Turkish crescent

Cevgen player in an Ottoman military band
Chapeau chinois of the French Foreign Legion. One can see it as an honored object in most videos of Legion music, such as this one.
Schellenbaum of the German Bundeswehr
Turkish crescent in a German museum.
An officer of the Peruvian 1st Cavalry Regiment "Glorious Hussars of Junín" carrying a Turkish crescent

A Turkish crescent, (also cevgen, Turkish jingle, Jingling Johnny, Schellenbaum (Ger.), chapeau chinois or pavillon chinois (Fr.), chaghana[1]) is a percussion instrument traditionally used by military bands. In some contexts it also serves as a battle trophy or object of veneration.


The instrument, usually six to eight feet long, consists of an upright wooden pole topped with a conical brass ornament and having crescent shaped crosspieces, also of brass. Numerous bells are attached to the crosspieces and elsewhere on the instrument. Often two horsetail plumes of different colors are suspended from one of the crescents; occasionally they are red-tipped, symbolic of the battlefield. There is no standard configuration for the instrument, and of the many preserved in museums, hardly two are alike.[2]

The instrument is held vertically and when played is either shaken up and down or twisted.[3] Sometimes there is a geared crank mechanism for rotating it.[4]

Today the instrument is prominent in the marching bands of the German Bundeswehr, the French Foreign Legion, the Russian Armed Forces, the Armed Forces of Chile and in Ottoman military bands. Some folk music features similar instruments based on a wooden staff with jingling attachments. A notable folk example is the Australian "lagerphone", made by nailing crown-seal bottle-caps, from beer bottles, onto a wooden broomstick handle, and used to provide a percussive beat for a folk song or bush dance.

Non-musical aspects

Turkish crescents had symbolic value for the military units that used them. The 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) famously captured one at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. It became an object of pride and veneration at the regiment's ceremonial parades.[5]

In the early 20th century, Turkish crescents were used in processions honoring important dignitaries. They were skillfully twirled by dignified performers, much as batons are handled today by drum majors.[6] This aspect survives today in the use of Turkish crescents as mostly symbolic objects in military marching bands. This can be clearly seen in the videos in the External links section at the end of this article.


The instrument possibly has antecedents in Central Asian tengrist staffs. Similar instruments occur in ancient Chinese music, perhaps diffused from the same Central Asian (Turkic) sources.[7]

Europeans knew of it in the 16th century. In the 18th century, it was part of the Turkish Janissary bands that were the source of much interest in Europe, and in the 19th century, it was widely used in European military bands. It was abandoned by the British in the mid-19th century but survives today, in an altered form, in Germany.[3] It is also found in the military bands of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil (only in the Marching Band of the Brazilian Marine Corps and the Band of the 1st Guards Cavalry Regiment "Independence Dragoons"). Its presence in the bands of Chile and Bolivia is due to the Prussian military influences which arrived in these countries during the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Its heyday in Europe was from the mid-18th to mid-19th century, when it was commonly played by elaborately dressed black Africans, who made all manner of contortions while playing. Some of these gestures survive today, in the stick twirling by bass and tenor drummers. An aspect of the elaborate costumes survives in the leopard skin apron worn by bass drummers in British military bands;[8] however the use of the "Jingling Johnny" was discontinued in the British Army in 1837.[9]

In 1881, the German Emperor William I presented a Turkish crescent to King David Kalākaua on the occasion of the King's visit to Berlin during his trip around the world[10] bearing the inscription "no ka hoomanao ana ia Berlin" (to commemorate Berlin),[11] which was then used by the Royal Hawaiian Band.

In the mid-19th century this instrument was replaced in most bands by the glockenspiel, which was carried similarly but could be played musically.[2]

Use in specific musical works

See also


  1. "Chaghana", Dolmetsch Music Dictionary
  2. 1 2 Chenley, Brian (September 1961). "Jingling Johnny: a Note on the Pavillon Chinois". Berlioz Society Bulletin (36): 29–30.
  3. 1 2 3 Blades, James. "Turkish crescent". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2014-06-01. (subscription required)
  4. Blades, James (1980). "Turkish crescent". In Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: MacMillan.
  5. McBride, Charlie (1994-10-20). "The Fighting 88th". Galway Advertiser: 32. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  6. 1 2 Mellers, Wilfrid (13 Aug 1987). Music in a New Found Land: Themes and Developments in the History of American Music. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 260. ISBN 0-19-520526-X. Retrieved 2011-12-29. ...a special part is written for Turkish Crescent, an arrangement of bells supported on a mace which was carried processionally, to accompany Very Important Persons. The mace had to be twirled by a highly skilled, as well as dignified, performer. Sousa saw a possible connection between this Oriental tradition and the drum-major's twirled baton. Characteristically, the Americans democratized the ritual instrument; they christened it "Jingling Johnnie"!
  7. "jingling Johnny". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  8. Blades, James (2005). Percussion Instruments and Their History. Westport, Connecticut: The Bold Strummer, Ltd. pp. 265–266, 281. ISBN 0-933224-61-3.
  9. Turner, Gordon; Turner, Alwyn W (June 2012). "The Band of The Coldstream Guards". military-bands.co.uk. Droit History. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  10. "Influence of Prussia", Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 23, 2005
  11. Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of manaʻo". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press., Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of hoʻomanaʻo". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press.
  12. "TV review: QI Jingle Bells Christmas edition" by Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 22 December 2012
  13. Axworthy, Michael (2006). The Sword of Persia: Nader Shah, from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant. I.B. Tauris. p. 96. ISBN 9781850437062.
  14. Berlioz, Hector (1858). Tr. Mary Cowden Clarke, eds. A Treatise Upon Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration. London: Novello, Ewer & Co. p. 233. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
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