Texts, photos, videos : © Patrick Kersalé 1998-2020, except special mention.
The Tampuon's mouth resonator fiddle is called kani. Here it is made from a piece of wood (usually bamboo) on which is stretched a single metal string. Four keys thaᴐ - litt. breast - are fixed with vegetable resin. The bow is made of a long thin strip of bamboo. From the base of the bow string comes a string with a horn or plastic washer at its end.
To play, the player traps the base of the neck between two toes, places the washer behind the teeth, tightens the string and rubs the playing string with the resin-coated bamboo bow. By changing the volume of the mouth cavity, the musician generates unpronounced vowels that are superimposed on the melody produced with the bow. This "single consonant" communication technique has led to the onomatopoeic term "mem" for this instrument because the only consonant that can be produced is the "M". Isn't it the same technique of opening the mouth used in babbling in small children that has given, in most languages of the world, the first letter of the word mummy. Khmer: ម៉ាក់ maek / Vietnamese: mẹ / Thai: แม่ mæ̀ / Hindi: माँ maan / Chinese: 妈妈 .
This sequence was shot in the Tampuon village of Laeun Chuong (Ratanakiri) on December 26, 2010. The piece is performed by the late Cheunk Ngon (31 years old).
The Jarai live in Ratanakiri but we have not found a mouth resonator fiddle player among them. On the other hand, the Vietnamese Jörai play it and call it kơni. Their instrument consists of a bamboo tube 50 to 70 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in diameter on which is stretched a single metal string (formerly of wild pineapple fiber braided and rubbed with beeswax). Six fingerboards - made with large thorns harvested from the trunks of kapok trees, called tơsâu kơni (lit. "breasts of kơni") - are fixed along the handle with vegetable resin. The bow, again, has no hair; it is made of a piece of bamboo of variable length, about 4 mm wide and 2 mm thick. From the base of the string comes a string, made of wild pineapple fiber, with a horn, plastic or aluminum washer at its upper end.
Another original device is sometimes used: it is a second string starting from the same point as the first, at the end of which is connected an amplifier consisting of a section of bamboo. This wire measures several meters in length to allow the amplifier to be attached to the roof of the common house. The Jörai use this instrument to court young girls. A popular Jörai saying goes: "Better broken cut than broken kơni, better broken house than collapsed porch". The coupe-coupe is the domestic instrument of the husband-son-in-law's daily work; the porch of the house is the place where lovers meet and court each other; the house is the home of wise and married people. The kơni is the ideal instrument of love rituals. In other words, it is better to be lovers than to live in a household, common-law unions are preferable to marriage . It is also said: "Break the cup-cutter and the kơni will play even better!"