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Here you can read exciting articles about some of the protagonists of the jaw harp and ethnic music world.
  • "Singing Jew's Harp": Yakutian Jew's Harp art available for free download

    Spiridon Shishigin spielt Khomus Maultrommel Spiridon Shishigin

    He is recognized as one of the best Jew's harp soloists in the world: Spiridon Shishigin. Together with the Jew's harp player Aksenty Beskrovny and the flautist Anton Borisov, he can be heard on the album "Singing Jew´s Harp" which appeared in 2011. With their album, which appearered under Creative Commons licence, the trio provide an overview of the art of playing the Jew's harp in Yakutia.

     

     

     

    Singing Jew's Harp - Spiridon Shishigin, Anton Borisov, Aksenty Beskrovny Singing Jew's Harp

    Though for some ears they take a little getting used to, the duets between the flute and the Jew's harp are a special treat, and they document a further exciting effort at a musical co-operation between a Jew's harp and another instrument. The various Jew's harp pieces are really worth listening to. Spiridon Shishigin and Aksenty Beskrovny are both soloists. As a duet they sound acoustically consistent and often absolutely brilliant. For anyone who would like to enter this universe of sound, a visit to the Jamendo album page is recommended.

     

    Aksenty Beskrovny

    Anyone who would like to be enthralled by the worlds of free music can go to the Aksenty Beskrovny Bandcamp page. "The Stories Without Words" which appeared in 2012 is a vivacious solo album played on a jew´s harp made by Alexander Dernovoy from Ukrainia. People keen on the abstract and experimental in sound will like Beskrovny´s cooperation with Karim Ali Chingizidov: The Lower World. Last but not least, we can recommend the low-fi recording by the duo Aksenty Beskrovny and Deirdre Morgan (Touchtone Duo). Also, an older recording from the year 2011, which presents an attempt at accoustic communication between two cultural worlds (British Columbia/Canada and Yakutia/Russia). Beautifully played and rich in its range of sounds.

  • Completing Sounds

    by Gabriele Albanese

    Official DAN MOI Endorser Gabriele Albanese plays Marranzano Jaw Harps Official DAN MOI Endorser Gabriele Albanese

    Playing the Marranzano Jew's harp has had a strong effect on my career as a musician. It was love at first sight. As I was getting familiar with this instrument and having felt its strong passionate energy, I was powerfully attracted to it. I owe this introduction mainly to my professional collaboration and friendship with Mimmo Cavallaro. Thanks to him I approached the instruments of Mediterranean folk tradition.

    In my opinion the marranzano (Sicilian name), known in Italy as scacciapensieri, and in my region of origin, Calabria, malarruni, holds a special place which makes it a bit different from all the other instruments I play and with which I am used to be challenged. I can make this statement for many reasons. First of all, in spite of being seen as an instrument only found in Sicily, it is actually part of the cultural heritage of several countries all over the world. Anglo-Saxon musicians are familiar with it (they call it Jew’s Harp) and is quite constantly present also in Asia and in the music of the Balkans. It is thus a signature instrument of World Music and as such has helped me immensely in my sound explorations, allowing me to learn not only a new way of making music, but also giving me access to an entire cultural universe that until then I perceived as distant and inaccessible.

    Behind this thin vibrating blade, mounted in shapes and materials which vary from metal to wood (some of them are even made of bamboo), there's a long and complex manufacturing process which requires extreme technique and a meticulous attention to details.

    I had the chance to witness the creation of a Marranzano Jew's harp in Sicily, in Monterosso Almo, during a day I spent with Carmelo Buscema, a true and well known expert in the field. After showing my musician friends who accompanied me and me some of the Marranzano Jew's harps he had made, Carmelo gave further proof of his extraordinary ability by modelling a beautiful wrought iron leaf before my astonished eyes. He gave it to me as a gift and I still carry it with me. It was exactly during that afternoon that I believe I decided to perform a comprehensive study on this instrument, focusing not only on its technical features, but also on the historical and social context in which it originated.

