• 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.

  • Sustainability all along the line: The Ancient trance Festival 2016 backs responsible awareness of sound, environment and man.

    Ancient Trance Festival 2016

    The Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha started off as a small compact moment of concert for jaw harp music more than ten years ago. Just after the very first festivals the crowd was signalizing that they enjoyed the universe of transcendental live music, of resource-aware partying, and of join-in activities, created by the Ancient Trance team. During the first weekend in August 2014 more than 4000 people were drawn to Taucha.

    Ancient Trance Festival 2014

    How does the team of organizers look at the Ancient Trance Festival? Corinna Klinke belongs to the communication group of the festival team and provides an insight into the structures, the self-conception, and the vision of the future of Europe’s biggest mouth harp festival. For the DAN MOI blog Helen Hahmann talked to her.

    Helen Hahmann (HH): After the very successful Ancient Trance Festival in 2014 which also hosted the congress of the International Jews Harp Society, many people had probably marked the date in August 2015 as definitely not to be missed. But then you announced that you would pause for a year and not organize a next festival until 2016. Why did you do that?

    Corinna Klinke (CK): Even in the years before we liked to take a step back now and then. The festival grounds for example used to be larger a few years ago. There was another stage in the area which today is reserved for camping. After that, some of our team said that the festival was a bit too big, and so we decided to get smaller again and to put up a stage less in the following year. For us and the festival it is an important point to look what we are capable of. This is a sustainable treatment of and within the team – to keep in mind that the festival does not burn out our people. In the end we all do that voluntarily. In 2015 many team members questioned where to get the energy from to be able to cope with all the work. And then it became clear that we would need a break and pause for a year just to work on the mission and vision of the festival. What do we actually want and how can we realize this? One important issue at it was the appreciation of the work – not in a financial sense, but in the sense of how can we say thank you to the people managing all this. How can we grow together as a team for the festival to grow into a long-term project?

    HH: Who are the people organizing the festival?

    CK: Outsiders may easily get the impression that there are “hippies” behind those people, wearing dreadlocks and colorful rags. And of course, they are. But there are also other people being part of it who have organized similar events for different musical genres, and who just enjoy discovering something new. We are united by the kind of music, the virtuosity, and of course the aspect ‘mouth harp’. Besides, I for example like to be surprised by the music and groups I did not know before. So there is a varied mixture of people, and therefore their interests are quite diverse. This is the reason why we also used the past year to find a way of communication which satisfies everybody, which means consensus instead of content. We have organized ourselves in a structure called sociocracy. Different areas are divided into groups or circles which are specialized in certain tasks. When these groups meet there is a so called “check in” and “check out” providing people with the chance to “arrive”: some come from work, others from a world trip or from dinner with the family. That means each member of the group gets their own space. Furthermore there is a moderator who makes sure that each person gets the chance to speak. Or when somebody talks for too long or keeps repeating themselves, the moderator sets a frame or limit for the contribution.

    HH: How did you become part of the Ancient Trance Festival?

    CK: I have taken part since 2010. Back then I read an announcement on the bill-board saying that people were wanted. I met the team and pretty soon became part of it. Then for a few years I coordinated the press which I did because I had studied communication and media science in Leipzig. But after a while I found it monotonous, plus I had my first baby and that was the reason why I worked in the office. I liked it a lot, but it was also exhausting. Then in 2014 I joined in the artist support.

    HH: How has the program of the Ancient Trance Festival changed? Any alterations compared to 2014?

    CK: There will be many world music bands who have never played before at the Ancient Trance, but a few known bands will also participate in the festival, such as the Airtists around the Hungarian musician Aron Szilágyi. Especially with the jaw harp virtuosos there are of course always similar artists in different lineups, for example multi-instrumentalist and jaw harp player Nadishana from Russia. In 2016 he will be playing in a duo together with Dima Gorelik from Israel. We are also thinking about finding a main theme for the festival in the future, such as a musical theme for example or topics like sustainability or intercultural understanding. But these thoughts are still in process.

    HH: What are your visions about your engagement with the festival? What is motivating you? What do you hope to induce with this festival?

    CK: Well, I am motivated by the teamwork. Back then when I became part of that structure, I had some kind of aha moment: it is possible to communicate that way. Last year many were struck by the sociocracy and became interested. For example I am very impressed by the consensus decision: when we take a vote on something, we try not to decide by majority, but to attain a commonly agreed resolution.

    The Ancient Trance is not a festival going on until 3 am or even longer. At 1 am at the latest the stages are closing. But the nice thing is that afterwards there are people all over the place sitting in the meadow and playing music together, starting small sessions. The guests themselves playing music is maybe something not quite so common for festivals. At the Ancient Trance you can meet people, be it at a concert, playing music, doing the laughter yoga in the early morning hours, or at the lake enjoying the atmosphere. I think, many people are drawn by the otherness and uniqueness of the festival, and become interested in participating themselves. Many of our team were initially guests and then were up for joining in. That is what is motivating us!

    HH: What are your wishes for the future of the festival?

