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Jankowski Tsimbls

Some time ago, Pete Rushevsky wrote to the list about a tsimbl he had bought
from Mr. Jozef Jankowski. Pete recommended Mr. Jankowski highly, so I wanted
to get to know Mr. Jankowski and look at his tsimbls and was excited about
interviewing him. People often ask where to get good tsimbls in the U.S. and
aside from the excellent tsimbls of Kurt Bjorling, Mr. Jankowski is the only
professional instrument maker in the US I´ve come across who makes tunings
which are tuned in the traditional ³Jewish² (i.e. Witebsk, Belarus/West
Ukrainian/Galizian) way.

Mr. Jankowski was born in 1922 in Baronovici, Belarus (formerly Poland near
Brest-Litovsk) and learned how to make and play tsimbl from his father.
Before the war he played tsimbl on Polish radio regularly, with a repertoire
which included Polish, Russian and some Jewish tunes. He moved to Florida
after the war and has lived there until recently with his lovely wife, who
was born in Holland. Just recently, Mr. Jankowski moved to the Buffalo area
and has set up shop there to make his very beautiful tsimbls. The tsimbls
are usually made with a spruce soundboard on the top, with maple pin blocks
and mahogany sidings, which feature an embossed front, making them not only
very nice instruments to play, but also attractive to the eye. There are 4
to 5 strings to each course (120-125 strings altogether) and the hammers are
of the kind used all throughout Belarus now, which are very short, with a
carved ³u² for holding the sticks between forefinger and middle finger. The
hammers are short to enable a technique of playing which involves dampening
the strings with the small finger of the striking hand. The striking surface
of the hammers are covered with felt. Mr. Jankowski can also make longer
sticks if you want those.

Each instrument of Mr. Jankowski is unique in sound. His own favorite has a
full, metallic sound, but another one he showed me had a mellow, warm sound.
It´s impossible to predict the exact type of sound he will achieve with each
new instrument, but you can rest assured that the sound will be excellent.
The range allows for accompaniment as well as melody playing, though the
instruments don´t extend into the low bass range, so you shouldn´t expect to
get that roaring deep cymbalom sound typical of Hungarian/Romanian concert
cymbaloms. I found Mr. Jankwoski´s tsimbls to be just perfect for playing
klezmer music. Maybe this is because his instruments are of the type
typically played by Jews before the war, so there is no question as to their
³authenticity² if that´s what you´re looking for. More importanty, because
they are chromatic, you can play any music you want to on them, so they are
immensely practical. Mr. Jankowski was a cabinet maker by vocation, so his
knowledge of wood and working techniques has a solid grounding. His tsimbls
measure 45x22 inches and weigh about 35 pounds (very light for the size!).
The tension is optimal on the strings, enabling easy playing. There are
typically 6 rosettas (ornamental soundholes), two S-shaped ones at the top
left and right, two at the bottom left and right, and two 6-petal
star-shaped ones in the middle at the left and right. The visuals of the
instrument are traditional for the region, except for the lovely embossments
and delicate framing of the woodwork, which is Mr. Jankowski´s personal
signature. They show the handywork of an experienced and caring craftsman.
The instruments cost between 1300 and 1500 dollars at the moment, which I
think is more than reasonable.

I felt really fortunate to have met Mr. Jankowski and his wife. They are
just wonderful people. I also think that people should take advantage of the
fact that Mr. Jankowski takes orders for his instruments all year round and
only needs about 2 months to finish each one. Other tsimbl makers typically
have a 2-6 year waiting list and may not be able to make chromatic tsimbls
with such ease and dependability. His price is very reasonable and I think
he is extremely important for the tsimbl revival. If anyone would like to
see a scanned picture of his instrument, just write me a short email, and I
can email it to you as a Jpeg file. If you want to contact Mr. Jankowski,
his address is below. He should have a telephone soon, which I´ve asked him
to send me when it´s connected (He just moved to NY. I´m really happy that
there is someone in the US who can now provide us with instruments which are
not only wonderful in sight and sound, but also come directly from the hands
of a European craftsman who really knows his art.

Here is Mr. Jankowski´s address:

Jozef Jankowski
57 Faahs Drive
Orchard Park, NY
USA 14127

Enjoy and be well,

Josh Horowitz

---------------------- jewish-music (at) shamash(dot)org ---------------------+

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