-or-a-classroom/

Make a Recycled Shekere (From A Milk Jug)

http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php

An Alphabet Shekere Game

http://www.trueaimeducation.com/2012/10/guest-post-learning-letters-with-an-alphabet-shekere.html

The Pacay Shaker – A Rattle That Grows On A Tree

pacay shaker on redMany musical instruments are made from natural materials.

A few actually are the raw materials and can be played as instruments in their natural form.  For instance, the pacay shaker is the seed pod of a large, beautiful tree that also creates the pacay fruit and bean – both foods used by Central and South American people dating back to Incan times!

So, what is a pacay tree?  When fully grown, it can tower up to 60 feet and produces long seed pods – some over a foot in length.  The ripe, bright green fruit are picked and eaten in two ways.  The white fiber between the seeds is eaten as the fruit and the seeds are used in much the same way as any bean.  A website called Phoenix Tropicals has lots of great growing tips about this warm climate tree for anyone interested in growing it outside of it’s native Central or South America.

pacay fruit - ripeWhat does the fruit of the pacay taste like?  It’s sometimes called the ”ice cream bean” and people describe the fiber as “sweet” and “refreshing”. The seeds are also eaten. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and served like a bean or other vegetable.  In Mexico, the seeds are roasted and sold as snacks or treats.  And – obviously – if the seed pods are left to dry, the beans dry inside the pod and create the shaking and rattling sound that turns this from a food into a musical instrument.

Pacay Shaker in Josef's HandHow do you play a pacay shaker?  Rattle it back and forth up and down, start slowly and build a crescendo.  Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.  Or just sit back and admire it as a work of art of nature – one more of it’s beautiful and useful creations.

Links

Wkipedia Page Containing Historic Information on the Pacay Tree

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inga_feuilleei

Phoenix Tropicals – Growing Tips and Good General Information on Pacay Trees

http://www.phoenixtropicals.com/pacay.html

Green Pacay Fruit Picture (above) used by permission from Phoenix Tropical

 

Music, Culture, Prizes and More at the Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop!

Although it isn’t exclusively about music, the blog hop listed by Multicultural Kid Blogs Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop has some incredible resources, great activities and fantastic prizes perfect for all ages and interests.

Discover new activities, songs, books, crafts and foods that educators and parents are sharing to celebrate this month marking the contributions of Hispanic cultures to the world.

http://multiculturalkidblogs.com/2013/09/15/hispanic-heritage-month-blog-hop/

2013 National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 – October 15th!

National Hispanic Heritage Month was created in the USA under President Lyndon Johnson as a way to recognize contributions of Latin-American and Hispanic peoples to our country’s heritage.  In Washington D.C., it is celebrated by a series of presentations, exhibits and activities but a variety of free resources are available at the government site that are used widely across the country and throughout the year.

The starting date for this month (September 15th) is a bit unusual and many people wonder why it begins in the middle of a month.  The dates of September 15th to October 15th were chosen because they reflects a time period when eight Latin American countries declared their independence.  Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Niceragua declared their independence on September 15th.  September 16th, 18th and the 21st  mark the dates when Mexico, Chile, and Belize did so as well.

Participating in this month of education and celebration are the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

For a complete listing of resources, events and activities, including a section on teaching Hispanic heritage, visit the official website at the link below.  For a series of musical crafts and activities that originate in Hispanic culture as well as two musical instrument give-aways, visit DARIA’s world music for children site below.

Official Site – Hispanic Heritage Month

http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov

Hispanic Music, Musical Instruments and Crafts

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

The “I Have A Dream” Song Shares MLK’s Message With Kids

MLK is one of my heroes.

Not only did he do the right thing.  But he did the right thing, under the toughest of circumstances and in the right way.  He overcame hatred with the transforming power of love.  He stared down ignorance with  understanding.   And he fought not only for a portion of the population, but for well-being of the entire world, demonstrating his concept of the beloved community.  To me, that’s incredibly inspirational.

But how do you share these huge ideas and big concepts with little ears and young listeners?  As a musician, I felt moved to write a song and try to put some of these concepts into the lyrics.   I hoped the song would be a singable way to talk about MLK’s dream as well as a good place to start conversations about these big ideas and what they might mean to our classrooms, families and communities as we move into a new era.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the landmark “I Have A Dream Speech”,  we’ve offered the song as a free download as well as coloring pages that share powerful quotes from many of MLK’s inspirational speeches.

We hope that people use and enjoy these resources as they not only look back at this historic event – but dare to look forward and continue to dream!

The direct link to the download is:  http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php.

You can also find DARIA’s free MLK coloring pages at TeachersPayTeachers site here:

Coloring Page With One Quote For Younger Children

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/MLK-Rainbow-Coloring-Page-for-Younger-Children-475121

Coloring Page With Many Quotes For Older Children

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/MLK-Rainbow-And-Popular-Quotes-Coloring-Page-for-Older-Children-475123

For more information, visit my site or contact me at daria at makemusicwithme dot com.  I’d love to hear from you!

I  HAVE A DREAM

Words and music by  Daria A. Marmaluk-Hajioannou

There’s a man I think you’ve heard of

His name is Martin Luther King

He wanted a world of peace and love

He said “I have a dream”

Chorus:  I have a dream, I have a dream

I’ve been to the mountaintop and I’ve seen…And, I have a dream

 

He said: “I know that this is possible

I know that this can be

If each one can learn to live with love

Then we can all be free”

 

If you share this vision

You know it’s not a difficult thing

We can build a world of peace and love

And we can all be queens and “kings”

 

 

African Roots of the Banjo

Most people associate the banjo with bluegrass music or with the culture of the rural South of the United States.  But if you dig a bit deeper, it appears that the banjo has African roots.  In fact, most scholars and music historians trace the banjo back to amazing, creative “banjo ancestors” found in various regions of Africa.

