Kyrgyzstan komuz
June 8, 2014 6:41 AM   Subscribe

You remember how Jimi Hendrix played the guitar behind his back, and with his teeth, and all that, right? And it was some cool stuff, for sure. But he ain't got nothing on the komuz players of Kyrgyzstan. Nuh-uh. They turn that instrument every which way but loose.
posted by flapjax at midnite (25 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
truly best of the web. will be searching for recordings with proper acoustics now.
posted by valdesm at 7:06 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Feather hat lady is the boss of the komuz.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:18 AM on June 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Jax, you've done it again. I actually have a komuz that I bought as a curiosity off eBay from a Russian from K-stan several years ago. I didn't know how to tune it, and set it aside--even forgot its name! It is made from apricot wood, BTW, nicely made but crudely finished, like an AK-47.
Thanks for rescuing my komuz! Now if I only knew how to tune it . . .l
posted by rdone at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

That hat is not fucking around with the feathers, either.

(Awesome music! Thanks for sharing!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:22 AM on June 8, 2014

Well damn. That was all kinds of awesome. I could hear that totally killing at a festival. And seconding the bossness of feather hat lady.

People, we are lagging way behind in chapeau courant! Get me the Bureau of Hats on the horn, pronto! We will stay up all night if we have to . . .
posted by petebest at 7:25 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Had a shepherd play "hotel california" on one in a yurt up on the jailoo.
posted by JPD at 7:26 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

This post is an absolute winner. Fantastico!
posted by Wolof at 7:31 AM on June 8, 2014

Interesting that unlike Jimi's performances with the Stratocaster, a lot of the theatrics with the right hand in these videos were for providing percussion or controlling the voice of the instrument (kind of like how you can change the sound of an acoustic guitar by how you cover the sound hole).

Of course the fluttering bird hand motions of the feather hat lady... that's in a whole magnificent other realm entirely. But anyway.
posted by ardgedee at 7:32 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any ethnomusicologists on here? I'm curious which direction the use of your hands as percussion on the top of your string instrument flowed; from Kyrgyzstan to Spain, the other way, whether the technique of hitting the top of your axe went through one place on the way to the other, or whether this sort of functional showmanship developed independently. It's one of those things that seeing the first time is both mind blowing(previously) and completely obvious at the same time.

I also have to wonder after that "way" link about the provenance of the Nudie suit.
posted by mcrandello at 7:49 AM on June 8, 2014

Fuck to the yes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:56 AM on June 8, 2014

Feather hat lady

I was liking the hats in the other videos, but she kicks hat ass. It's like a feather christmas tree perched on her head.

And the playing was good too; my favorite was the first link (Guljan), especially about halfway through. Does the instrument have drone strings maybe? I think I'm hearing interesting resonances, but I'm not a musician so I'm not sure what is really going on.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:04 AM on June 8, 2014

ardgedee, that's another good point. I've used "flapping my hand over the sound hole" as a an alternate vibrato for a couple of years now, and can't for the life of me remember where I picked it up. It works great totally acoustic, a little less so on camera, and fails totally when you've got one of those under-the-saddle piezo pickups hooked into an amp. After thinking about it some more the instrument just BEGS for the player to show off: your hands are right there in front of you and you don't necessarily need both of them at any one time, the instrument itself is just big enough to swing around, and your face is otherwise unoccupied (unlike say wind instruments.) Also easy to transport and lends itself to busking, where hustle counts for nearly everything.

I especially love this post because I was just at a party where a friend shoved a Backpacker at me. Anyone out there who's a good ear learner and doesn't have a lot of scratch to import one of those things could just remove the frets and half the strings and bam- instant komuz/gopuz/qomuz.
posted by mcrandello at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2014

Dip flash, definitely some droning going on. Seems like a cross between a mountain dulcimer and small guitar.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 8:20 AM on June 8, 2014

sounds like 2 strings are open most of the time , in a 5th interval, and the third one is the one that melody is performed on. some interesting use of harmonics too.

I wonder if Bert jansch was aware of this tradition early on...
posted by valdesm at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2014

Yes, The Feather Hat Lady (Gulnara, under the "but" in the FPP) is the master. They all whip the hell out of the instrument, but she also delicately brings out the harmonics in her opening moments. Of course, the young woman in the first clip wins the Exuberant Youthful Enthusiasm award.
posted by kozad at 8:41 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been playing guitar (not too well) for nearly 40 years now, but only recently was reminded that the guitar is categorized as 'percussion', and these folk understand that really well about komuz.

Indeed, Gulnara, at about 0:22, spends about 10 seconds on a little riff that reminds me of a Richard Thompson little traditional doodle.

thanks so much for this!
posted by allthinky at 8:59 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The technique that feather hat lady is using on the jaw harp is so amazing. Stylized but functional, and the deceleration of her hands matching the tone is so good. I love this.
posted by jonbro at 9:15 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perfect start for a slow Sunday. Seconding Jonbro regarding the jaw harp performance.
So much wonderful ness here. And those hats!
posted by Fibognocchi at 10:27 AM on June 8, 2014

That's not just a hat with feathers, that's a hat with a complete chicken!

I can't help but envy their ability to get so much out of what seems to be a fairly uncomplicated instrument.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:16 PM on June 8, 2014

This is like dancing!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:04 PM on June 8, 2014

Ever since I heard the tune "I'm ducking, I'm ducking" played on the komuz-adjacent instrument the dombra on the dvd that accompanies a book about Tuvan music called Where Rivers and Mountains Sing, I've thought that someone needs to do extreme metal versions of this repertoire. Paging ignignokt?

mcrandello, iaaem but I don't work in that region of the world or asking that sort of question. I think the book I link to above, written by Ted Levin and Valentina Suzukei, is your best bet to find out about the music's history.
posted by umbú at 7:21 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The harmonics/overtones the hat lady is getting on the komuz are nuts.
posted by azarbayejani at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The pickless, finger percussion and neck tapping style called şelpe is a similar technique used by players of the Turkish saz, especially the baglama saz. Its considered an older style, often played on the simpler kopuz, but has become highly developed over the last decade, popularized by Erol Parlak.
posted by zaelic at 8:15 AM on June 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Zaelic, dude, you shoulda just made an FPP outta all those links!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is great. Thanks, flapjax at midnite (and zaelic)!
posted by homunculus at 9:58 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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