    CK: I wish that the Ancient Trance is growing in a “healthy way”. Many festivals were hyped and then quickly became something very big, which destroyed some of the charm of those festivals. I would not like at all to see this happening to the Ancient Trance. I rather wish that it will be growing with its resources and energies in a healthy way. Part of it will be, not to let it become a routine what we are doing, but to give space for spontaneous acting to keep the festival alive and open-minded. Open-minded in a sense of noticing what is happening around us, how society is changing, and how our guests are changing, who are the new guests and what are their wishes?

    The Ancient Trance Festival will take place from August 12th to 14th 2016. You can listen to the interview with Corinna Klinke on

    Ancient Trance Festival 2016


  • The Jew's Harp collection of DAN MOI at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

    Ancient Trance Festival 2014 - Nahaufnahme Sortiment DAN MOI Maultrommel Stand

    It is probably the largest buyable jew's harp collection that has been displayed by DAN MOI at the 7th Ancient Trance Festival (Aug 8-10) in Taucha near Leipzig (Germany). Accordingly crowed was the DAN MOI musical instruments stand at the festival. The about 300 different jew's harp models have not only been there for watching - Testing and Playing was explicitly welcomed.

    Anne is already visiting the Ancient Trance Festival in Taucha for four years.  For her it is part of the festival experience to play through the DAN MOI jew's harp collection. "I find it super exciting to touch and try these far-travelled instruments." says the 26 year old and reaches for a jew's harp from Rajasthan, India. Every year she is making herself a present with a new jew's harp: this year she's going to take the Morchang from Northern India back home to Hof (Saale), Germany.

    Oliver Klimt of DAN MOI explains: "This year we wanted to present the full range of jew's harps we have in stock, which also includes vintage jew's harps that don't even have reeds anymore beside all the playable instruments." On the table there are playable vintage jew's harps, too, like a well preserved jew's harp from the 1930s with an embossing of its origin country England. Another piece comes from Pakistan and has been produced around 1975. "Many of the jew's harp you see here at our stand are hand-wrought, like these from Pakistan, Ukraine, India, Nepal, China or Russia. Others, like some of the jew's harps from Austria, USA and Vietnam are nowadays predominantly produced using machines. The jew's harps made of wood or bamboo come from Vietnam, Cambodia, Papua, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Indonesia and so on. These are produced by craftswork, too." Oliver Klimt knows the history of almost all trumps in the collection. And it happens every once in a while that he teaches the first basic techniques of playing directly to customers at the stand who hold a jew's harp in their hands for the first time.

    The reason DAN MOI is putting so much effort in presenting the jew's harp collection is last but not least their special relationship with the Ancient Trance Festival. "The first two Ancient Trance Festivals 2007 and 2008 emerged from the idea to build a platform for international jew's harp music in the local area of Leipzig.", DAN MOI founder and jew's harper Clemens Voigt remembers. "As DAN MOI we were already selling jew's harps all over the world since 2001. We have been popular internationally, but in our hometown we haven't been quite apparent. We organised the first two Ancient Trance Festivals in order to get together with musicians, jew's harp makers and fans, and at the same time to introduce us and our work to people in Leipzig and surroundings." The Ancient Trance Festivals - in 2007/2008 still in the winterly town of Leipzig - quickly found a grateful audience. There seemed to be a great interest in listening to live jew's harp music and to learn to play this instrument in workshops. Recognising this DAN MOI started to plan a larger format of the Ancient Trance Festival, uncoupled it from the company and founded in 2008 a registered (non-profit) assosiation together with many friends from Leipzig, the "Maultrommel e.V.", today's organising agency.

    Then as now DAN MOI's second founder Sven Otto, mostly known as Roxi, is deeply involved in the festival conceptually: "The goal of the festival was to make a cultural contribution and to throw a glance at the jew's harp here and now. There are not only traditional ways of playing the trump (jew's harp), but there's a young, creative and very active music community that is worth to get introduced to a larger audience." Making use of the worldwide contacts of DAN MOI the Ancient Trance Festival 2014 managed to bring the congress of the International Jew's Harp Society (IJHS) to Taucha. The IJHS that has established as an international platform for the instrument jew's harp since 1998 attracts musicians, jew's harp makers and scientists (i.e. ethno-musicologists). For Roxi this is definately a peak in the history of the Ancient Trance Festival: "In this year the Ancient Trance is indeed an encounter of generations and cultures -  not least because of the more than 200 congress attendees. The festival program shows the life with the jaw harp in its full range."

    Ancient Trance Festival 2014 - Petr Osipov, Spiridon und Nikolay Shishigin am Stand von DAN MOI mit Oliver und Kai Yakutian jew's harp celebrities at the DAN MOI stand: Spiridon and Nikolay Shishigin (front) and Khomus Master Blacksmith Petr Osipov between Oli and Kai of DAN MOI (back)

    And therefore it was likely to stand right next to a Khomus master play from Yakutia when visiting the DAN MOI stand, or to buy a jew's harp directly from the famous master blacksmith Zagretdinov from Bashkiria, or to listen to the history of this instrument in Japan narrated by an Ainu (minority in Northern Japan) player. For the team of DAN MOI the Ancient Trance Festival is always a very special event - just because of those manifold musical and cultural encounters.  The jew's harp collection of DAN MOI will be there at the next festival, just as Anne will come again. Next time, she says, she is going to get a Norwegian Munnharpe.

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