If you’d like to learn more about the cross-cultural travels of the banjo, check out the resources below.

           

NPR Reconsiders The Roots of The Banjo

In a short podcast, NPR’s Greg Allen tells to story of Gambian musician, Laemouahuma Daniel Jatta and his banjo-like akonting.  The akonting has three strings, a long neck as a fretboard and a main sounding area made from a gourd stretched with goatskin.  Jatta, who learned the instrument from his father, belong to the Jola people and the similarities of this instrument to modern American banjos are explored in this short audio podcast with great photos and a striking Youtube video.

The Banjo’s Roots Reconsidered

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139880625/the-banjos-roots-reconsidered

Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart

Acclaimed US banjo player, Bela Fleck was so intrigued with the banjo’s roots that he took a trip to Africa to make his own comparisons.  The result was a documentary called “Throw Down Your Heart” which follows Bela’s journey and offers interviews with African master musicians as well as plenty of jam sessions between instruments.  The short excerpt below gives you a taste of this cross-cultural banjo experience.

African “Banjo” Music and Bluegrass

Want to compare African “banjo” music and bluegrass?  Here’s Banjo Bloggers list of top 10 songs that can illustrate bluegrass banjo music.  Checking out these tunes can show you some striking similarities and differences between the musical styles of both continents.

http://banjoblogger.com/?p=125

 

It’s A Caxixi!

caxixis 4 lying downCaxixi (pronounced ka-shee-shee) rattles are beautifully woven, small, hand percussion instruments that can be found in Africa and South America.  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.  Modern caxixis can have plastic or metal bottoms as well.  The rest of the rattle is a woven “basket” that holds small items which create the sound when it is shaken. The basket area is made of pliable fiber and can be one color or beautiful patterns of colors woven together.  Some caxixis have two baskets attached to one handle.

Although this instrument may look quite simple, a caxixi rattle can make a wide variety of sounds.  You can shake the contents against the softer side of the woven rattle for one sound or against the harder bottom part for another tone.  Skilled percussionists can create some really intricate rhythms with caxixis and they are often used by singers in West Africa when performing with a drum group.  In Brazil, the caxixi is often seen creating the percussion sound for a unique stringed instrument called a birembau.

On modern jazz recordings, you can frequently hear the caxixi played by Brazilian percussionist, vocalist and berimbau player, Naná Vasconcelos.

Make Your Own Caxixi

If you are up for some serious crafting, a Brazilian site called Soul Capoeira shows you how to make real caxixis from fiber and gourds at the post below.  If you’d like to try an easier version from recycled materials – a great project for kids – check out the post from Tiny Tapping Toes, below.

During the month of August 2013, you can win a caxixi rattle in an easy Rafflecopter contest here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Links

Soul Capoeira’s Make Your Own Caxixi Post – From Reeds or Rattan and Gourd Shells

http://soulcapoeira.org/music/how-to-make-a-caxixi/

Make Your Own Caxixi From Recycled Materials

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-woven-caxixi-rattle/

Boing, Boing, Boing…It’s a Jaw Harp!

Although the jaw harp is a rather simple-looking instrument, it has quite a long and interesting history dating back at least the 4th century BC where it appears as a musical instrument in a Chinese drawing.  It can be found throughout Asia and in various cultures around the world and has a host of different names including mouth harp, Ozark harp, juice harp, Jew’s harp, jew’s harp, trump, drymba, doromb, khomus, kubyz and quote a few more that vary according to the culture and type of music where it is being played.

Check out the wide variety of jaw harps seen here from the home page of the Jew’s Harp Guild website (used by permission).

Is the jaw harp related to Jewish culture since it is sometimes called a jew’s harp?  Most historians think the phrase “jew’s harp” is a mispronounciation of one of its popular names as it is not found within Jewish folk music or Semetic cultures at all.  It is; however, frequently used in ritual practice and shamanic music.  The droning sound of the instrument can create a trance-like state and is widely used in regions of Asia in this manner.

PLAYING A JAW HARP

A jaw harp consists of two parts.  There’s a frame held inside the mouth and a “tongue” piece that is plucked outside the mouth by the musician’s finger.  Although this might sound easy, there are many techniques used in playing the instrument and some require a good deal of practice to master.

Here’s a few hints that can help the new jaw harp player:

When putting the harp in your mouth the upper and lower lips should rest on the top and bottom of the frame, the front teeth must be slightly apart.

Try plucking the harp by pushing or pulling.  While the “tongue piece” is in motion, silently pronounce “A-E-I-O-U”. This shows you how to create different sounds by changing the size of your mouth cavity.

Breathing in different ways and moving your tongue slightly also changes the sounds created by the jaw harp.  Experimenting with this will allow you to find different ways to create your own music on this unique instrument.

What does a jaw harp sound like?   Check out these three very different examples of jaw harp music from Mongolia, India and Hungary.  

THREE AWESOME JAW HARP VIDEOS

Mongolian shaman playing jaw harp

Mongolian Shaman Playing Jaw Harp from Lauren Knapp on Vimeo.

Jaw harp in India

harp-guy

Woman Musician at Hungarian jaw harp festival

RESOURCES

The photo of an assortment of jaw harps seen above is used by permission from the Jew’s Harp Guild who also publish an excellent step-by-step player’s guide as well as tips for advanced players.  Check out their resource-rich site here:

www.jewsharpguild.org/