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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.

  • Beyond the daily grind: an imaginary trip with the jaw harp player Yoeman

    Joachim Hellmann is well-known for his jaw harp passion in his home region, the Uckermark. For a living, he teaches qi gong and taijiquan and works as an educational staff member at a primary school. Sometimes, he also plays jaw harp with the kids. And every now and then, he is being asked whether he could play a little piece just out of fun with his little pocket instrument. He is also present with his jaw harp in camps and on festivals. On such occasion he uses his pseudonym Yoeman. He says, the jaw harp is great fun and with it it's easy to get in touch. It connects people. The jaw harp is also perfectly suited for spending moments on one's own, special moments such as after Yoeman's stage appearance in the summer of 2019 at the Ancient Trance Festival.

    As it has become quiet on the market square of the town of Taucha, the last festival booths tables are being folded down and bracelets, dream catchers and other coloured items are being stowed away in boxes. On the stage, a technician puts away the last cables. After the concert, a group of people is sitting on the warm cobblestone and lets the rest of the day just pass by. At the edge of the stage, Yoeman is talking to one of his listeners as he stows away his jaw harps and a bottle of water in his rucksack. With a joyful feeling of energy and exhaustion that stems from an hour of energizing stage show he shoulders his baggage, bids the festival visitor farewell and swiftly moves through the stage speakers to the other side of the road. The empty parking spot behind one of the town houses of Taucha is the perfect spot for a time-out. When a cat passes the motion sensor or Yoeman makes a sweeping movement a house light is being turned on and blinds the summer darkness for a couple of moments. Yoeman lets himself fall onto a bank that is leaning against a house wall. He puts down the rucksack in front of him and takes a deep breath.

    He draws a wooden box with the size of a picture book out of his rucksack. He opens the clasp and the lid, and he looks in a contemplative manner at the instruments that rest in little compartments after the recent live performance. Yoeman reaches for the Vargan that was made by a blacksmith from the Urals. With it, one can evoke beautifully deep and relaxing trance sounds. He gently strokes the tongue and lets the tone sound until its very end. How can one describe the relationship to one's instruments? Mostly, Yoeman intuitively reaches the jaw harp that suits best the very mood he is in. His thoughts roam back to the concert. Today, the music naturally evolved away from the original plan. Here in Taucha the plan that worked so well at the last concert evolved into something different. The flow carried Yoeman away. It all comes down to the energy in the room and the auditory. When the people are following, are fully in the moment and at ease, then you can let the music come. One can rely on the main points that have evolved during 30 years of playing: playing techniques, original songs, and instinct.

    Yoeman has a quick peek on the Vargan and puts it back into the box. His gaze stops at a jaw harp from the Ukraine. Bought for quite a fair price and well-playable, with a nice atmosphere. Ideal for workshops, but also perfect for playing just for oneself. A funky instrument. You can play a slow beat with a lot of overtones and build finger stops into the flow, same as with the jaw harps from Zoltán Szilágyi and Andreas Schlütter, which Yoeman prefers for this playing technique.

    This Ukrainian jaw harp lies solidly in one's hand. Yoeman encloses it with his left hand to remember it. The metal is still quite warm from the summer air and feels exceptionally soft. This instrument can be easily held when played for a longer time. When the music is completely without any loops or effects as is the case with Yoeman's the firm grasp between the fingers allows one to play over minutes without stops, breaks or dropping the instrument. One can easily cope with the fact that with this instrument one does without playing fast beats. It is merely one of those criteria for Yoeman to choose the right jaw harp for the right song and the right mood.

