The Berzerk Erhu

The erhu is a Chinese stringed instrument similar to a violin. The word ‘er’ means two and there is some debate as to whether the term er-hu refers to the fact that it has only two strings, or because it is ‘second fiddle’ in its position in the harmonic order of the classical Chinese orchestra, after the higher frequency ‘jing-hu’. It was introduced to China about a thousand years ago but had been known as a generic type in central asia before that. Traditionally the instrument has a long neck, large protruding tuning pegs, a snakeskin (python) sounding-box and no finger board . The strings are played flageolet with the left hand and bowed by the right hand . The strings are tuned to a fifth.

However the Berzerk Erhu is a slightly different kettle of fish. Bor Berzerka was the orchestras string player. He specialised in cavaquinho, banjo and cello,and was also an instrument builder of originality. He created mandolins, a rectangular violin and notably the water-organ . His erhu had extraordinary large tuning pegs and the resonator box was made not of fine snakeskin but from an old cylindrical tin can . The main body of the instrument was built from pieces of drift wood which he came upon in his part-time occupation as a beachcomber. The sound produced by this Berzerk Erhu was as exotic as the thing looked… a piercing metallic shriek of a tone able to cut through the cacophony of the entire Forgotten Fish musical ensemble.

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