Snuggled in the midst of San Francisco Chinatown, this Aladdin's cave of a shop has become a consummate meeting place for exotic music, where musicians and non-musicians can explore sound, history and art.
The instruments are displayed in a way that stimulates the imagination and curiosity. Besides more than 100 varieties of instruments from every continent, there are books, instructional videos and CDs for teachers and students.
Clarion was established in 1982, when owner Clara Hsu received an offer from the Captain of the Salvation Army Corps in Chinatown to take over a retail space in the basement of an old church.
In the early days, Clarion dealt mostly in pianos, violins and Chinese traditional musical instruments. Musicians who discovered the shop wanted the Chinese instruments, and would trade in their own doumbek or berimbau for a dizi or erhu.
After a few years, Clarion collected many unusual and beautiful instruments. These instruments in turn inspired Clarion to become a world music instrument shop.