It’s a return. In 2015, he hosted a workshop.
“My mother hitchhiked from Paris to India in 1969, and somewhere in Afghanistan in a bazaar, she picked up this little thing as a travel instrument.” The “little thing” Neptune Chapotin is referring to is the mouth harp (marranzano), of which the Franco-American is now a collector, builder, and player. “My mother, upon returning home, threw it in a trash bin, where I found it. I was 12 or 13 years old, and I asked her to show me what it was. From that moment on, I discovered a passion and taught myself to play.”
Years later, in 2003, he came across another mouth harp in Chennai, a city overlooking the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. He bought five more and brought them to his mother’s store in California, where they sold out almost immediately. The next time, he bought a dozen, thirty the time after that, and then fifty. “I got into the mouth harp because when you play it, you are essentially half of the instrument. Your music is controlled by your mouth, your throat, your breath. You become part of the music.”
And so began his journey of collecting and selling mouth harps. “My mother got me murchinga from Nepal, and then I got morchang from Rajasthan (a state in Northern India bordering Pakistan).” The musician recalls going to the North American Mouth Harp Festival, where he sold mouth harps and his artworks at a table next to his mother’s stall. “No one knows you’re a mouth harpist unless they hear a mouth harp playing,” he adds. “The best way to find out is to play it at a festival. Offstage, you’ll see someone appear next to you and start playing with you.”
Chapotin claims he can teach anyone to play the instrument in thirty seconds since it’s a relatively simple instrument that depends on breath modulation. This Franco-American hippie born in Anjuna with a base in Goa, India, is constantly on the move, a globetrotter following world music festivals, behind a stall where he sells his creations, or on stage playing or accompanying some musician friends.
At the Marranzano World Fest, Neptune Chapotin is almost at home. Here, he was a guest in 2015, conducting a workshop on his instrument, and with Luca Recupero, the “soul” of the Etna event, he toured playing across Europe. This year, he will perform as a solo mouth harpist on the evening of June 24th during the Prelude, and then reappear in a trio, the Third Pulse, along with MC Eucalips on sitar and beatbox, and Augustin Sol on beatbox and didgeridoo, a wind instrument with a lip-reed among the Aborigines.