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The DAN MOI Jaw Harp Blog ♫

  • Taucha is magnetic – the city near Leipzig attracts jaw harps

    Since 2014 there has been a trophy in Taucha, which symbolically awards the town near Leipzig the title “World Centre of the Jaw Harp”. Taucha lives up to this award of the International Jew´s Harp Society. That’s why in the past years a lot has happened around Taucha, which puts the small instrument in the centre of attention: in November 2017 Diego Pascal Panarello's jaw harp documentary “The Strange Sound of Happiness” celebrated its world premiere near Taucha, at the Leipzig DOK Festival; Spiridon Shishigin, one of the best jaw harp players from Russian Yakutia, has been visiting regularly for several years, because his daughter Maria Shishigin has been living and working in that region for almost four years; since 2007 the jaw harp and world music festival “Ancient Trance” has been taking place in Taucha; and since 2001 the musical instrument business DAN MOI – the world market leader for jaw harps – is operating out of Taucha. One wonders whether Taucha is the source of a secret magnetism that attracts jaw harps.

    View over the marketplace and the church of Taucha. Photo: City of Taucha.

    The first impulse in the most recent German jaw harp history was set by Clemens Voigt. Together with Sven Roxi Otto, Clemens founded the online business for musical instrument DAN MOI, which started selling jaw harps and over the years a lot of other effect instruments, small and large percussion as well as wind instruments. The location of the company was a factory site on the outskirts of Taucha near Leipzig. With DAN MOI, Clemens and Roxi found a market niche as 20 years ago it was still extremely difficult to buy a jaw harp in Europe, whether it was from Vietnam, India or Russia. Clemens experienced this himself: his first jaw harp that a friend gave to him was a Dan Moi. This is a Vietnamese jaw harp that is played with the lips and produces a delicate sound with rich overtones. He was fascinated by this beautiful instrument. Clemens then tried to buy a Dan Moi himself, but that turned out not being as easy. Yet there was not such a large offer of musical instruments on the internet like today and predominantly Austrian frame-type jaw harps were sold. So, Clemens spontaneously travelled to Vietnam to find the jaw harp smiths on site.

    In Vietnam, the quest for jaw harps just began. When it became obvious that jaw harps were still to be discovered in many other countries of the world, further journeys followed, including to Russian Yakutia, a Mecca for jaw harp lovers. Clemens visited the big jaw harp museum in Yakutsk and local jaw harp makers like Chemchoev and Petr Osipov. Osipov forged his very own jaw harp for Clemens, which is still his favourite jaw harp today. The passion for the variety of jaw harps can be found in the DAN MOI range: DAN MOI has over 300 different jaw harps from 30 different countries on offer.

    Clemens Voigt and the Yakutian khomus maker Chemchoev (approximately in the year 2000).

    For more than ten years the Ancient Trance Festival, which celebrates the joy of playing the jaw harp, has been a permanent event in Taucha. DAN MOI founded the jaw harp and world music festival. Today it is in the hands of a non-profit association and a sociocratic organization of people who have all been captivated by the magic of “organic synthesizers”. In summer, fans of acoustic trance music meet in the castle courtyard, in the city centre, and in the Taucha park. The Ancient Trance Festival is the biggest jaw harp festival in Europe with several thousand visitors. Here, jaw harp players from all over the world shake hands.

    In summer 2014, the congress of the International Jaw Harp Society (IJHS) took place at the Ancient Trance Festival. On that occasion more than 30 international jaw harp experts met in Taucha. They gave lectures, played concerts, engaged in discussions with their fellows and conducted workshops. Together with the conference the challenge cup “World Centre of the Jaw Harp” was awarded to DAN MOI and thus to Taucha. The next venue to host this congress will take over the trophy from the Taucha crew.

    The challenge cup “World Centre of the Jaw Harp” of the International Jew´s Harp Society was given to Taucha near Leipzig (Germany) in 2014 .

    The Ancient Trance Festival, which will next take place in August 2019, remains a magnet and meeting place for jaw harp specialists. Strolling around the festival area, you will not only meet Clemens Voigt and Sven Roxi Otto, but also jaw harp virtuosos such as Áron Szilágyi and Neptune Chapotin. Meanwhile, outside the festival time it may happen that one of the most important jaw harp players of the world can be seen strolling through the streets of Taucha or Leipzig. Spiridon Shishigin is more often seen for concerts and workshops in Germany recently, because – may be thanks to the secret magnetism of Taucha – for almost four years Spiridon's daughter Maria has been living and working with her family near Taucha. She is an excellent jaw harp player herself and a peace ambassador.

    For the world premiere of Diego Pascal Panarello's film “The Strange Sound of Happiness” in November 2017, Spiridon and Maria Shishigin welcomed the guests in festive, Yakutian dress and played jaw harp tunes on the Khomus. The fact that the world premiere of a new documentary film about the jaw harp took place just a few kilometres from Taucha is one of the most recent, highly pleasing signs of the appeal that emanates from the trophy “World Centre of the Jaw Harp” and perhaps even from Taucha itself.

