• "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.

  • A look over the shoulder of jew's harp maker Petr Osipov

    Jew's Harp Black Smith Petr Osipov from YakutiaPetr Fedotovich Osipov has been fascinated by the jew's harp for as long as he can remember. Already as a child, he sat with musicians who picked up their khomus, the jew's harp of the Yakut people, occasionally listening to them for hours. In 1980, when he finally met one of the traditional Yakut jew's harp makers, Kiril Kirilovich Maltev, he began to learn from him - and later from other artisans - the art of khomus fabrication. He acquired his skills from some of the best Yakut khomus makers. This education still characterises the instruments from his workshop: Petr Osipov produces khomuses in the traditional old style, without ornament or embellishment, without technical distinctiveness or experimental shapes. It is a question of innate bearing.

    In order to make a good jew's harp, according to Petr Osipov, it is not necessary to follow a technical manual but more importantly to have an intrinsic feeling for the musical instrument. "When producing a jew's harp it is important that you be involved, body and soul. Patience is required. You create an idea in your head, you pray - call it whatever you want - you simply ask that this khomus be able to create the best possible sounds from now on." Producing a khomus can take a very long time. Jew's harp makers of earlier times devoted themselves totally to the person for whom the harp was intended. First they came to know the person thoroughly, asking about his or her life, feelings, desires and dreams. They also attempted to ascertain the person's nature and character. The artisan began to work the material and manufacture the khomus only after this familiarization phase. Today there are completely different technological options that shorten production time. The interpersonal aspect is increasingly absent. Petr Osipov maintains that it is evident in the sound of a jew's harp if the maker is lacking this spiritual component.

    Petr Osipov at the DAN MOI stand - Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp and World Music 2014 Petr Osipov visiting the Dan Moi stand at Ancient Trance Festival for Jew's Harp & World Music 2014

    Since Petr Osipov gave up his teaching career and went into retirement two years ago, he invests somewhat more time in building jew's harps. Nevertheless, he produces very few instruments. This is not least because Osipov lives in the country and takes daily care of his ten horses, farm, and supply of firewood. He is also representative of the old school of jew's harp making: "I produce jew's harps the traditional way, making time for the people and the instrument. I try to determine if the pitch of the Khomus should be low or high, whether the metal tongue should have a softer or firmer touch. The jew's harps I produce are individualized; they are aligned to each person's unique needs. Therefore, I produce at the very most 200 jew's harps per year." In Yakutia the fabrication of jew's harps is a job for individual instrument makers. A few of them can also make a living from their craft.

    Khomus Jew's Harp made by Petr Osipov Khomus Jew's Harp made by Petr Osipov

    The sound of a Yakutian jew's harp depends on the tension of the tongue. Petr Osipov says that the secret of jew's harp making can be found there. "I have my own technique for making tongues. It is not just that the tongue must fit precisely in the frame: it must also be cast in a particular way." In order to prevent a jew's harp from leaving a metallic taste in the player's mouth, Petr Osipov places the finished harp in a blazing fire for a few minutes. This too, he says, is an old trick of jew's harp makers. The jew's harp maker passes on his knowledge to new generations of Yakuts. He is an invited consultant and workshop leader in all parts of Yakutia. He says, "Sharing these specialized khomus-making skills is also important for musicians. When they play the instrument, they also learn the story of how their khomus was made." Osipov has been officially recognized as a khomus maker by the People of the World Khomus Museum and Center in Yakutsk.

    There is a saying in Yakutia:  "Bury your parents in a casket," which means "Take care of your parents." Petr Osipov follows this wisdom by making wooden caskets for his jew's harps. They are shaped like animal hooves. This gives the khomuses a solid support, especially to protect them against becoming bent. Petr Osipov is a passionate maker of Yakut jew's harps. He shares his craftsman's philosophy with interested people from all over the world, not least as a guest at international gatherings of jew's harp experts in Austria, Germany and Norway. A few times, as he relates, international guests have even visited his workshop in Khampa, Yakutia, and have looked over his shoulder during the production of a khomus. So did DAN MOI founder Clemens Voigt in 2003, here are some impressions:

  • Yakutia's most famous Jew's Harp players and makers visit DAN MOI

    Jew's Harp players from Yakutia visit DAN MOI in Taucha The Yakutian Jew's Harp elite visit Taucha

    Yesterday we have got visitors from Yakutia where the Jew's Harp "Khomus" is the national musical instrument. After being guest at the Ancient Trance Festival here in Taucha, when there was not enough time to visit the jew's harp paradise of DAN MOI, the Yakutian delegation of jew's harp players, makers and researchers dropped in for an evening on their way back from a concert round trip in Europe.

    Tauchas mayor Holger Schirmbeck, the organizers of the Ancient Trance Festival and Clemens and Roxi from DAN MOI received the Yakutian Jew's Harp Medal of Honor.

    It was a convivial evening with barbecue and hop juice, with fun and traditional Yakutian folk dance. The highlight was the walk through the DAN MOI headquarters and the Jew's Harp storage room.

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