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Zoord: With the jaw harp on the frozen Lena

They call their music Power Folk. And it’s true, the music of Zoord has an energetic rhythm and instantly gets into your feet. Brand-new melodies from the East of Europe, outright revealing a lust for life and joy of playing. The first CD of the unusual trio from Hungary around the energetic jaw harp specialist Áron Szilágyi was released in 2016. In 2017, they had intermezzos at the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha and at the Sziget Festival in Budapest.

Our music originates from Siebenbürgen. We keep the connection to tradition, but form it as we understand it today, and we alter it according to our mood and our feeling”, says Áron Szilágyi. Zoord’s regional focus roots back to their violinist Béla Drabant. In recent years he frequently travelled to Siebenbürgen, to play with those musicians who learned the old melodies from their parents and grandparents. Some of those musicians are not alive anymore, but their melodies live on – amongst others in the music of Zoord.

The interaction of drums, violine and jaw harp is something very special. This is unprecedented. Over the last 10 years, the three musicians have been playing together in various music formations. The three of them have completely different musical backgrounds. Drummer Krisztián Almási is also active in punk and rock bands, but he creates music programmes for kids, too. His speciality is combining punk and traditional music. Áron Szilágyi is one of the most versatile and powerful jaw harp players in the world. He dedicated his whole life to music. Not only as a musician, as he is also the director of the Music Instrument Museum of the town Kecskemét. All 3 musicians have their roots in the area around the Hungarian town Kecskemét, which is known for its folk music scene.

The initial spark to form a band project was a memorable journey to Siberia. “In 2014, we had a 14-days tour in Siberia. In the midst of winter. It was very cold. The warmest temperatures we experienced were –30 degrees Celsius. After we returned from the tour that made a really great impression on us we decided that the band name should refer to the cold tour through Siberia.” And so Zoord is the animalistic, wild interpretation of the Hungarian term “zord” that bears the meaning of gloomy, cold and rough.

We were invited to the International Khomus day and gave a big concert in Yakutsk. After that we travelled to smaller towns and villages.” At the Zoord concert in 2017 during the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha Áron tells the auditory from their legendary trip to Siberia: the community rooms, where the concerts happened, always appeared to be far away from the nearest houses. Far and wide no other neighbour towns or villages were to be seen. Only steppe, as far as the eye could see. How would someone ever get to their concert in such a remote area? But right before the start guests from all directions pushed into the concert room and were delighted by what they heard. “It really was an adventure to travel through the steppe and on the frozen Lena. After the journey we wrote several new songs that reflect on our impressions.”

Currently, Yakutia is globally seen the region with the strongest jaw harp culture. How does a jaw harp musician change after such a profound experience? “Clearly, it became evident to me that melody and rhythm play different roles in Yakutia. In Yakutia jaw harp rhythms have much more a flowing character. You are not so much bound to a beat, rather the music simply flows. This playing style serves to reach a different state of consciousness, to drift away from the presence.

Such impressions from the journey and the experience of another culture provided Áron’s jaw harp play with more depth, he retrospectively says. In Zoord’s music the jaw harp is sometimes the bass, at times the drone and at other times a melodic instrument. The CD “Zoord” is released now and the band toured to other “crazy” places in the world, among them Japan and Kazhakstan.