N Korean accordion factory video on YT
#1
23th april 2019 promo video.
A rare inside view of a N Korean accordion factory.
I can see PAs and CBAs.

I don't know if it's possible to get some English translation subtitles for this video in YouTube?



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TYfOhRVOFE
North Korean accordion factory

Popular Unbangul-brand Accordion
The Pyongyang Musical Instrument Factory is producing several kinds of Unbangul-brand
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#2
Hello Stephen,

My Korean is a bit rusty, but I think the girl was concerned that if she didn't say the right thing about the accordions, she would be shot. Maybe I am just making that up, though it wouldn't surprise me if it was correct.

The wood they use appears to be well seasoned, which is a good thing. As for the rest, I really don't know.

Do you happen to know if these accordions are for sale in Western Markets? They may be routed through China under another name, as re-badging seems to be prolific in the World of accordions.

North Korean gentlemen have a choice of nine official haircuts, and woe-betide anyone who sports any haircut which is not approved by their glorious leader. They appear to be more flexible with regard to accordion production, which is (probably) a step in the right direction.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#3
The video did not show any Jupiter bayans being made, so that may be done in yet another factory (or they are simply hiding it for contractual reasons). In fact I did not notice any instrument being built using large multi-reed plates. It all seemed to be done in a very "methodical" way, not the "personal love" that goes into some Italian accordions. But to serve the huge potential Chinese market you need large outfits like this one to produce enough instruments and you need standardization, so no room for custom tuning, choice of chin switches, etc.: everything needs to be done to the one standard the "system" dictates... Luckily it is still up to the individual player to turn the notes into real music!
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#4
Probably most accordions are made for the huge Chinese and Asian markets. Chinese consumers and households having living standards have improved, many buy expensive pianos and high quality accordions.

This N Korea accordion factory looks to be aiming at lower or midlevel price accordions (for the N Korea interior market and the Chinese mid income market?), meaning mass production and standardization.


An short article from N Korea in English about this accordion factory:
https://exploredprk.com/articles/famous-...-producer/

What is interesting is the fact that they mention an increase of CBA production, because professional performers prefer chromatic button accordions over PAs.
In Asia PA has been the standard for a very long time. I guess Asian music conservatories are rapidly switching from PA to CBA for higher accordion education.


quote:
"The Unbangul-brand accordions, especially the button accordions, are a great favourite of professional performers, and of the general public."

(I just posted the video because it is important from an accordion amateur viewpoint. I'm not going to start a discussion here about political economy or totalitarian political regimes. )

Is it true the people have a choice between 9 different haircuts in N Korea?
My mother didn't give me any choice, it was the millimetered military haircut with the hair clipper...
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#5
Hello Stephen,

Yes, it is true. North Korean men must select one of the nine official haircuts available to them. No deviation from this executive order is tolerated.

For all that there is a comic element in the North Korean way of life, the stuff they produce must comply with their extremely strict practices. Sure, we know that they are subservient drones, but the fact that they live in constant fear makes them very attentive to detail.

All in all, I could be persuaded to buy one if the price was right.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.

P.S. All the women appear to share the same hairdresser ..... so it's not just the blokes.
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#6
Hello John,

I would imagine that some Silver Bells & Songbirds have made their way to Europe, even if they have been disguised as Chinese boxes. In real terms, China is probably their biggest (only?) market, and perhaps their only opportunity to earn foreign currency.

The USSR used to do something similar with motorbikes, sourcing them from various Soviet satellites and flogging them through a central agency. I suppose it is possible for China to market these accordions using a similar principle.

I once rode (but didn't own) a Russian 650 cc flat twin motorbike. It felt awkward and the handling was not very good, but it was robust, reliable and quite frugal for its capacity. It could also be fixed with a handful of simple tools, which were supplied with the bike.

Perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn between the bikes I mentioned and North Korean accordions. They may be robust and reliable, though not as smart as European makes. As with people who bought Russian motorbikes, price may be a deciding factor in the purchase of Korean accordions.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#7
I had to try one of those cheap Chinese accordions. Sent it back in less than one day. Maybe it was North Korean, I don't know.
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#8
(08-05-2019, 12:27 AM)Tom Wrote: I had to try one of those cheap Chinese accordions.  Sent it back in less than one day.  Maybe it was North Korean, I don't know.

