Terramaxka – the one and only in Malta!
Terramaxka is an important part of Maltese folklore. It was a popular feature in town squares in Malta towards the end of the 19th century. It was also an essential means of entertainment during the village ‘festa’ especially when there was no band playing. If you want to know more about the history of this magical invention, how it works and where you can see it, just continue reading.
You’re looking at 72 Key Carl Frei music organ dating back to the 1929. You might be familiar with Terramaxka ancestors – smaller, easily portable street organs. These were played by organ grinders in the European streets as early as the late 18th century. This barrel organ was basically a small pipe organ played by turning a handle, which rotates a cylinder studded with pegs that open the valves to produce a preset tune.
This Terramaxka was built by Carl Frei, who started his career repairing Dutch Street Organs. He began building his own improved version of this music organ in 1920s. Frei made couple of important inventions that made his ‘magical machine’ louder, more distinct and easier to maintain. This is 72 key organ, the biggest street version of this organ has 90 keys and the ‘Carl Frei Traveling Concert Organ’ that consists of 112 keys is considered to be the largest traveling fair organ in the world.
The proud owner if this Terramaxka is Mari Van Rooy, a Dutchman married to a Maltese who has been living in Malta for over 25 years. It was always his dream to own one of these magical instruments and this is actually the only one of its kind in Malta!
And how does it work you may wonder. Well, Mr. Van Rooy was kind enough to show me what it looks like behind the scenes! Below you can see him operating his Terramaxka during ‘Milied Malti’ Christmas Market in Naxxar this December.
Terramaxka is basically an organ which plays music via stenciled pieces of cardboard. Here you can see Mr. Rooy manually operating the card feed mechanism. These exclusive stenciled cards are made in Holland.
Mr. Rooy got even some special Maltese tunes, which weren’t easy to get. He had to send the musical compositions of such pieces to a company in Holland, which would had them played by a band, recorded them and produced the stencils.
And how is the music actually created? It’s basically air passing through different pipes. The music notes manually control how long will air pass through certain pipes.
Terramaxka can play any sort of music. It all depends on the ‘music notes’ you have. Here is just a sample of Mr Rooy library. To this day he has made stencils for about 275 tunes that could be played by the Terramaxka! These range from melodies to band marches. To name few artists: Lady Gaga, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and many others! And of course many Christmas melodies and Maltese music.
I think it’s also important to mention, to really appreciate Mr Rooy’s efforts, how much this ‘hobby’ costs. He pays about 10 euro per meter for a song book. One song is between 10 to 15 meters!
When you look closer you can admire the precise craftsmanship. Terramaxka is entirely made of wood, both the decorations and the instruments. Behind all the Christmas decorations and statues you can see the actual instruments that transform the cardboard stencils into beautiful tunes.
I got to say that this was definitely the highlight of the ‘Milied Malti’ in Naxxar for me this year. I mean I’ve been living in Malta for over 10 years and I never came across it! If you would like to see this Terramaxka live you can either get lucky during one of the Maltese village festas, Christmas markets or you can simple contact Mr Rooy and hire him and his Terramaxka for your private function. Now that would be original! And you know what? Kids love it!
Mr Rooy can also offer professional baby sitting services! Joking apart, we was kind enough to watch over Oliver while I was running around the Terramaxka taking pictures and videos for this blog and my Facebook page.
I would like to finish off by wishing you all the best in the year 2019 and thank you for all your support in 2018! xxx