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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