They are getting better over time (not the already existing accordions but the manufacturers). They went from initially just trying to reproduce what they could see to actual understanding. As an example: I tried some of the different chinese and other eastern accordions very briefly during the Frankfurter Musikmesse last time I went (not this year) and you can tell that brands that exist for longer are understanding how to ensure that the key pressure needed to operate white and black keys is the same whereas the newer brands require more pressure on black keys (shorter lever) than on white keys. Small differences like this add up to an instrument feeling comfortable or feeling awkward to play. Some things are still in the process of slowly being understood even by the established Italian accordion makers, like evening out the sound between different reed blocks (in most cases needed to ensure that the sound produced by black keys has the same timbre of that produced by white keys, and of course it's not the keys that make the difference but the position of the blocks versus the shape of the grille and placement of sound-dampening features like the register switches).
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#9
I gave a Moreschi 72bass CBA... Made in Korea... I'd imagined South but could be wrong... Works fine.. Lovely tremolo... UK price now £1800...oi paid 900new seven years back... Still plays good enough... OK nothing compared to my Piermaria but at 20% of cost what do you expect... If I'm lazy re weight or playing dodgy venue it's my weapon of choice....
Right or wrong make it strong...when in doubt miss it out...
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#10
Origins of manufacture have been discussed many times on this forum, and I am still of the opinion that consumers are routinely misled. There is conclusive proof that some (not all) European manufacturers use parts made elsewhere, whilst still trading on their name and reputation for quality.

Two of my three accordions are German, the third one is Chinese. I make no claim about the Chinese instrument, except to say that it has been consistently reliable. My natural habitat is folk clubs, where a Chinese accordion is perfectly acceptable.

I have no doubt that a North Korean accordion would satisfy my needs, in just the same way that a Chinese one does. The names Silver Bells & Songbird may be a bit odd to us in the West, but I suppose I could live with it.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#11
Hi John,

Yes, any new accordion can be considered to be a capital investment, but Chinese (and maybe Korean) boxes are cheap by comparison.

As with everything else, it really is a question of "horses for courses." If you are in concert at the Royal Albert Hall, it is probably as well if you turn up with a top of the range accordion. For rattling out tunes in a Folk Club in Wigan, a Chinese box will probably do for you. (though I usually use a German one)

I hope you appreciate how I took the flak for you without so much as a murmur. I sent you an email about half an hour ago, just in case you haven't seen it yet.

All The Best, Old Scout. (and remember me to Wee Nippy)

Stephen.
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#12
I don't know if all Chinese accordions are like this however, my resent experience with one was not at all good. It was a new Parrot 34/72 LMM machine no bass switches, weighing in at 17.5 pounds (7.9 kg for you metric types). A local music store decided it wanted to sell them and got a shipment of several to test the waters so they let me borrow one for a week. They wanted $750 for each which I suppose isn't a bad price considering a new similar sized Weltmeister Achat is $1999 (but has slightly more capacity).  

I liked the size and weight of the machine. It weighed only 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) less than my "big" accordion however, that small reduction of weight and size becomes significant at my age when it's out in front pulling down on you. I could stand and stroll with it for an extended period of time, unlike my bigger Artisto accordion which I only play while sitting.

The fit and finish were satisfactory meaning that there were no misfitting parts however the front grill, and some other parts, seemed to be made from rather thin plastic and flexed quite a bit when pushing on it. I didn't open it to look at the reed blocks or the bass machine.

Key action was nice and short and the spring return on the keys were just about right. This was a fast keyboard. The bass buttons I found were a bit soft and a bit close together so pushing two at the same time was problematic at first. I thought the bellows were a bit stiff but I think that this would wear in.

The reeds, oh yes the reeds. My main objection and the reason I did not buy this accordion. The reeds were extremely stiff at the start but loosened up quite a bit after playing for many hours. The reeds in the center, where I play mostly, loosened nicely and were sounding at the slightest movement of the bellows and I assume that the outer ones would follow with more use. However I think the most relevant comment came from my wife, who usually leaves the room with I start playing. She came back in, tapped me on the shoulder and asked "is that thing broken?" The treble sounded horrible, not out of tune but hardly what I would call  musical for the most part. My 60 year old accordion, even on its worst day, couldn't sound as bad. I played this Parrot for maybe 10 hours that week but things didn't improve. In addition, the bass easily overpowered the treble and at times I couldn't even hear the treble sounding, but I know it was for I was pushing keys.

I took it back to the store and tried the other ones he had but they all sounded the same. Sadly, he hasn't sold a one.

I don't think my experience is typical, for I think Stephen has a Chinese box that he is well pleased with, but this has left a sour taste in my mouth. I have never listened to, but I'm sure they exist, an Italian or German box that sounded as bad. Even ones decades old.

In my opinion, the sound is the thing,the main thing. I really don't care is the accordion is a bit worn form use or even if it's an ugly color. If it sounds good I would consider it. I'm not going to put my money into something that sounds that bad.
Cordially, Tony
Artisto, Italian, LMM, 41/120, PA
Warning: Only speaks/understands American English
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#13
(08-05-2019, 11:36 PM)Stephen Hawkins Wrote: Origins of manufacture have been discussed many times on this forum, and I am still of the opinion that consumers are routinely misled.  There is conclusive proof that some (not all) European manufacturers use parts made elsewhere, whilst still trading on their name and reputation for quality.

