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The DAN MOI Jaw Harp Blog ♫

In our Blog we write about Jew´s Harps and other musical instruments, about ourselves and about events and artists connected with us or our instruments.

  • “Playing the Fujara is like Archery”: Interview with the Fujara player Marco Trochelmann

    In real life, Marco Trochelmann is a high school teacher for music and German. Originally, he is a piano player and drummer, but he discovered the Slovakian bass flute Fujara already during his university studies. The instrument put such a spell on him; he could not take it out of his hands. Until today, he has been producing several Fujara CDs and compositions for the instrument. Marco Trochelmann also conducts workshops on a regular basis and he operates a comprehensive website called tonfinder.de, dedicated to this extraordinary instrument. In an interview with Helen from DAN MOI he talks about his experiences as a cross-boarder musician in Slovakia and provides with an understanding of playing techniques and sound parameters of the Fujara. He says, “I have been living with the Fujara for over 20 years now and for me the instrument has still a lot to do with freedom, namely the freedom to explore and to research.”

     

    How did you discover the Fujara?

    Marco Trochelmann (MT): In 1997, I moved to Berlin to study music and German studies with the aim to become a teacher. My main instrument was the piano and besides that I practiced drumming and singing. I encountered the Fujara in a Berlin student digs. I intended to record some music with a fellow student. But he had a Fujara standing around, which a German instrument maker had stored at his place. The whole evening I tried out the instrument. There are still recordings with the Fujara and a dissected grand piano around from that evening. I was permitted to borrow the instrument. Finally, I had it for 10 years until the instrument maker wanted to have it back.

    When it comes to playing techniques, what must one observe to play the Fujara well?

    MT: You need to listen carefully. The instrument “tells” you, whether something is good or not. You need to practice in a focused and self-critical manner, play a lot and experiment, but more than anything else it is important to give yourself into the instrument, so that listening becomes eavesdropping.

    The fingerings have different “meanings”. The air pressure is decisive for what overtone is being addressed. Over the years, I realized playing the Fujara is like archery. It is pretty easy to shoot an arrow, but to hit what you’d like to hit is much more difficult. The same is true with the Fujara. You can play nice tones rather quickly as you don’t need a specific “approach” if compared to other instruments, but to play the tone that you aim to play is the real challenge. The higher the tone the more difficult it gets. “Easy to play, hard to master” hits the nail on the head for the Fujara.

    How are classical shepherd’s tunes characterized?

    MT: The classical Slovakian shepherd’s song form begins with an initial blow (rozfuk) that has often a personal touch. The connoisseurs of the art are able to distinguish who is actually playing. After a deep “murmur” this flourish changes into a melody. The melody is merely hinted at and is almost played in a jazz-like manner. Listeners that are familiar with the song may already recognize what will be played. Then, the singing part without any instrumental accompaniment follows. In the interludes the Fujara sounds again and at the end the melody is played one more time with the so-called prefuk, also known as woosh. The tonality is usually mixolydian. On the diatonic flute the basis of the most melodies is also a scale that starts at the quint tone of the basic tone, for instance basic tone G – tonality of the melody: D mixolydian (D major with c instead of c sharp).

    What experiences have you gathered at the Fujara festivals in Slovakia?

    MT: At the times of the festivals a lot of stuff happened for me in my little Fujara world. In this respect, 2004, 2008, and 2013 were particularly important years for me. I got to know Pavol Smutny, Winfried Skrobek, Winne Clement, Dusan Holik, Milan Koristek, and many more. Fujara players, makers, friends – people I have communicated through the internet with in the preceding years, people that I may have met on Facebook or Youtube materialized right in front of me and there was a surprising and uncommon atmosphere of familiarity. Exchange, inspiration, motivation, and a sense that things were starting to happen. We played concerts in Detva and Zvolen and performed together on the big stage in Detva during the folklore festival in 2008.

     

    I received quite some praise and acknowledgement for my extraordinary Fujara sound. Many were interested, but there were also critical voices as my play was very far away from the traditional Fujara music.

    Then out of the blue Dusan Holik, the founder and main organizer of the international Fujara festival, passed away after a heart attack in 2017 and currently nobody knows when and where a next international Fujara festival is gonna happen in Slovakia.

     

    What role does the Fujara play in the national culture of Slovakia?

    MT: Today, the Fujara is known in the whole of the country, but it will be mainly played in the Podpol’anie region around Detva. There, the Fujara tradition is still alive. In my point of view, the fact that Slovakians re-discovered the instrument is connected to the UNESCO declaring the Fujara (and its traditional melodies) to the world culture heritage in 2005. That attracted international attention and produced a kind of feedback effect. Many makers realized that the Fujara was acknowledged in other countries and that is why young Slovakians also started to gain interest in the instrument. National groups began to use the Fujara as a status symbol and meanwhile it is also a symbol of Slovakian national pride.