    Since then, the Marranzano Jew's harp has became a crucial part of my artistic expression. It is not just an instrument of traditional study, it is an essential starting point for anyone who wants to experiment with original rhythmical and melodic combinations, and apply them with versatility to various musical genres, from pop to rock, from techno to dance music, to name a few.

    It can produce enchanting sounds. It sends shivers through your soul.

    Gabriele Albanese

  • Mukkuri: Kimiyo Suzuki makes the Bamboo Jew's harp of the Ainu people.

    Kimiyo Suzuki plays Mukkuri Jew's Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014 Kimiyo Suzuki plays Mukkuri Jew's Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

    In Japan, many different types of Jew's harps are played. The modern Japanese term for metal instruments is Koukin, which roughly means "mouth zither". Jew's harps made of bamboo are played by the Ainu, an indigenous tribe that has lived in the north of Japan for as long as anyone can recall. For the Ainu, the Jew's harp Mukkuri is an important part of their culture. One of the most recognized Mukkuri manufacturers and Mukkuri players is Kimiyo Suzuki from the city Kushiro in the southeast of Japan's largest island Hokkaido.

    The Mukkuri has accompanied Kimiyo for her entire life. Her grandfather had worked as a wood carver and decorated commodities with traditional Ainu designs. It was also he who began to manufacture Jew's harps made of bamboo. He passed the craft on to his son who taught it to his daughter Kimiyo. There has never been a debate whether she as a women could build the Mukkuris herself. It was a natural process that she learned herself the manufacturing of Mukkuris after her marriage, Kimiyo says. At first, economic reasons lead to Kimiyo getting involved in the production of Jew's harps. The sale of Jew's harps helped to support the family. Over the 40 years that Kimiyo produces Mukkuris already, it also increasingly became an spiritual task to manufacture Mukkuris, because through this instrument she is also passing on the culture of the Ainu.

    In Hokkaido Kimiyo Suzuki is currently the only woman producing Mukkuris. "There are many people who try to make a Mukkuri. Of course they succeed to produce the form of a Mukkuri, but it is very difficult to make instruments with a really good sound. One has to treat the bamboo for the Jew's harp e.g. by frying it in oil, to make the material stable and resonant. That is something not many can do." Instruments made of Bamboo have the disadvantage that they can break fairly quickly. Therefore Kimiyo is very careful with which instruments leave her workshop. Only top-quality Mukkuris are sold.

    Mukkuris are played by the Ainu only on joyfull occasions. Be it for one's own pleasure or for a celebration, the Ainu Mukkuri is above all played collectively: "As a child I always looked forward to the excursions to my grandmother's house. My mother and other women got together there with their children and played Mukkuri together. We children danced to the music. These afternoons are among the nicest memories of my childhood." Suzuki first played the instrument in her youth since it is not easy to produce sounds with a Mukkuri. It requires quite a bit of practice to get the bamboo tongue to vibrate using a cord.

    At the International Jew´s Harp Society in Yakutia in 2011 Kimiyo Suzuki received the prize for the best Jew's harp producer. Since then orders and invitations have been coming in huge numbers. "In the last few months I have been working with almost no break at all. I am being invited to talks and presentations and received inquiries for Mukkuris almost every day from all over the world." From time to time Kimiyo also welcomes interested Jew's harp players to Kushiro, to give them an introduction to the art of playing the Mukkuri.

    For many years the Mukkuri was played as an attraction for tourists. Now the Ainu culture has grown in confidence in Japanese cities and more and more professional musicians are dedicating their efforts to the instrument. On the Mukkuri the performance is mostly impromptu. As part of this, the sounds of the environment and the landscape of the region are a major inspiration for the pieces. If you ask Kimiyo, how one can imagine Kushiro and Hokkaido, she responds with a song on her Mukkuri: "I live in Kushiro. I am now describing the environment and the nature surrounding Kushiro. I mirror the sound of the water from the river Kushiro and the roaring of the bears that live in the region:"

     

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