    Back then in the 80's, when Yoeman went to school in the East German town of Suhl and stumbled into the local music shop, where he discovered the jaw harp, probably no one would have assumed this instrument would be a life-long companion for him. In hindsight, the coincidence could not have been greater as this music shop in Suhl was the only one in East Germany that sold jaw harps from the near-by workshop of Friedrich Schlütter in Zella-Mehlis. Once a listener after a concert asked how his long relationship with the jaw harp actually began and he replied: "I have been playing the jaw harp quite often. For me, it was a nice way to get in touch with music, an easy one, too. At some point, I made a leather mount for my jaw harp. At the beginning of the 90's I even went 2 or 3 times on stage. About 10 years ago, I played a bit on the jaw harp at the Ökotopia Festival, and some people there asked me whether I'd know the Ancient Trance Festival. With my family, I went directly from one festival to the other and since then I go to the Ancient Trance every year."

    Sitting here on this bench at the marketplace of Taucha having finished an exciting concert for the auditory of the Ancient Trance he is becoming aware how close the connection to the festival and his instruments have grown over the last years. In the beginning, he just watched the other jaw harp artists play and at some point he wondered why he wouldn't give a concert himself. The stage appearances happened more often – not only in Taucha. When being on the road with his family in summertime Yoeman is playing as a street musician his own songs, and he recorded those on CD as well. The festival in Taucha has become a source of inspiration for him. It is here where he listened to the breath-taking beats of Aron Szilágyi and the Airtists. Music that influenced his way of playing, which years ago already intuitively combined voice and beat box.

    In the Uckermark region, Yoeman with his jaw harp often appears as an exotic. Sometimes, at his workshop events he is welcoming groups of 50 people, where only 10 of them know the jaw harp. The special thing about such moments is the instant curiosity of the people. "How do you do that?", they ask. The jaw harp connects, is fun and helps to unwind. And at the Ancient Trance Festival a jaw harp player feels like finally coming home. Yoeman realizes he still clutches to the Ukrainian jaw harp in his hands. He takes it to his mouth and plays a short fast melody with a lot of finger stops. – Every time he is playing only to himself a new space opens and carries him away from time, place and the daily grind.

    Website & CD of Yoeman: https://yoema-wuoap.jimdofree.com/reinhören/

  • Stay Home! Make Music!

    Stay Home Make Music

    In these challenging times many of us are at home to help slow down the spread of Covid-19 - and that's good! Also we at DAN MOI work mainly from our home offices and are thankful for those who keep the delivery of goods going.

    However, for some of us there is certainly more free time these days (after the home office, taking care of the kids, some time outside, etc.) to spend on music - time for the home studio! Therefore we have collected some ideas for you, which are based on our experiences of the last years. Many well-known companies from the professional and home studio sector are currently offering free software (time-limited) for us musicians - we spice them up with a few tips of our own for you!

    For all following suggestions you will find enough tutorials on the popular video platforms. 😊

    What you will definitely need is a computer. For the following ideas you do not need big machines. Your usual equipment should be able to handle them.

    Microphone

    From our long experience the following microphones (in the low-cost range) have proven to be perfect:

    Sennheiser e845(S)

    It is perfect for live and studio use of the Jaw Harp. This dynamic microphone has been accompanying us on stage for many years and is also suitable for the home studio. It now has a follow-up, but is certainly available at a reasonable price at various online portals (eBay etc.).

    AKG C 3000

    For all other instruments, from guitar to flute or kalimba, an inexpensive large-diaphragm condenser microphone with versatile possibilities. This microphone is also available as used item at a reasonable price on many platforms. But for the condenser microphone you need a 12V phantom power from a mixing console or directly from a suitable soundcard. And that brings us to the next point.

    Sound Card

    The built-in sound cards in desktops and laptops unfortunately quickly reach their limits in the home studio. This affects sound quality, latency and the preamps, among other things. We therefore recommend the use of an external sound card.

    Focusride Scarlet: Solo or 2i2

    Very recommendable are the small red soundcards from Focusride and here especially the Focusride Scarlet Solo or 2i2. Best sound also in the microphone preamplifiers at a relatively small price, robust and flexible. The sound card then directly in connection with a DAW...

    Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

    A DAW is the "software heart" of the home studio. This is where everything comes together and where everything is controlled.