    Is there a scene for the Fujara on an international stage and has there been an upswing of the instrument in recent years?

    MT: I believe, the first international Fujara wave happened at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. Back then, the instrument was quite popular with the world music scene in Switzerland. Gérard Widmer started quite early to combine it together with the didgeridoo player Willi Grimm.

    Around the millennium the internet and finally the acknowledgement as UNESCO World Heritage in 2005 were 2 factors that extremely helped. I appear to belong to a group of musicians that have been riding on the second wave.

    Who comes to you to learn the instrument?

    MT: People who encountered the Fujara and who are deeply moved by it and its sound, and now look for a teacher. The stories how the people found their way to the instrument are totally different. Frankly, it is not quite normal to encounter the Fujara and then wanting to play it (except for people in Slovakia perhaps). At my workshops or my private lessons completely different people from diverse parts of the society find their way to me, but I experience all of them as curious people on a quest. Among them, of course we also have the professional musician who feels like getting to know the Fujara and who wants to save some time by getting clear guidance. The people are great and I like it a lot. The Fujara as a reason to meet seems to be a good reason.

  • Mouth Harp Graffiti: An interview with Kian Wind

    German Mouth Harper Kian Wind from Leipzig discovered the Jaw Harp only a few years ago. He got deeply involved with the instrument. Today he is performing his own music on jaw harp and loop machine. Helen from DAN MOI was talking to him about his newly released album "Miluju Tě" and about his participation at the Marranzano World Festival in Catania. We are talking about good mouth harps, take a look into Kians collection of Jaw harps and try to find out more about the magical influence a mouth harp can have on someones live. Further Kian talks about his song „Street Indigenous“, that was written in memory of the graffiti culture and its heroes. In the interview you also hear songs from the album "Miluju Tě". The interview was recorded in German language.

    Part 1: "Minnelied" from the album "Miluju Tě"

    Part 2: "Street Indigenous" from the album "Miluju Tě"

    To listen to Part 3 – 5 please visit our German blog post.

  • Jaw Harp Festivals – Calendar 2019

    1-2 February Parmupillifestival, EST
    10-12 May Gjovik Music Week, NO
    18 May La Fete de la Guimbarde, FR
    20-23 June Marranzano World Fest, I
    26-28 June North American Jaw Harp Festival, USA
    4-7 July Rudolstadt Festival, D
    19-21 July Le Reve de l´Aborigene, FR
    8-11 August Ancient Trance Festival, D
    23-25 August Krutushka Festival, RU
    23-25 August Slovisha Festival, RU
    20-22 September Norwegian Jew´s Harp Festival, NO
    28 December Global Vibes Festival, HU
    February 2020 World Mouth Harp Festival, INDIA
    August 2020 International Jew´s Harp Festival and Congress, CHINA (tbc)

    MAY 2019
    10-12 May Gjovik Music Week, NO
    18 May La Fete de la Guimbarde, FR

    Every year in May, the Norwegian jaw harp scene and lovers of international folklore music are on a pilgrimage to the Music Week in Gjovik. There, one can not only learn to forge a jaw harp and to play it. There are also seminars for the flute and the Langeleik as well as for dancing and singing. The gathering takes place from 10-12 May 2019 in Gjovik.

    On 18 May 2019 in France a one-day jaw harp festival, La fête de la Guimbarde is being hosted for the first time. Following the initiative of some lovers of the jaw harp and the local tourism association of Vertolaye (in Central France) a festival day with 6 artists such as Aron Szilágyi, Tikaille and Amaury le Barde performing is being organized. Also, there are workshops with diverse jaw harp smiths and workshops for jaw harp playing on the offer. Furthermore, Harm Linsen and Luc “Tchen” Yayer have signed up for public lectures.

    June 2019
    20-23 June Marranzano World Fest, I
    26-28 June North American Jaw Harp Festival, USA

    Marranzano, the Sicilian word for jaw harp, is the name giver of the local jaw harp festival. The Marranzano World Festival is regularly happening every July. The musician and music ethnologist Luca Recupero from Catania, who is known through the Band IPERcusSONICI, is the host and pro bono organizer of this happening. Luca tracks down the traces of the jaw harp in the history of Sicilia and attempts to revive the tradition around the pocket instrument. The 10th anniversary of the festival is going to be celebrated from 20 to 23 of June 2019 in Catania. Until now guests like Tran Quang Hai, Aron Szilágyi as well as other exicting Sicilian bands and musicians like Jacarànda, Matilde Politi, and Maura Guerrera registered.

    In North America we can also find a festival, i.e. the North American Jaw Harp Festival, that is hosted on a regular basis. In 2019, it will celebrate its 24th anniversary from 26-28 June in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The festival is being organized by a group of jaw harp fans that are spread over different places in the US. The festival features concerts, an open stage and workshops.

