DDR Instrument Manufacture

musima banjolele
Musima Banjolele
Cold War Musima Soprano
Musima Ukulele
Original Weltton Ukulele Banjo Mandolin
Original Welton
In 1945 most of the instrument manufacturers in the Russian controlled zone of Germany, (later to become DDR), were nationalized and merged into two large companies, Musima and Migma. Musima was to focus on factory-made instruments for the mass market while Migma was an "umbrella label" for individual instrument makers.

Although never too well-known or prestigious, Musima was probably the largest instrument manufacturer in the world during the 1960's and 70s, building all kinds of instruments at all price and quality levels. It started in 1952 as VEK (Volks Eigener Kreisbetrieb trans. People's Own Circle) but quickly changed to VEB Musima (Volks Eigener Betrieb trans. People's Own Operation) as a small factory employing about 20 people in Markneukirchen. However it got the state backing, "Flagship Company" status, and was allowed to rapidly expand and take over all of the old instruments making enterprises in that area. By the the 1980's it was employing over 1200 people on a number of sites and continued past German reunification, (with a good deal of rationalisation closing of sites, laying off of staff and dropping the VEB from the name), until bankruptcy in 1997. Most instruments were sold unbranded or with a variety of brand names, Original Welton being  one of the most common, (I have seen them branded Kent and sold in the USA at the height of the cold war! They also made the last of the George Formby Banjoleles for Dallas). They also continued with some of the respected pre-war names used for chordophones whose makers factories they had taken over, names like Herrnsdorf and Otwin for Guitars. It is safe to say though any DDR factory produced instrument of this period will have been made under the auspices of this maker. 

The Banjoleles they made are fairly distinctive and easy to spot, even when they are unbranded and have lost the original head, but the Ukuleles,with their sharkstooth tuners can look very similar to Japanese made ones of the period and so are a bit harder to pick out.

Migma (short for "Musik Instrumente Genossenschaft Markneukirchen") was the other of the East German instrument manufacturers founded after WW2 and was the umbrella title for all of the individual luthiers and instrument makers. It still exists today as a collective brand for a number of instrument makers located in Markneukirchen They include Luthiers amongst their number but not any that make Ukuleles
Link to website in German

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