...

It is no secret that accordion manufacturers use parts made in other countries. I firmly believe this is ALL and not SOME European manufacturers. Things like buttons and other small parts are made in countries with low wages. They do not affect the overall quality of the instruments. Celluloid is all made in China, then further processed in Italy. There is nothing wrong with having parts made elsewhere. It becomes different when most, if not all of an instrument is made (not just parts but large subassemblies or even the complete assembly) in a different country than what the final "stamp" on the instrument says. I have a nice Hohner Artiste XS at home with a "Made in Germany" stamp that was actually built by Excelsior in Italy. Some brands are a bit more honest about it: an E.Soprani is an instrument made in China and only "quality checked" in Italy and that is made publicly known.
It is not just a problem with accordions that are passed as being German or Italian when this is in fact not true. North Korea also builts bayans that are sold under the name Jupiter and that are fine instruments, but are the same as the ones made near Moscow.
Origin is not a constant indicator of quality either. Shortly after WWII Japan started to produce consumer electronics that were junk and just a few decades later they were the finest and most wanted producers of electronics. I see improvement in Chinese accordions of longer-standing brands versus recently started outfits. I'm sure that North Korean accordions will be fine in the future if they are not already.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#14
Hi Paul,

You are quite right, of course. My concern has more to do with dishonesty than with the actual country of origin.

For example, if 65% of component parts for an instrument are made elsewhere, I believe it is unscrupulous practice to claim otherwise.

I don't have any issues with people buying Chinese accordions (or anything else, for that matter) just as long as the manufacturer doesn't try to pass it off as German or Italian.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#15
(10-05-2019, 11:03 PM)Stephen Hawkins Wrote: ...
I don't have any issues with people buying Chinese accordions (or anything else, for that matter) just as long as the manufacturer doesn't try to pass it off as German or Italian.
...
Most of them make no false claims about their origin, but also do not choose a name to make the origin clearer either.
Chinese accordions come with names like Scarlatti or Paganini with a purpose, even though they do not have a "Made in Italy" sticker on them to deceive the buyer...
And we should not be just blaming the Chinese when the Germans (Hohner) were maybe the first to try to pass on non-German accordions as German.
But of course... what should one say about the origin of something? The Opel commercials "It's a German" were partly true as Opel indeed shut down the very good and efficient assembly plants outside of Germany (for instance in Antwerp, Belgium) but of course the Opel cars were designed by General Motors so they could also have said "It's an American" and that would not have been more or less true than "It's a German".
To the advantage of the North Korean accordion factory is that while I cannot read the lettering on their accordions, it's not in Latin alphabet so it's not trying to pass as being an accordion made anywhere in Europe.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#16
Hi Paul,

I understand that the North Korean manufacturer doesn't try to hide the origins of its products, and I am pleased that they do not attempt to mislead potential buyers. This honesty is to be applauded.

As mentioned in a previous post, the former USSR marketed motorcycles from Soviet Satellite States through a central bureau in Moscow. The UK had a Concessionaire to market these products, which were all sold as though they were from the same source. Most of their customers simply believed that they had bought Russian bikes, and I believe that was the manufacturers intention. Actually, the one I rode wasn't too bad.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#17
Russian motorcycles. We owned a Dnepr MT11 with sidecar for 4 or 5 years between 1989 and 1994 or so. To cut a long story short, the engine turned out to be a pile of &*^% and the electrics were worse.

We eventually replaced the Dnepr engine with a BM R60 unit, because of Dnepr's BMW ancestry the old air cooled R series would fit directly into the Dnepr and Ural 650 frames, a little engineering would ensure the BM engine would be compatible with the Dnepr gear box, which quaintly had a reverse gear.  Annoyingly, The sloppy input shaft into the gear box would eventually destroy the clutch plates. We eventually got rid of it and replaced it with a BM R80 and a very nice Watsonian sports sidecar.

