Hello again!

Last week I spoke about my early experience with khomus changed my life as a girl, in Sakha. This week I will continue about how khomus lead me from Sakha into a much bigger world!

Exactly during that year, 2007, I graduated from Taatta Technical Liceum. My studies in school were focused on technical subjects, mostly mathematical such as algebra geometry, technical drawing & physics. I even have a certificate for a programming language of 80s - BASIC, which I never used professionally but which gave me  useful insight into computing. My main passion was drawing, painting, writing, creating, sewing, languages, history. I found that all my artistic passions combined into one in Khomus! It was a logical convergence of all of my passions — khomus is truly my lifelong friend and talisman. From all my passions, for my academic path I chose language. Because before khomus music, and in a beginning all of them, my passion was language. I wanted know many languages.. one day during deep winter time, when I was small (before even going to school), I was ill from flu (which is very common in our cold climate). My parents wrapped coal from the fire (still warm) in newspaper and cotton fabric, then wrapped it around my neck. I was laying on my bed somewhere between being awake and asleep.. then strange things started to appear. I saw a circle (a round, mirror like sphere) flying over me, above my bed. It looked like it was made from fog.. such a foggy sphere.. I saw in there people marching with red suits and long tall black hats — it was a parade. Being so small, I didn’t know much about other countries at that time. Later when I was old enough to be attending school, we bought a dictionary for my English language class, and on the cover of the dictionary was a picture of exactly the same parade of people wearing red suits with tall black hats! I was excited to show to my parents how similar it was with my vision/dream.

I studied English very well in school, I attended high classes and successfully passed the government graduate exam. I was accepted into the Yakut State University! BUT! When the time came to make the important decision between English and Eastern languages departments, I chose KOREAN languages, and my journey completely changed! Before submitting my application documents to the University, I saw in a dream that I was in Korea (or a similar environment). I listened my dream’s advise and I chose correctly — the two budgeted places for the English language branch were full, and candidates had over applied. Some candidates even with high marks weren’t accepted, just because funded places were full. Another reason for my decision is my passion to learn unknown things. Korean culture and language was not popular at that time compared to its neighbours, and it made me more curious about it! Later I didn’t lose anything! Korean drama movies did their work and Korean culture became a boom in Russia! Many from the younger generations were obsessed on this K-pop culture. Inside my programme I got the chance to live and study in Korea, and spoke the language fluently.

Okay, let’s go back to Khomus world. While I was studying Philology and Korean language/literature, I was still performing and passionate about Khomus! Because I was performing frequently for my university, I received a grant from the President of Russia. Khomus is an unsolved puzzle, it exists in many cultures and countries, so I thought that I might find it (or a similar instrument) in Korea.. Well I didn’t find any related instrument to khomus, BUT I did perform with khomus on stage with a Korean band! That was an awesome collaboration it was my first time to combine an ancient instrument like khomus with a modern style of performing with guitars and drums!

                                                                             Gwanju, South Korea, 2008

Here is the video:

In Russia, education is free if you pass your exams, but you have to continuously study for five full years. I was the last graduation from that generation who received a ‘Specialitet’ Diploma — a level between PhD and MA — in Philology. I love my Department, and that Academic Area, I love writing! I have published my thesis as well as achieving an excellent mark. My work was in the development of a new method of teaching languages to Sakha speaking students, considering their specific phonemathic particularity, with practical application carried out in the Sakha - Korean School in Yakutsk.

In 2009 I was invited to join the ethno-group Ayarkhaan. It was my dream to be in that group. One day, close to summer time, Albina Degtyareva called me to ask if I would be interested to tour as an Ayarkhaan member. That tour included the festivals in Germany and Italy. Since then, I performed in many places as an Ayarkhaan group member — the most exciting performance was in 2011 in the Albert Hall in London, when we performed for BBC Proms Festival and Womad Festival (as well as festivals in Belgium and Portugal). Beyond that that we had many smaller performances and concerts, so I won’t write all of them. After a few years of touring as a group member, I decided to leave Ayarkhaan to pursue my personal ambitions. After a final concert in Yakutsk, 2011, I left the group. The year of 2012 year was also my final year in University, so it was important for me to dedicate my attention my thesis and to the future. I am thankful to Albina Degtyareva for the experience.

