Marranzano: Sicily’s Jaw Harp


This musical instrument is played throughout the world. It’s known as a jew’s harp, jaw harp, mouth harp, or in Sicily, as a marranzano or marranzanu. Marranzano is played using breath, one’s oral cavity (mouth, teeth, lips, jaw), and a finger to pluck the reed that sits within the frame. The reed, in this case, is made of a soft metal, but it can also be made of bamboo. The sound it makes is monophonic, and the pitch can be enhanced by overtones created by manipulating the shape of one’s mouth and throat and the amount of breath pushed through the reed. Its sound can be trance-inducing. In traditional Sicilian music, the marranzano is played for tarantella folk dances. 

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