Morchang (Jaw Harp) is a folk musical instrument used mainly in Rajasthan, South India and Sindh, Pakistan. Morchang is also known as Mukhchang, Jaw Harp, Jew’s harp, Mouth Harp. It is a member of family of musical instruments that is considered under ‘lamellophone’, which itself is categorized under ‘plucked idiophones’.
It weighs about 40 grams, length about 11 cm and width 4 cm approximately.
Its exact origin is not known however, some reference suggests that it has a history of more than 1500 years.
It is made of a metal ring just like the shape of ‘horseshoe’ containing two parallel forks. A metal tongue is present in the middle of forks. Its one end is fixed to the ring and the other end is free to vibrate. The metal tongue is bent at the free end in a plane perpendicular to the circular ring so that it can be struck and is made to vibrate. This bent part is called the trigger.
The basic pitch of the instrument can only be reduced, it cannot be increased. To lower the pitch, ‘beeswax’ may be applied or to increase the pitch it may be removed but this may damage the instrument.
Playing a Morchang
The morchang is placed on front teeth firmly in hands with slightly pouted lips. Movements of the hand produces the sound, usually the index finger. Pitch is changed by the movements of the tongue by making nasal sounds. This can be achieved when the syllable ‘Nga’ or a variant thereof, is sounded through the nose while air is pushed out or pulled in through the mouth. This aids the musing process and thus some players use it as a form of practicing pranayama. Speaking while playing the instrument gives it the effect of a light haunting echo.
Morchang By Shaheen Gul♬ original sound – Shaheen
The art of playing a Morchang
It is used by R D Burman and S D Burman, famous directors of India. It is reemerged in the twentieth century by playing it in a transformed style. Now a days Shaheen Gul from Sindh Pakistan is reviving the Morchang.
Players who used to play morchang are sometimes called Morsingists. Currently morsingists are Shaheen Gul, Varun Zinje (Morchangwala), Sundar N, Minjur M Yagnaraman, , Ortal Pelleg, Valentinas, Viaceslavas Bejjanki V Ravi Kiran and The Barmer Boys.