                                               BBC PROMS, Albert Hall, UK, 2011

I am always searching for new khomus techniques and methods of playing to share in performances — one of these is an electronic khomus. First of all khomusists, I performed on electronic khomus in 2009 at the ‘Khomus Kuo’ competition (which I didn’t win). I then suggested to Albina Degtyareva (I was newly joining Ayarkhaan at the time). As Ayarkhaan we performed with it in Rudolstadt, Germany 2009, Trento, Italy and the Theatre of Estrada in Yakutsk and some local places as well as the ‘Sayang Ring’ festival in Shushenskoye, which was renamed to ‘Mir Sibiri’ 2010.

By this time, I was communicating with other Khomus performers and music lovers from all around the world. The 7th Khomus Congress in Yakutsk introduced me to many new like-minded people and friends. One of them is Daniel Hetchel, who also has an electronic Khomus (which grabbed my attention). He was using a looper and even advised a specific model which he was using. I bought it without much consideration and started preparations to perform locally in Yakutsk, but before I did, I moved to Turkey (I will explain why!).

My Soundcloud: Electronic Khomus

In 2012, I started to work as a lecturer at my University, in the Culturology Department. I chose that place because I was interested in applying for a PhD in Culturology, to write my thesis on Khomus.. because Khomus is my everything. At that moment a position wasn’t open, so I waited for one year. In the second year, I was promoted to a senior teacher position, but I still didn’t get what I expected. The PhD was supposed to have open two places, but they opened only one. That one was given to undersecretary of ministry of Culture of the Republic of Sakha. That was  a real alarm sign — I had to find way to apply somewhere, and then I was advised from Turkish friends that there are scholarships for PhD and MA programmes for international students. I applied and I was accepted in Ankara, although after studying Turkish language for one year and beginning the PhD preparation course in Linguistics, I understood it is not what I really wanted. I am still grateful to have studied and become fluent in the Turkish Language though. There are similarities between Sakha and Turkish languages, so as a Philologist this was very interesting for me.

During my study, I presented my freshly released album ‘Aptaakh Khomus’ (which I made in the summer of 2014 in Yakutsk with Sergey Yarmonov, who produced and mastered it). One track from my album — ‘Udagan’s Dream’ was made into a music video, which I also officially presented on the Turkish TV channel TRT AVAZ on the programme ‘Yeni Gun’. My solo Khomus performance continued in Turkey, no matter what other challenges appeared. The main thing is to not forget who you are and what your main vision is in this world. One of the projects I undertook was with an organisation called Balik Arts, in Istanbul, where after many years of professional discussion in the field of music, I met my destiny — Oscar South.

I remember our last conversation before travelling to Turkey. It was a Sunday evening, I was packing my bag in Yakutsk. He wrote “I saw your Music Video ‘Udagan’s Dream’, that’s so different and amazing”.. I said “thanks, tomorrow I am going to Turkey”. He replied “Wow, soon!”. We were chatting since WOMAD festival in London, where he saw me performing with Ayarkhaan on the same year that his own group was performing there. He told me he thought that he knew everything about music at that time, but after hearing, Khomus he couldn’t even define “what is music” anymore. From that day, khomus also strongly influenced his own destiny in music and in life.

By the way here is my ‘proof’ that I am a certified Khomusist - Improvisator, which  the ‘Museum of Khomus Peoples of the World’ gave to me:

Our visions combined so well, from the beginning in 2011. We were thinking to build a collaboration, project or even group.

Now I know what dream I saw when I was a little child ill with flu.. I saw the vision of my future destiny — that I will one day be in that place. We were married in 2016.  

Our first performance together in one stage, 2015 Istanbul BALIK ARTS

I was invited to contribute as an ethnic vocalist to one composition on Elfin Bow’s debut album in 2016. You can find her music here:

The track is ‘Daffodilly Down’, Thornton Hough, UK, 2016

In 2016, we established our UDAGANuniverse project and UDAGAN music group.

Here is the first taster track we produced together, ‘TOLKUY AMTANA’:

In Dublin as UDAGANuniverse, we performed some quite fantastic concerts and event, such as INSPIREfest 2017 and in Trinity College with Analog On, as well as the Russian Festival 2018.

Our chamber concert in Dublin with TidalCycle LIVE CODING, Russian Festival 2018 in Dublin.

My solo performances in Dublin hosted by EPIC, 2017

                                                     With the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton

The first pressing of my solo album ‘Aptaakh Khomus’ sold out here in Dublin, but I have some remaining in Yakutsk. You can still purchase it at this date, if anyone is interested. We will also release it digitally with extra bonus compositions from UDAGANuniverse — I will announce it.

So keep checking our website!

That’s my story of becoming a Khomusist! Would you like to join me on my next steps? Keep reading this blog and I will share everything!

Saydyy Kuo