A Yakutian jaw harp dangles from the neck of Spiridon Shishigin on a thin braided cord. It is embedded in a little wooden box. The jaw harp catches the eye as it is embellished with a big “65”. “This Khomus”, says Spiridon, after he finishes playing the first tune on another jaw harp, “I got as a present from my friends on my 65th birthday. That was last year. Now, I’m 66 years old. I’ve been playing since I’m 5. The Khomus is a good friend of mine for 56 years now.” He speaks cautiously, with a lowered voice. He smiles, then takes the precious jaw harp into both of his hands, lifts it to the mouth, pauses, pants, lets it sink to his breast for a moment, as though he’d like to emphasize his words by these movements, and then finally he puts the instrument that marks his anniversary to his lips.
On 15 February Spiridon visited the project shop “Sinn und Sein” (Sense and Being) in Leipzig. About 30 fans and guests from the whole region gathered to see the world-famous jaw harp virtuoso from Yakutia in concert. Here – where the minds behind the Ancient Trance Festival conduct their planning meetings as well – is a hint of Indian Chai in the air on this winter evening. Coloured lights provide the backdrop for the warm sound from the eternal ice and long winters. "I’m from Siberia and play 'the tundra' for you on my jaw harp," Spiridon says and makes use of one esteemed element in the Yakutian art of the jaw harp, which connects sound and vibration with nature and landscape: improvisation.
"I play the tundra for you, but I need to confess I’ve never been there, actually. A trip to the tundra takes so much longer than travelling to Berlin. When taking a plane I arrive in Berlin after 9 hours. If I intend to travel to the tundra I need to fly and then go by car for hours. That’s why I’ve never been there." The steady wind of the tundra blew through Leipzig – evoked by the Khomus, the Yakutian jaw harp. A “cuckoo” cried out of Shishigin’s throat and announced spring soon to arrive. Melodies appeared and started sketching an austere and never-ending landscape of the steppe in Northern Russia.
Spiridon Shishigin performs at Sinn und Sein in Leipzig
Shishigin’s stage appearance happened thanks to his friendship with Clemens Voigt from DAN MOI. The both of them have known each other for 13 years and on that evening played a jaw harp duet for the auditory, too. Everyone in and around Leipzig who missed the opportunity to see Spiridon Shishigin live on stage – stay tuned: The master has good reason to visit the city more often in the near future. Recently his daughter’s family moved to Delitzsch, a town close to Leipzig.