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Lisa's Box of Treasures Our jewel at VisitAruba.com - Lisa has many gems to share with you. She has a wealth of information about Aruba - and if she doesn't know, she will find out! :) So, enjoy and ask away!

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Old Tuesday, November 20th, 2007, 04:36 PM
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LocaLisa LocaLisa is offline
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Default Tingilingi Box

The Caha di Orgel is a popular musical instrument used here “merry up” the ambience at national holiday celebrations like Dera Gai, Dia di Betico, Dia di Himno y Bandera, and at private gatherings for wedding anniversaries and senior birthday parties.
The “Crank Operated Piano” was born in 1842 in Waldrich, Germany. Andreas Ruth (1817-1888) who’s father was the creator of the “Black Forest Organs”, which to date are still considered the best German fairground and concert organs, created the concept for a “barrel organ”. He wanted a way to record music to preserve its originality. He adjusted the original design from “barrel organ” to a “cylinder piano” and this was a success. Several countries in Europe fell in love with the model and it became very popular throughout the continent. It acquired many names like "piano-organ", "street-organ", and "cylinder organ". It became most popular in Spain and Italy who exported it to the American continent. From Venezuela it made its entrance into the Dutch Antilles.

Horatio Sprock (1866 - 1949) was a young man from Curacao who loved to travel. In 1880 he went to Venezuela and ended up in Barquisimento, where he met an Italian from Milan who was an expert in these “cylinder pianos”. It was the first time he saw this magnificent instrument, and wanted to learn more about it. The Italian was a real connoisseur but very secretive and handled his work with great care. He disliked prying eyes around and whenever he thought Horatio was nosing about too much he would cover everything with newspapers. Horatio ran small errands for the Italian and slowly but surely gained his appreciation. He noticed Horatio’s eagerness to learn more about the instrument and granted him the knowledge. Some years later Horatio sent his younger brother Luis to Italy to learn and acquire vast knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately, he came back empty handed: the Italians were overprotective of their craft and not really keen on passing it on to strangers.

In the beginning of the 19th century the first 3 “cylinder pianos” arrived in Aruba. They made a huge impact and became an instant hit. They were called "caha di orgel" (organ box) and "caha di musica" (music box). The most popular denomination is without a doubt the “Tingilingi Box” (teeng-ee-leeng-ee). In the beginning, the melodies were all Spanish or Italian. It wasn’t long though before our own music was stared being recorded on the cylinder.

Rufo Wever (1917-1977) a local artist who’s known for arranging and composing our national anthem Aruba Dushi Tera, also fell in love with the instrument. He saw in the Cah’i Orgel an excellent way to preserve his own music for years to come. He initially composed and arranged music to be played with the Cah’i Orgel, but later learned all he needed to know to make the cylinders himself and to repair the instrument when broken. What started as a hobby became a complete enterprise for creation and maintenance of Cah’i Orgel. Rufo Wever was a real "arrangeur-toneur". He owned and ran this business until his final days.

Andreas Ruth’s intention of finding a way to preserve music’s originality in a time when there were neither tape recorders nor CD burners, worked out just fine. Music recorded on a Cah’i Orgel cylinder a hundred years ago sounds the same, without any distortion, when played nowadays. It's like time never laid her hands on the sound. However, not all music was/is suitable for the Cah’i Orgel. The cylinder is limited by surface area and has half the notes of a normal piano: 40 notes against 88 keys of a piano. The types of music apt for the cylinder of the Cah’i Orgel are among others, the waltz, polka, mazurka, danza, tumba, joropo and foxpolka.
To record a melody on a cylinder is not an easy task. There are five steps
involved to do this:
1. The music needs to be arranged, while keeping in mind the limited availability of notes.
2. A blank paper needs to be placed and glued onto the cylinder and smoothed out.
3. The paper must be marked to set the pins. These pull the strings which move the hammers to slam into the required group of cords.
4. The hardest part: placing the pins into the cylinder.
5. The cylinder is finally checked, corrections made and checked again.


There are two types of cylinders: "singles" and "doubles". The single cylinder can containa total of 8 pieces of music and requires a minimum of 5000 pins, the double at least 7000. Work on these cylinders can take from twelve up to eighteen days.

The passion for this instrument grew such in Aruba that every town had at least three or four. Owners would name their Cah’i Orgel and decorate it with paintings, pictures, personal objects and hand-written dedications. A Cah’i Orgel ensemble consists of three elements: the actual Cah’I Orgel, the person who operates the Cah’i Orgel by turning the handle, and the person who accompanies them by playing the Wiri, a metal rasp.
My late grandpa had three Cah’i Orgel. When I was little, he told me they were for selling purposes. I remember once he ordered a blank cylinder to record a popular waltz: "Annete" by Padu del Caribe (Juan Chabaya Lampe 1925, he wrote the lyrics for our national anthem). Grandpa let me try it out on the Cah’i Orgel. He guided me when the rhythm went too slow or too fast. With his help and patient dedication I managed to make the rhythm come out just right.

In 1975 the first Cah’i Orgel contest was organized by people who thought that the Cah’i Orgel was being replaced too often by DJ’s or Live Bands. They wanted to keep this national heritage alive, to promote the Cah’i Orgel, to let people who’d only heard about it a chance to actually hear it. Contstants dressed in traditional costumes and some even brought folklore dancers along for their show. The winner of the first contest was Chanita Vrolijk with her Cah’i Orgel Gloria. To date this contest still takes place around the last week of November.
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