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Spiridon Shishigin

  • 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.

  • “My good friend, for the last 56 years.” Spiridon Shishigin visited Leipzig

    A Yakutian jaw harp dangles from the neck of Spiridon Shishigin on a thin braided cord. It is embedded in a little wooden box. The jaw harp catches the eye as it is embellished with a big “65”. “This Khomus”, says Spiridon, after he finishes playing the first tune on another jaw harp, “I got as a present from my friends on my 65th birthday. That was last year. Now, I’m 66 years old. I’ve been playing since I’m 5. The Khomus is a good friend of mine for 56 years now.” He speaks cautiously, with a lowered voice. He smiles, then takes the precious jaw harp into both of his hands, lifts it to the mouth, pauses, pants, lets it sink to his breast for a moment, as though he’d like to emphasize his words by these movements, and then finally he puts the instrument that marks his anniversary to his lips.

    On 15 February Spiridon visited the project shop “Sinn und Sein” (Sense and Being) in Leipzig. About 30 fans and guests from the whole region gathered to see the world-famous jaw harp virtuoso from Yakutia in concert. Here – where the minds behind the Ancient Trance Festival conduct their planning meetings as well – is a hint of Indian Chai in the air on this winter evening. Coloured lights provide the backdrop for the warm sound from the eternal ice and long winters. "I’m from Siberia and play 'the tundra' for you on my jaw harp," Spiridon says and makes use of one esteemed element in the Yakutian art of the jaw harp, which connects sound and vibration with nature and landscape: improvisation.

    "I play the tundra for you, but I need to confess I’ve never been there, actually. A trip to the tundra takes so much longer than travelling to Berlin. When taking a plane I arrive in Berlin after 9 hours. If I intend to travel to the tundra I need to fly and then go by car for hours. That’s why I’ve never been there." The steady wind of the tundra blew through Leipzig – evoked by the Khomus, the Yakutian jaw harp. A “cuckoo” cried out of Shishigin’s throat and announced spring soon to arrive. Melodies appeared and started sketching an austere and never-ending landscape of the steppe in Northern Russia.

    Spiridon Shishigin performs at Sinn und Sein in Leipzig

    Spiridon Shishigin performs at Sinn und Sein in Leipzig

    Shishigin’s stage appearance happened thanks to his friendship with Clemens Voigt from DAN MOI. The both of them have known each other for 13 years and on that evening played a jaw harp duet for the auditory, too. Everyone in and around Leipzig who missed the opportunity to see Spiridon Shishigin live on stage – stay tuned: The master has good reason to visit the city more often in the near future. Recently his daughter’s family moved to Delitzsch, a town close to Leipzig.

  • "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.

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