tronpaThe Basque mouth harp looks very much like an ancient key. It is a sort of metal ring that does not close fully and has two prongs extending from either side. Between the prongs is a steel tongue which vibrates when plucked.

This universal instrument is known in the Basque Country as "trompa" (trump), "musugitarra" or "musumusika".

It appears that this small simple instrument was very commonly played in Euskal Herria up until the end of the nineteenth century. In the early 20th century there were still some tronpa players in Gipuzkoa and the Duranguesado region of Bizkaia.

Padre Donostia (1952) provides us with some details:"The people from the Duranguesado region were known as the "tronperriko" (trump-town folk), since that was where trumps were made and commonly played as well. Trumps were sold in shops in Durango circa 1890-1895, and apparently around 1906-1910 they were still being played, and quite well at that."

It seems that in the early part of the nineteenth century a dance known as the "tronpa dantza" (trump dance), named after the trump or Jew's harp music that provided its rhythm, used to be danced in the Hernani town square.

According to Padre Barandiaran, in the early nineteenth century people used to dance to Jew's harp music in the Ataun town square. We found more information on this subject at the San Telmo Museum in San Sebastián. The mother of the late txistu player J. A. Sarasola from the town of Bedaio played a small Jew's harp at night in her kitchen while the rest of the family would dance and sing.

Information on the last tronpa player we are aware of was gathered at the Sarobe farmhouse in the San Martin quarter of Orio from the mouth of Jose Peña. When he was a boy a man by the name of Nikolas Garmendia from the town of Aretxabaleta used to stay at his house. He earned his living smuggling goods across the border, fixing shotguns, selling pistols, etc. He used to room at Sarobe. He would play the tronpa in the farmhouse kitchen, and he was really good at it. He played all kinds of songs and dances. "What a racket he would make!" When he was done, he would put his Jew's harp away in a case or a cork box (Beltran, 1997).






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