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Nadishana: Whilst Playing the Jaw Harp I Imagine a Whole Orchestra

DAN MOI Clemens Voigt & Sven Otto GbR
Nadishana: Whilst Playing the Jaw Harp I Imagine a Whole Orchestra - The musician Nadishana talks about his passion to play mouth harp.

The multi-instrumentalist Nadishana plays more than 200 instruments. Among those the jaw harp, he says, is one of his favourites. „You can play it everywhere, even in public spots, without causing too much of a stir. I often use the time for practicing, when I need to wait somewhere.“

Nadishana grew up in a southern Siberian village and studied at University in Sankt Petersburg. He’s been living in Berlin for more than 10 years now, and is one of the favourite musicians as well as a regular performer at the Ancient Trance, the festival for jaw harp and World Music. In August 2016, Helen Hahmann met him at the 8th Ancient Trance in Taucha, near Leipzig, and had a chat with Nadishana at the castle yard, where he talks about his approach to music, his very individual style and his favourite jaw harps:

I want to learn something about music in general

Where I come from, the jaw harp is not really popular. 15 years ago, in Southern Siberia it was virtually non-existent. Also, the jaw harp was by far not as present in the Northern parts of Siberia, in Yakutia, as it is now. I believe the first time I heard those peculiar sounds was on vinyl records, back then in Russia.

One could only borrow records in libraries as 10 years ago you couldn’t just get the music you took an interest in from the internet the same we do today.

Anyway, I was excited by those recordings. I was wowed and just wanted to know what kind of instrument that is. So, I started reading books and visiting museums about music instruments. Until that point, I’ve never seen anybody in a live performance with a jaw harp. Three years later, when I started going to Uni a friend of mine purchased one in a second-hand store. He played it and let me try as well.

I bought my first jaw harp in Kyzyl, Tuva. It was not really a good quality jaw harp and broke down easily. But I started practicing with it. Then, I got a jaw harp from the Altai region. Originally, I am a guitar player, and I am also into percussions and flute as well as several other instruments. For me, it’s not about playing that certain instrument. I rather want to learn something about music.

Whilst playing the jaw harp I imagine a whole orchestra

I don’t consider myself as a jaw harp player. I am a musician who explores music in all imaginable ways. But the jaw harp is an interesting instrument. Though it’s a simple one, it has got a lot of power, provides many possibilities, and so many strange sounds that can be generated. And it’s truly an ancient sound. As is the case with other overtone instruments, the flageolet tones can be accentuated.

My style is a product of my previous experience that I made with music. I play drums and percussions and I apply those techniques and rhythms to the jaw harp. I also arrange the music. That is to say, I imagine an orchestra during my jaw harp play: now the violins start to play, and then the percussions chime in. Then again, the percussions are pausing and the whole orchestra is playing, or all but one instrument just stop. I think of alteration in speed, modulation of the melody etc. I arrange the music during playing the jaw harp the same way I would do for an orchestra.

Naturally, I am inspired by other jaw harp techniques and other music, for instance the Indian art of jaw harp playing and actually Indian music in general. What is being achieved in India with the Morsing is just amazing. Or have a look at Norway: over there they have this fantastic tradition to play tunes with the jaw harp.

Playing the Japanese jaw harp Kohkin is what I like best

I’m fascinated by the jaw harp because it is so small and such a quiet instrument as well. I can take it with me everywhere I go. You can play the jaw harp at public spots without harassing anyone at all. That’s the reason why I play the jaw harp as often. I simply take it always with me. While I’m waiting somewhere, I just get it out of my pocket and pass some time.

I like best playing the Japanese, black jaw harp, the so called Kohkin. I like it, because I play on small jaw harps only and the smith in Japan builds small, good quality instruments. On those small Kohkins I can apply all my playing techniques. The only problem I encounter is that my way to play makes the instruments break rather quickly. Three of them already broke and since the Kohkin are quite valuable I decided to go for some budget instruments. That’s why I play the Vargan instruments from Paul Potkin that come from the Altai mountains. They are inexpensive, quality is solid and they simply don’t break as quickly.