The DAN MOI Jaw Harp Blog ♫

  • Mindigafur Zainetdinov shows a tremolo on the Bashkirian Kubyz

    Mindigafur Zainetdinov at the Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music 2014As soon as Mindigafur Zainetdinov picks up one of his jew's harps, a smile flits across his face. With his back ramrod-straight and standing with his feet apart, he takes up his position in front of the microphone and puts his Bashkirian Kubyz to his lips. His smile remains when Mindigafur plays the Kubyz. "I was the 11th child in our family. All of my siblings play the Kubyz, as do my parents. My mother taught me how to play the Kubyz. It's a family tradition."

    Mindigafur Zainetdinov was born in a small town in the Republic of Bashkortostan and now lives as a jew's harp virtuoso and teacher in Ufa. Mindigafur plays the Kuraj flute in addition to the Bashkirian jew's harp, the Kubyz. Kubyz and Kuraj are amongst the traditional musical instruments of Bashkiria. Mindigafur plays both instruments, among others, in the Bashkirian State Philharmonic.

    Mindigafur Zainetdinov plays the Kuraj Fluteat the Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music 2014 Mindigafur plays the Kuraj flute

    "You can play every kind of music on the jew's harp. I play the melodies of traditional Bashkirian folk songs but also I like to extemporize. Naturally I can also play pop tunes and I regularly perform with a jazz band." Moreover he can be heard in a duet with the Russian photographer and jew's harp player Olga Prass. "Many people in Bashkiria play the Kubyz, there are contests where more than 500 jew's harp players compete." There is no lack of up-and-coming players. As a teacher, the master of the Kubyz still teaches a total of 200 children how to play the jew's harp and last but not least receives public recognition for this.

    You can really speak of a renaissance in playing the Kubyz, Mindigafur Zainetdinov emphasizes. The former Soviet union was not interested in the tradition of the Bashkirian jew's harps. For a while, the knowledge of how to play the Kubyz and how to manufacture it were in danger of being forgotten. The instruments only appeared rarely for private use and were not at all present in public. The close link between the music of the Kubyz and the practice of shamanism did not mesh well with Stalinist cultural policy. This approach changed completely after the fall of the Soviet Union. By now the jew's harp Kubyz is a recognized and appreciated musical instrument in Bashkiria.

    Yet Mindigafur has been playing the Kubyz for at least 25 years and masters the playing techniques perfectly. With a precise touch, he coaxes clearly articulated melodies from his jew's harp and is particularly impressive in his tremolo method of playing.

    Mindigafur Zainetdinov at the Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music 2014 Mindigafur Zainetdinov plays theTremolo technique

    At the same time, he puts the thumb of his right hand on his right cheekbone. The remaining fingers of the right hand, beginning with the little finger, pluck the metal tongue inwards in a fluid motion, producing short trill-like pulses. Mindigafur enlivens the melodies by executing this playing technique with a varying number of fingers. Sometimes the middle finger and index finger embellish a melody with interval notes, sometimes three or four fingers are used.

    Mindigafur Zainetdinov at the Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music 2014 With Wooden String-plucked Jew's Harp

    In addition to metal jew's harps, Mindigafur Zainetdinov also plays wooden plucking jew's harps. "In order to make a sound with these instruments, it is necessary to learn breathing control especially well. Anyway, it is very healthy to play the jew's harp, it is like a massage for the lungs". Not least of all because of a virtuoso combination of several twanging and breathing techniques, Mindigafur Zainetdinov has received several championship titles, amongst other awards. in Jakutsk and Molln in Austria, as well as national state awards. Mindigafur has also made some jew's harps himself, however he does not have a lot of time to make his own instruments regularly due to the fact that he is beside Robert Zagretdinov one of the most internationally sought after virtuosos of the jew's harp and an ambassador of the Bashkirian tradition of playing the jew's harp. As a musician he does not only represent the jew's harp, he is also an ambassador of Bashkirian culture. Mindigafur Zainetdinov's smile remains on his lips as he elicits an amazing range of coloratura from the Kubyz. Maybe it is also and exactly this smile which gives the kubyz sound of Mindigafur its distinctive touch.

