The Jew’s Harp@’Oreng’

A jew’s harp is also known as a jaw harp or a mouth harp and it was said to be one of the oldest musical instrument in the world. In the Penan community, the jew’s harp is known as Oreng. In the old days, ‘oreng’ usually played during their leisure time and nowadays, not many knows how play it and even worst, not many knows how to make one.

It is indeed a dying culture. 🙁

I considered myself lucky as I get to see the making of the ‘oreng’ with my own eye during my stay at Ba Data Bila and Mr. Nelson was really co-operative in showing me the steps of making an ‘oreng’. An ‘oreng’ is made from the stem of a sago tree branches. It is nicely craved with a sharp knife to form the required size and length.

shaping the shape of an 'oreng' is in progess by mr. nelson

For an ‘oreng’ to produce sound, you need to crave a reed in the middle of the stem. It can be adjusted by sharpen or smoothen the reed from time to time as when it is required.

that's the reed im talking about

a close up look of the reed making

the jew's harp - penan version

To play an ‘oreng’, it has to be placed at your mouth. One has to placed the reed at the mouth and plucked the end of the ‘oreng’ with your finger to produce a note. The ‘oreng’ is held firmly against your parted front teeth using the jaw and mouth as a resonator which will increase the volume of the ‘oreng’.  One has to ensure part of the fleshy part of your mouth should not come into contact with the reed to prevent damping the vibrations.

For a melody to be heard, one has to changed the shape of your mouth and control the amount of air in it as the volume of the note can be varied by breathing in and out. It’s not an easy job there and it takes time to master the skill. 😉

mrs nelson is playing the 'oreng' - a special request by the team for our video shooting footage

Among the Dusun community at Sabah, ‘oreng’ is known as ‘Bungkau’. Wonder what does it known as among other native community in other part of the world?
Do you know?
Do share it with me. 🙂

ps-if you ever wonder how does a jew’s harp sounds like? john lennon of the beatles plays a jew’s harp on the song ‘the fool on the hill’,  so go goggle for it. 😉

pss-to me, the ‘oreng’ sounds better than the modern jew’s harp. 🙂

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