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THAT'S WHAT I CALL WORLD MUSIC; Ouds, bazoukis, vihuelas - this shop sells them all...

Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE News Editor

UD you believe it? Ois is the Midland music shop where you can pick up an Egyptianstyle lute dating back to the Book of Genesis - and a shaky egg!

And ouds are not the only exotic instrument up for sale at Birmingham's Hobgoblin Music.

ere are bazouki from Greece, Mexican vihuelas and Chinese Gu Zheng at the specialist acoustic and folk instrument retailer.

Customers can travel around the world in music at the store, which also oers English, Scottish and Welsh harps, bagpipes, accordions and guitars.

Many of the traditional oerings date back through the ages, with the likes of the stringed cittern back in demand for the rst time since its heyday in the English barber shops of the Renaissance.

And the hammered dulcimer has traditionally been played in Iraq, India and Iran since Biblical times.

More modern oerings include percussion favourite, the shaky egg.

e time-keeping plastic instrument has proved a hit with celebrity fans of the shop, including Black Country comic Frank Skinner, who is also an accomplished ukelele and banjo player.

Britop star Alex James - bassist with Blur and a cheesemaker - and Fairport Convention ddler Dave Swarbrick are also customers.

All have proudly signed a shaky egg while visiting the shop, which has just moved to Priory Queensway in Birmingham city centre from its home of 11 years in the Custard Factory. e best seller of the past ve years is the ukelele - it's not dicult to learn and is proving popular among retired music fans.

Bagpipes have proven less popular, although they are also stocked by the shop.

Prices range from PS1.50 for a shaky egg, and PS2.10 for a miniature harmonica, right up to PS3,150 for a new English concertina.

You can pick up an English harp for PS349; the Chinese harp (known as a Gu Zheng) costs PS249; Mexican vihuelas (of Dorito ads fame) cost around PS259 and a Greek bazouki is priced at PS599. Oh, and that Egyptian oud can cost around PS300.

Manager Mark McCabe, who plays accordion for Birmingham Irish folk band The Father Teds, said: "We have been called the most interesting music shop in the Midlands and we certainly have a lot of unusual instruments on offer.

"I only intended to work here for three months when I started, but I've stayed here for more than 10 years now.

"There's always something going on. It's great that we are now located in town. It makes us more accessible for people to visit.

"Our customers come from so many different backgrounds. We see so many different cultures and communities coming into the shop. "Our Chinese flutes were particularly popular around Chinese New Year, and a quartet visited the shop to play during the celebrations. The ouds are popular with Egyptian and Turkish communities.

"Our historical instruments are also in demand, especially lutes and recorders.

"The organisers of medieval banquets at Warwick Castle regularly visit to see what we have in stock.

"Ukeleles have become very popular over the past five years. We can sell up to 20 a week during busy times.

"Autoharps were also in favour, probably due to the Johnny Cash song Ring Of Fire in which his wife June Carter played one.

"People travel from all over the country to visit us. We do mail order, too. We recently sold an accordion to Canada."

Sales advisor Becky Walker, who also plays saxophone for Birmingham band The Carousel Circus, said: "The range of instruments takes you around the world when you visit the shop.

"And the history behind many of the instruments is amazing. We've got a great range of woodwind instruments, as well as all the strings, squeezeboxes, keyboards and percussion instruments."

Hobgoblin music was set up in 1976 by husband and wife Pete and Mannie McClelland.

While they were searching for a concertina to play, the couple discovered that many other interesting instruments were not readily available, although they were much sought after.

The couple first set up a market stall and stored their stock in a barn, but demand led them to open stores in Birmingham, Crawley, London, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Wadebridge and Canterbury.

There's even a US branch run by harp maker Gary Stone in Minnesota.

!The firm also has stalls at folk festivals across Britain and their buyers tour the world looking for new instruments to sell.

"The early market stall and barn were quickly outgrown," says Pete. "We hope to add more branches in the future with the aim of making real acoustic instruments as widely available as possible.

"As well as new instruments we also stock hundreds of second-hand and one-off items."

In Birmingham Hobgoblin Music also offers a range of sheet music and lessons in guitar, banjo and fiddle.

Their youngest pupil is 10 years old and attends classes with his 70-year-old grandad, who is learning to play the banjo.

There's also a repair service headed up by Dot Brody, who regularly fixes brass instruments and proudly mended a silver flute recently.

Folklore has it that a hobgoblin is a friendly but troublesome creature of the Seelie Court.

The friendly staff certainly take the time and trouble to meet every musical demand.

We have been called the most interesting music shop in the Midlands... I only intended to work here for three months, but I've stayed here for more than 10 years now. MARK McCABE


| The shaky eggs signed |by Frank Skinner, Alex James and Dave Swarbrick

Becky Walker, sales advisor at Hobgoblin Music in Birmingham |

Left, Hobgoblin shop manager Mark McCabe and |(below) instrument repairer Dot Brodie
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 11, 2014
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