Posts Tagged ‘WOMEX 2011’


This is one of the bands that really impressed me at WOMEX. The most often heard comment was something like “that could have been an experimental classical music concert!” The music was abstract in many ways, but also programmatic, in the best sense. Hang in there past the “extended technique” vocals to hear more truly amazing sounds.
The repertoire consists of contemporary works by the leader of the group, Al’bina Degtyareva, who is a respected composer and virtuoso of the khomus (jew’s harp) in her homeland of Yakutia, now the Republic of Sakha in Siberia. Ms. Degtyareva draws upon the Yacut’s heritage of Animism, which finds spiritual significance in all of creation. The cries of birds, the whinnying and snorting of horses, even the sweep of wind over snow is evoked by her compositions.
As you can see, the performers wear arresting costumes, based on Yacutian dress -albeit with much more glitter. This is a good thing, as the presentation is simple to the point of minimal, with all the emotion expressed through music, and movement is mostly restricted to arm gestures. So it’s nice to have some eye candy to dwell on. Each musician wore more than one khomus of varying timbres hanging from necklaces, and used them to color the sounds of each song.
I wish I had captured more of the performance, but my camcorder battery was running low and I was afraid to shoot the entire show as I had two more bands I needed to cover. (As it was I lost my footage of the wonderful Mansum Ibrahimov Ensemble Garabagh from Azerbaijan, who presented some of the smoothest mugham I have ever heard, when I tried to change batteries.) So I did not shoot as much of the khomus pieces, which represented a significant part of the presentation. But I did get enough of them to demonstrate the breathtaking variety of sound that can be gotten from this very small, simple instrument.
The other two main performers on stage are Nariana Renanto and Alisa Savvinova.

Post a comment


Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.