  • "Tran Quang Hai, where does the term "Dan Moi" originate?"

    Tran Quang Hai plays Dan Moi Jew's Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014Over many years, several thousand people participated in the workshops and presentations of the overtone specialist Tran Quang Hai. Tran Quang Hai has been involved for over 45 years in promoting worldwide awareness of the techniques of overtone singing and jew's harp and spoon playing. The ethnomusicologist from Paris, now 70 years old, has become known primarily as a teacher and musician. Tran Quang Hai was born in South Vietnam.  He studied at the Conservatory of Ho Chi Minh City before moving to Paris in 1961 to study music.

    "I became acquainted with the jew's harp not in Vietnam but in France. That was in 1960. I learnt how to play the jew's harp from John Wright. Six years later, I held my first Vietnamese dan moi in my hand. I received it as a gift, and at first I really didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do with it. I learnt the instrument step by step." As a scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, Tran Quang Hai came across the jew's harp collection at the Museum of Man (Musée de l'Homme). Even at that time, the collection consisted of over 300 different examples of jew's harps from around the world. One of these was the dan moi from North Vietnam. With the aid of sound recordings, Tran Quang Hai became increasingly familiar with the jew's harp, learnt songs and mimicked techniques, until he finally began to compose original pieces for the jew's harp. He has composed over 20 works for the jew's harp.

    Tran Quang Hai plays Dan Moi Jew's Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014 Tran Quang Hai plays Dan Moi Jew's Harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

    Tran Quang Hai then sought out jew's harps even in Vietnam, his birth country. The instrument was not particularly widespread in the 1960s, and in North Vietnam it was played only by the Hmong. The Hmong mainly play melodies on the rab ncas, as the jew's harp is called locally. Rab ncas, according to Tran Quang Hai, is a rather complicated word in the Hmong language. As he proceeded with the search for the Vietnamese jew's harp, it immediately became clear to him that he needed a term that could also be easily pronounced outside of Vietnam. So, without hesitation he gave the jew's harp the now popular name "Đàn môi". "Dan means instrument, and moi means lips, therefore, the instrument that you press against your lips. So the name 'dan moi' comes from me", Tran Quang Hai states, not without pride.

    To his own jew's harp playing style, Tran Quang Hai added most notably a rhythmic pattern. To the western audiences for whom he now primarily played, the sound became more appealing. "When I play the jew's harp, I quickly slip into the role of a researcher. For me, the traditional techniques are not enough. I listen to other jew's harp players and incorporate some elements into my own playing, for example, from the Génggong of Bali, the Karinding from Java, the Kubing from the Philippines or the Morchang in India." With that being said, Tran Quang Hai considers himself first and foremost as a creative developer of new approaches and techniques for jew's harp playing. Typically, when playing faster, more rhythmic passages, he uses his thumb to pluck the tongue of the jew's harp. This allows him to produce a totally unique sound, almost like a fingerprint, that can be combined with a variety of different music styles. Tran Quang Hai is so forceful a soloist that his "beats" enable even a hip hopper to dance to them.

    It is a sign of friendship when one can reach his/her counterpart through a jew's harp. Tran Quang Hai prizes the little instrument because it can go with him everywhere in his pants pocket or backpack. He brings it out of his pocket at every possible opportunity and plays for people who request it. It is a challenge but also a great joy when Tran Quang Hai can bring his sound to other jew's harp players. "They are the ones who hear every nuance that is played, and are eager to try the new techniques or sound effects for themselves. They are probably more perceptive listeners than most other people," says Tran Quang Hai enthusiastically. An opportunity to play in front of experts comes regularly at the International Jew's Harp Society (IJHS) conference. As a member of IJHS, he enriches the regular meetings through workshops, his own performances, and his substantial contributions as an ethnomusicologist and specialist in overtone instruments.

    Tran Quang Hai is being quite popular on many websites in the internet. He is also running several pages in English, French and Vietnamese where he writes and publish exciting video clips once in a while:

  • ... and again DAN MOI Jew's Harps in TV

    Still we make it only to be broadcasted in the local public station, but well, we like to see reports about us in TV. The report is in German only, but you can see Clemens and Roxi playing jew's harps and talking about DAN MOI.



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