    Ableton Live

    The digital audio workstation Ableton Live is a very intuitive recording and composition program that we love to use. Currently Ableton offers 90 (!) days trial duration for the demo version. In Ableton you already have effects, looper, synthesizers and much more.

    Steinberg Cubase/Wavelab Elements in the #stayhome Collection

    Steinberg currently offers this unique collection for 60 days free of charge.

    Free DAW programs

    The following programs are free of charge and have only minor limitations compared to the paid DAWs.

    Waveform Free (formerly Tracktion7)
    Cakewalk
    Pro Tools/First
    Studio One 4 Prime
    Audacity (audio editor exclusively for editing sound signals)

    Plug-Ins

    For beautiful reverb, exceptional echoes and other effects, you'll need high-quality plug-ins for your DAWs. These are effects, synthesizers/instruments and drum machines. These plug-ins are mostly compatible with all DAWs, by the way.

    Soundtoys Effect Rack

    The finest effects from the US noble brand can now be used free of charge until 30 June.

    FabFilter

    Award-winning effects from the Netherlands - test them now 30 days for free.

    Free Plug-Ins

    You can find free (!) effects and plug-ins (synthesizer or drum machines) here:

    Jhud Vocal King Pro (compressor)
    Fuse Audio Labs RS-W2395C (equalizer)
    Acon Digital Verberate Basic (reverb)
    Ben Schulz JP-ME-1 (reverb)
    Fanan Clarinetica (virtual clarinet plug-in)
    Beatassist ITS (rhythmic synthesizer)
    Electronic Sound Lab ESL-110 (virtual drum machine)
    Sampleson Push (the one button synthesizer)
    Visare Tone Style Organ (virtual organ)
    Manda Audio 7Q (equalizer)
    Manda Audio MT Power Drum Kit 2 (virtual drums)

    And here is a free sample library from the highly acclaimed studio with cinematic-orchestral sounds from their latest project. Free of charge on the occasion of the Corona crisis:

    ProjectSAM - The Free Orchestra

     

    Making Music Together

    And then? Where are the others with whom I love to make music? At the moment surely and hopefully at home! But you can meet and work on your ideas and projects almost simultaneously. For example on Splice, a platform created directly for musicians all over the world. Here you can share, edit and publish your music projects with your friends or even musicians you don't know yet. The cloud feature runs, if you like, in near real time.

    Soundful wishes,
    Your Dan Moi team

     

    Disclaimer

    We receive neither financial nor material support from the above mentioned companies and have no business relationship with them. It is only a personal recommendation without claim to completeness.

  • A Breath of Time: In the Czech Republic Brumlista arouses the interest for the mouth harp

    Petr Jasinčuk aka Brumlista astonished many people. In a video, he plays the mouth harp in the deep winter´s cold, his body dipped up to his neck into the water of a lake. Around him ice and snow-covered birches. He wears a hat and sunglasses for this bone-chilling bath. Surrounded by snow-capped ice he plays his mouth harp, the brumle or brumla as the instrument is called in Czech language. Petr is not only famous for his extreme water sport endeavours, he is also known for being a progressive force in the Czech mouth harp community and a fine musician. Under the pseudonym Brumlista, he developed a unique playing style, mixing singing and beatbox elements with mouth harp sounds. In September 2019, Petr had a phone interview with Helen from Dan Moi, where he talks about his motivation to dedicate his time so devotedly to the mouth harp for more than eight years.

    I´m practicing the Wim Hof Method. It is a hardening and breathing technique. In wintertime, I go to the frozen lake, break a hole into the ice and take a bath for some minutes. In the video you see me there playing my mouth harp. It was a difficult and funny moment at the same time.” The hat he is wearing is typical for this unusual training. Only after many years of practice, one also puts the head under water. There are many more, but less extreme videos of Petr on the internet, where he is playing brumla in the nature. He says, nature is the better place to play the jaw harp rather than an urban environment. Petr lives near Prague. At home he usually plays without microphone and amplifier. He looks for places with a nice echo, e.g. in the hallway of his house or in a church.

