Guimbarde en bambou.
Guimbarde en bambou © Christophe Bourreau.

Playing the bamboo jaw harp

The jaw harp is one of the oldest instruments in the world. Small in size, it produces a sound thanks to the vibration of a tongue that resonates in the musician’s mouth. Placed between the teeth when it is made of metal (West) or lips when it is made of bamboo (Asia), it enables to work on the breathing and resonances of the body.

After a trip to Cambodia in 2017, I brought back some bamboo jaw harps bought from an old man in front of a temple in Angkhor. I learned to play it little by little as I struggled to finish writing my thesis in Cluj Napoca in 2018. Today, the bamboo jaw harp has become an object of my daily life. It’s also with two bamboo jaw harps that I have created the music for the show C’est bon. E ok. Rendben. This is just a story.

During winter 2018/19, I asked a friend to bring me some bamboo jaw harps from Phnom Penh, to share this instrument with those who want to discover it with me. In 2019, I then started to facilitate two hour workshops (at Fabrica de Pensule in Cluj Napoca, at Teatru 3G in Târgu-Mureș, RO) for people willing to explore the different possibilities of this instrument through breath, rhythm, voice, etc. Participants can keep get their own jaw harp to keep on working on it after the workshop. No special experience is required, just the desire to give it a try!

Next workshops: info to come. If you are interested in this instrument, if you want to participate or organize a wokshop, contact me.