This is one of the bands that really impressed me at WOMEX. The most often heard comment was "that could have been an experimental classical music concert!"
Truly the music was abstract in many ways, but also quite earthbound, 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. 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 are Nariana Renanto and Alisa Savvinova.
For more of Michal’s world music videos, visit inter-muse.com