    Up on stage Petr uses a microphone. The feeling of playing with an amplified mouth harp sound is a completely different one. Petr states: “You can play with more details and you can express more overtones. Also the breathing can be used more precisely, which enables you to articulate clearly.“ One of this energetic performances is captured on Brumlista‘s YouTube channel. It is showing Petr playing a solo concert at the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha. This clip also features a duet with double flute and mouth harp virtuoso Steev Kindwald. Steev has had an influence on the music of Brumlista and equally inspired him as musicians like Jonny Cope and Nadishana, Vladimir Markov and Aron Szilágyi.

    Petr’s first encounter with a mouth harp took place in a music store. A fairly simple, cheap instrument attracted his attention. In the beginning, Petr thought it was only a toy, but it drew his curiosity. This was the starting point of his interest for jaw harps: “I watched endless YouTube videos and read websites about mouth harps. That way I taught myself to play. I found my ‘inner teacherʼ that has been guiding me until today and helps me to increase my playing skills. I would describe it as a state of mind, an extended inner space, where I can develop my abilities. This ‘inner teacherʼ is also helping me to teach my students. I try to resonate with them through my senses and my consciousness, so I can convey my playing techniques.

    Petr holds brumle-workshops for beginners and for advanced players and he organises meetings of the Czech mouth harp community that he founded in 2012. The group communicates their activities and events on Facebook and on the website brumle.cz. “I want to re-popularise the brumle in Czech Republic as an old, spiritual tool”, Petr says. “I´m also making efforts to spread the knowledge about the instrument in other countries." The community in the Czech Republic is growing slowly, but constantly. By now, there are about 20 active jaw harp players. About 200 people are less active, but take interest in the mouth harp. The meetings, concerts and workshops of the Czech brumle community take place in Prague, because it is rather difficult to convince the city dwellers to come to the countryside, comments Petr.

    Brumlista at the Ancient Trance Festival

     

    The Czech word brumle or brumla derives most likely from the German term „Brummeisen“. Brumlista is the person who plays the mouth harp and brumlar is the Czech term for jaw harp blacksmith. So far, we know only a few details about the history of the mouth harp in the Czech Republic. Petr mentions a mouth harp from the 14th century that was found in Rokštejnská. “There was a kind of tradition in Moravia. There were some mouth harp players and the instrument is referred to in some folk songs.” Regina Plate reports in her cultural history of the mouth harp (1992) about a musician from Bohemia called Kunert, who was born in Kounice and in the first half of the 19th century played many concerts in several German and Austrian cities. Young brumle players like Brumlista or Ivo Charitonov give new life to the mouth harps in the Czech Republic. They reach out to folk music enthusiasts and lovers of spiritual sounds. Petr also plays in a South-East European fusion and trance band called “Nigunatica”.

    With the mouth harp I connect to my inner soul”, describes Petr, when he is asked what he finds so special about the brumle. “You can learn the instrument relatively easy. Almost everyone can play it after some time. Compared to a violin, the mouth harp is much easier to learn. Furthermore, it is not only about music. The mouth harp is a spiritual tool. Music therapists use the brumle because its sound can help to destroy blockades and to set free blocked energy.

    Mouth harps are also made in the Czech Republic. Petr plays the instrument of the Hungarian mouth harp maker Zoltan Szilágyi and those from the Czech instrument maker Šešulka: “These mouth harps are very special. They are adaptations of the legendary Austrian Jofen mouth harps, which are not built there anymore. I´m working with Šešulka to develop and improve the instruments.

    Petr came across the mouth harp during a moving time in his life. After having worked many years in the IT sector, he quit his job and began to work in a primary school. Today, he dreams of becoming a professional mouth harp player and teacher. His dream would come true if he could make a living from the mouth harp one day. It seems in recent years he got closer to that dream. Besides many performances at festivals and concerts, he travelled to Yakutia in 2019 to celebrate the international Khomus-Day on 30 November together with Yakutian mouth harp players. Just in time he released his first album: Breath of Time

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