    JULY 2019
    4-7 July Rudolstadt Festival, D

    The white-haired folk fan of the first hour meets the 15 year old neo-hippie girl, the scholar for old music meets the neo jazz expert” writes the Weser Kurier, a German newspaper, about Germany’s biggest world music festival. The Rudolstadt Festival is also one of the most important festivals for folk and world music in Europe. Rudolstadt is blessed by thousands of festival visitors. More than 25,000 people per day come back year after year to enjoy the special flair and the choice of music. Almost 30 stages are spread over the whole town: in the park near the river Saale, at the marketplace, and in small courts of the inner city and last but not least high over the town on the castle Heidecksburg. In four days one can see on average more than 120 bands and artists from 40+ countries. One will seriously struggle to find such a musical and cultural concentration somewhere else. In 2019, the musical focus will be on Persian music as this year’s featured country is Iran. As always, the festival starts at the first Thursday in July, from 4-7 July 2019.

    AUGUST 2019
    8-11 August Ancient Trance Festival, D
    23-25 August Krutushka Festival, RU
    23-25 August Slovisha Festvial, RU

    The Ancient Trance Festival (ATF) in the restless town of Taucha near Leipzig is known as an established name by world music and jaw harp fans. The ATF began 15 years ago as a small, compact concert moment for jaw harp music. Transcendental, hand-made live music, environmentally conscious partying and workshops that invite to join: the concept of the festival has been so successful that the weekend in August has found its regular spot in the festival calendar. The festival team works by the principles of Sociocracy – self-governed and in conscious harmony with the powers of nature and the festival organizers. That is why the ATF team regularly takes a well-deserved one year break as this event is organized during the free time of all members. This year marks the 10th anniversary. From 8 to 11 August more than a few jaw harp virtuosos will mingle with world music bands and solo artists in Taucha. So far, confirmed bookings are: Airtists, UUTAi and Vassvik.

    As always, the Krutushka Festival is a solid booking for the jaw harp festival agenda. It regularly happens in August in Russia and in particular reflects the world music scene in Russian-speaking countries. There, one can always spot the most excellent players.

    In 2019 Mouth harp experts Aksenty Beskrovny, Gjermund Kolltveit, Vladimir Markov and Anton Kamenskiy met at Slovisha Festival in the city Veliky Novgorod in Russia. They shared their knowledge of the archeology and history of Jaw harps with the audience. Aksenty Beskrovny published an illuminating interview with Gjermund Kolltveit about his Jaw harp research starting in 1994. The album recording "It's a Long, Long Way to Novgorod" documents the musical encounter of Aksenty, Gjermund Kolltveit and Anton Kamenskiy at Slovisha Festival 2019.

    SEPTEMBER 2019
    20-22 September Norwegian Jew´s Harp Festival, NO

    In Norway, one can find one of the most vibrant jaw harp scenes in Europe. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another highlight of the European jaw harp calender is the Norwegian jaw harp festival. This year, it is being hosted from 20 to 22 September in Rauland in the province of Telemark that is located in the South of Norway. The invitation comes from the Norwegian Jew´s Harp Forum (Norsk Munnharpeforum), which was founded in 1998. Kudos to the forum as year by year they make numerous possibilities for the continuous exchange of knowledge around the topic Munnharpe happen. The 150+ members of the forum meet annually in September at the Norwegian Jaw Harp Festival. On top of concerts and workshops the jaw harp players are gathering to exchange playing techniques, tunes, jaw harps and news from the scene. The festival took place for the first time in 1995.

    FEBRUARY 2020 World Mouth Harp Festival

    In Southern Asia, the most important happening for jaw harp music is the World Mouth Harp Festival in Goa, India. Since 2013 it is being organized by musician and jaw harp specialist Neptune Chapotin. The festival is regularly happening in January and the next one is announced for 2020. One experiences exciting music from different regions of India as from South Indian Bangalore, the Northern provinces of Rajasthan and Gujarat, or from Assam. Not only jaw harp virtuosos, but also musicians with diverse Indian music instruments as well as beat box artists and didgeridoo players perform on stage.

    AUGUST 2020 International Jew´s Harp Festival and Congress, CHINA (tbc)

    The meeting of jaw harp players and scholars is a sequel to the last congress that happened in 2014 in Taucha. Back then, more than 30 international jaw harp specialists met for presentations, concerts, discussions and workshops in Taucha at the same time as the Ancient Trance Festival. Not only the conference, but also the challenge cup “Global center of the jaw harp” will be moving from Taucha to China. That’s why the hosting town of the conference will also receive the cup. By the way, the first meeting of its kind happened in the year of 1984 in Iowa City, USA.

    Single events

    The Austrian Jaw Harp Association regularly hosts concerts in Northern Austria, e.g. in Molln or at the castle Schloss Feldegg.

    We also would like to point you to the events of the Japanese Jaw Harp Society Nihon Koukin Kyoukai, located in Tokyo, which is basically organized by Leo Tadagawa.

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