  • The Moseño Flute: A Rarity from the Andes

    The Moseño flute is a very special, spherical instrument. Flute players appreciate the instrument for its warm, light sound that is able to spread genuine tranquility. That’s why the Moseño is suitable for meditations – whether for oneself or for others. The Moseño is easy to learn: with its six grip holes and an easy to use mouth piece it doesn’t require practising for years. The Argentinean musician Pablo Salcedo from the group Markama is a passionate Moseño player. He is fascinated by its smooth, humming tone. 

    Moseno Bamboo Flute

    What is particular about the Moseño is a blowing pipe, which is placed on the sound tube. This mechanism, which only serves to transport the breathing air from the player to the other end of the flute originates from the traditional Moseños as they are used in Bolivia. There, Moseños can reach a length of more than 2 meters. Those sound particularly deep and airy. The attached air pipe is there to make it easier for the player to reach the grip holes. Otherwise, they would be too far away from the mouth piece. That’s why the Moseño is being held like a transverseflute. Several spellings are common for the instrument: Moxeño, Mohoceño, Moceño.

    The Moseño in Bolivia

    In Bolivia, the Moseño is being played outdoors at public festivities. “Usually, not only one instrument is being heard. The Moseño is being played in groups of 10, 20 or more instruments. There are four different sizes: the biggest is called Salliwa, the others are named as follows (in a descending order): Moseños Eraso, Licu, and Chili”, writes Pablo Salcedo in an email to DAN MOI. Mainly, men are playing on the Moseño. The Bolivian province of Inquisivi is famous as its place of origin and it’s located about 5 hours by car in the East of Bolivia’s capital La Paz. There, every year the Mohoseñadas take place. “Traditionally, Moseños will be accompanied by Huancara drums and an Imilla. The Imilla is a high oboe (similar to a Chirimia) with a screeching sound”, Pablo explains. Young, unmarried people are dancing on the streets to the music of the Moseños.

    The Mohoseñada (also known as Moseñada) is a ritual dance of the Aymara culture, which is being performed during the rainy season, so usually in February. It is dedicated to the youth and fertility of the earth. When the potato plants bloom in lilac and white the Mohoseñada is being danced, too, as a token of gratuity to the Pachamama, mother earth. The dancers wear strong, distinctive colours: red or green skirts and yellow or red blouses. Their high-spirited dance that involves many moves is a symbol for the peak and power of youth. Today, the dance and instrument have become quite popular and are cultivated in many places in the region around La Paz. In February 2011, the Mohoseñada was officially recognized by being declared an Immaterial Cultural Heritage of La Paz.

    Music of the Andes, meditation and insider tip for flute experts

    Pablo Salcedo who plays with the Latin folk band Markamasince 1994 describes the sound of the Moseño as curative and full of compassion and love. The Moseño is an instrument with an incredible personality. “The Moseño’s power of expression is remarkable, when played for meditation. The sound does not only captivate the auditory, but the flute player, too. That’s truly magic.” As a matter of fact, the Moseño is being used for relaxation music. The warm sound is taken as background music for Yoga exercises or Reiki and is highly appreciated for meditation as well.

    For friends of the Latin American flute music, the Moseño is a very special rarity. It is an eye-catcher. Its warm sound triggers excitement. With the instrument all known melodies from the Latin American folklore can be played. Solemn, slow songs unfold their charm the same as faster songs from the repertoire of the Andes music. The Argentinean flute expert Uña Ramos, too, loved to play the Moseño. The Chilean music group Illapu uses the Moseño in some of their songs. In particular, the songs “Labradores” and “Tristeza Incaica” have become popular. Both of them emphasize the melancholic sound colour of the Moseño. They serve as a reminder that the Moseño is also being played at funerals in the Bolivian Andes.

    Yet the Moseño is an insider tip among flute fans. “It’s pretty difficult to get an instrument of good quality”, writes the flute player and founder of the World Flutes Festival Pablo Salcedo. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is rather seldom used by music bands that don’t have a direct connection to the Latin American folklore. But everything is possible with it. The Brazilian Duo Portal sketches a mysterious acoustic landscape with the Moseño.

    The Moseño is diatonically tuned and held like a transverse flute. Sometimes flute players put long instruments on their shoulders. To elicit a sound, one blows into the round opening at the air pipe. The stream of air is being transported through the pipe to the upper end of the flute. There the air hits a so-called windway that makes the flute sound emerge. In terms of sound creation, the Moseño works exactly like a recorder. The tone can be varied by blowing with different pressure into the air channel. The Moseño resembles the Slovakian Fujara. This very long shepherd’s pipe works also with an attached air pipe. However, the Fujara is being held vertically.

    Perhaps, in the Western world the Moseño is also the instrument of celebrated loneliness and longing. Particularly, the big flutes with a deep sound found their way out of the Bolivian mountains into the big cities of the world. Pablo Salcedo describes their magic effect by saying: “One can play the Moseño fabulously by oneself, thereby creating a moment of meditation. It reflects the spiritual relationship between human, nature and the infinity of the mountains.”

    The Moseños you find in the DAN MOI shop are manifectured by a master instrument maker from Portugal, who learned to build Moseños in South America. Our Moseños are made from European bamboo, that is prepared for the local climate conditions. The construction process of one instrument takes a year. Build with care, they have an excellent quality.

  • 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.

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