If you read our blog regularly, you know that “every Czech is a musician“. The musical literacy in Czech Republic is impressive and it is very common to play at least one musical instruments. And not just piano or guitar, there are some very rare and unusual Czech musical instruments that you’ve probably never heard of.
Some of these rare musical instruments are of Czech origin, some are played in the local music.
Fanfrnoch or bukál is a rhytmical musical instrument from the Chod region and not a forgotten one! As for the classification, it’s a percussion instrument – a clay or metal container covered with a stretched bladder and a bundle of horsehair (or a cord) passed through the center. The sound is produced by the friction of pulling on the hair.
Children in the countryside used to make their own fanfrnoch since horsehair was easy to get. They often accompanied their Christmas caroling with the sound of this instrument.
By the way, another name for the most famous of these rare Czech musical instruments is brumbál which is the traslation of Albus Dumbledore’s surname (Harry Potter books) into Czech.
Listen to the folcloric artist Miroslav Stecher play the fanfrnoch.
Playing the handsaw isn’t very common but you will occasionally see and hear it in the Czech Republic. Nowadays there are saws made for musical purposes but playing the handsaw has a long tradition here and previously people played the saws they used as tools.
Heligonka is a Czech diatonic button accordion which became very popular during the 1st republic (the time period between WW I and the beginning of the German occupation). It used to be the instrument of choice of many regulars of typical Czech pubs and it’s one of the instruments often played by the Czech singer and songwriter Jarek Nohavica. One of the most famous companies manufacturing heligonkas is Delicia (founded 1920).
The literal translation of vozembouch is “hit the floor” and that’s exactly what this instrument does. It is a long stick with different elements like cymbals, tamburine and other. When the stick hits the floor it produces a sound of itself as well as the sound of the attached instruments.
It is often used in the music of the south and west-Bohemian regions.
Listen to the vozembouch concert in the Texas Czech Heritage & Culture Center.
Galizona or mandora is a string instrument and a type of lute from 17th century Central Europe. The first mentions of this instrument come from the area that is now Moravia. It is a type of 6-string lute and it’s mostly you can hear its tones from Medieval music groups.
What was previously an instrument for doing laundry in now a rhythmic musical instrument.
Denis D’or / Zlatý Diviš – first electronic musical instruments in the world
This is the most mysterious of all Czech musical instruments because you’ll never see it. No one has since the mid 18th century. Its author is the Czech inventor Prokop Diviš (author of the lightning rod) and he made just one prototype in 1748. The tones of the instrument were produced by the electricity on 790 metal strings. Denis D’or had 14 registers, 3 keyboards and a pedal system. The tones resemble brass as well as string instruments. This instrument charmed the emperor Josepf II so much that when the possessions of the monastery in Louka were confiscated he ordered the instrument to be brought to Viena. However, the traces of Zlatý Diviš end in Pressburg, now Bratislava.
That’s it for the Czech musical instruments and how about more recent info from the world of music? You might like our list of Contemporary Czech Musicians!