The so called Minsk 125cc motorcycles were made in Minsk, (imaginative marketing here) now in Byelorus. Ural motorcycles were and are still made in Irbit now in Russia, Dnepr's were made some where in the Ukraine, possibly  Kiev. The 350cc two stroke twins and singles, Jupiter and the Saturn (maybe)  were half way decent bikes, well for the 1960's they would have been, but by the the 1990's they were very old hat, I once rode a 175cc Voskhod two-stroke, which was truly, truly awful...! I can't quite remember where these were made, a place called Chelyabinsk springs to mind...the design of the bikes was old fashioned but adequate, it was the lack of quality control and decent materials that let them down.
For those who remember them Jawa-CZ ( Czech)and MZ motorcyles ( East Germany) were more reliable and better built.
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#18
It`s always interesting to watch these accordion factory videos but impossible to determine product quality from any of them.
Being N. Korea is so isolated who really knows ?  I can`t imagine they build a better accordion than their Chinese counterparts do .
  Having had a few different Chinese accordions in my shop for various repairs I can emphatically say the Chinese accordions simply fall far short when compared to Italian accordions. The materials, construction,  and workmanship are substandard when compared to a similar Italian instrument . 
 That said , what would any rational person expect ? Just look at the cost of a typical new Chinese made 4/5 voice , full size keyboard with the usual bevy of treble and bass changers and with "supposedly" ? (hand made) Cagnoni reeds for $1,400 USD. Hand made reeds is a broad term and in this case might also infer hand tuned (tipo a mano). 

. A purchase order through Alibaba might even get you 10 of these for the price of one similar Italian made instrument .
  Granted , these Chinese accordion undoubtedly work and play as intended for the most part especially when given a bit of TLC by the importing sellers shop but I never met or do I know of any accomplished accordion player in the US who have ever used one especially when performing. 
 Having said all that , on Utube there are a multitude of highly accomplished Chinese accordionists young and old , playing these same substandard Chinese accordions  that would likely prove me wrong. I`m always impressed with them.


https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Accordion-G...SwDNRceJBZ
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#19
Hi Hais,

The one I rode (but didn't own) was a Dnieper MT10. It was a 650 cc flat twin solo and, as you say, it was originally a BMW design.

The one I rode was not very fast, nor was the ride and handling up to modern standards, but it was quite happy slogging around at modest speeds. It could be fed any grade of petrol, the lower the better, as the compression ratio was around 7:1.

The man who owned it kept it for many years, apparently with few problems. I do recall that it had 6V electrics, which made the headlights a bit like candles.

On the whole, I liked the Dnieper. Another friend of mine owned a 1200 cc Harley Davidson, and the handling was absolutely abysmal. I will stick my neck out and say that the Harley's handling was worse than that of the Dnieper.

The Dnieper owner did tell me how much he paid for it, but the figure is now lost in the mists of time. I do remember thinking that it was exceptionally cheap for a 650; way less than a Japanese 250, as I recall. I have no recollection whatsoever regarding the cost of the Harley, but whatever it was, it was too much.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
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#20
(13-05-2019, 12:26 AM)landro Wrote: It`s always interesting to watch these accordion factory videos but impossible to determine product quality from any of them.
Being N. Korea is so isolated who really knows ?  I can`t imagine they build a better accordion than their Chinese counterparts do .
  Having had a few different Chinese accordions in my shop for various repairs I can emphatically say the Chinese accordions simply fall far short when compared to Italian accordions. The materials, construction,  and workmanship are substandard when compared to a similar Italian instrument . 
 That said , what would any rational person expect ? Just look at the cost of a typical new Chinese made 4/5 voice , full size keyboard with the usual bevy of treble and bass changers and with "supposedly" ? (hand made) Cagnoni reeds for $1,400 USD. Hand made reeds is a broad term and in this case might also infer hand tuned (tipo a mano). 

. A purchase order through Alibaba might even get you 10 of these for the price of one similar Italian made instrument .
  Granted , these Chinese accordion undoubtedly work and play as intended for the most part especially when given a bit of TLC by the importing sellers shop but I never met or do I know of any accomplished accordion player in the US who have ever used one especially when performing. 
 Having said all that , on Utube there are a multitude of highly accomplished Chinese accordionists young and old , playing these same substandard Chinese accordions  that would likely prove me wrong. I`m always impressed with them.


https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Accordion-G...SwDNRceJBZ

If we consider that hundreds of thousands of musicians worldwide probably don't have the wide choice of instruments that others do, then the kids in China, or wherever, will probably make do with what they have and make a very decent job of it. 

Pro American musicians will undoubtedly go for the best they can afford, and that will not typically be something made anywhere other than Italy, unless it says Hohner on the front. 

I cannot be certain, but would opine that the majority of forum members aren't pro players, and as such tend to seek out what is available without having to pay for a top make. I have spent thousands over the years on various musical instruments and unfortunately they all suffered from one serious quality issue - the guy who played them!

Many of us are in the quest to find that instrument that we believe will make us turn the corner and rise to the next level. Some beginners buy the best they can afford in the belief that they'll be able to sell if it doesn't work out. Some go for the cheapest they can find in the belief it isn't worth the risk. To this day I wouldn't like to say what is the best approach, as it can take a very long time to sell an accordion here in the UK, especially if it's an expensive model. 

All I will say is if you are approaching middle age or past it when you are starting out it probably wouldn't matter that much. The accordion is easier to play than a piano, but not that much easier.
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