The Xaphoon is a bamboo instrument made by the hippiest creature on God's Earth, a barefoot Maui resident named Brian Wittman. It is a kind of flute, or woodwind at any rate, but with a saxophone reed in the mouthpiece: its particular deal is that while it is the approximate size of a recorder, and has the same sort of finger-holes, it sounds more like a saxophone. The register is apparently somewhere between those of a soprano saxophone and a clarinet.

The xaphoon is quite a new instrument, apparently invented in the '90s. The official story of its genesis is that Herr Doktor Professor Wittman was playing his regular old saxophone when a local urchin wandered up to ask if perchance Wittman had also a small saxophone, suitable for him, the urchin, to play. Wittman fortunately possessed the only virtue hippies ever have, surface kindness, so he carved a flute-type thing out of a piece of bamboo, using the natural node border for a fipple. However, this turned out to sound like shit, so he trimmed down that end and tied a tenor saxophone reed to it to see if that might sound better, even though it meant the mouthpiece accidentally ended up weirdly shaped for a reed instrument. That turned out to be a fortunate accident; the rounded shape of the mouthpiece, produced by the natural internal form of the bamboo, is apparently what gives it such a low pitch for its size. The subsequent ones use a standard saxophone ligature in place of string, but are otherwise identical in this regard.

The odd name is a sort of truncation; it was originally »bamboozaphone«, pretty much par for the retarded course, but naturally that was found too long to keep saying all the time and was trimmed down naturally and by gradual use to »zafoon« — which was then crowned by a weirder spelling because why the hell not. (Observe here how hippieism and ruthless commercial brand-building dovetail neatly into one and the same line of logic.)

The xaphoon, as I say, is bamboo; and each one is hand-made by the hippie himself, to the tune of fifteen thousand so far. The instrument comes complete with a ligature, one (1) tenor reed, and also a convenient endcap, to protect the reed from getting fucked up. There are more expensive versions which come complete with a hippie signature, and a cheaper plastic version called the Pocket Sax is also available. While I myself have owned one for years and never gotten measurably better at playing it, I have a tin ear, tin fingers, a tin head, and am possibly altogether just the Tin Woodman; my understanding is that it is actually a comparatively easy instrument to learn, similar in complexity to the recorder — as would seem intuitive. It's also a couple orders of magnitude cheaper than a real metal non-pocket saxophone, so, you know, if you have to own an instrument to be bad at, it's the economic option.


If you want one, or just more information, or sound samples, or pictures of Bill Clinton or what-have-you-not, all of those are available on the official website, Xaphoon.com. I warn you, however, that much of the writing on this site is only for the truly devout fan of the wide-eyed, naïve-idealist sales pitch: full of fruity blather about nonspecific »spirituality« and the healing power of music blah blah blah everything but cancer and Hepatitis C. If you're allergic to bullshit, keep your inhaler handy.

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