International Jew's Harp Festival and Congress’s (IJHSF) have been held since 1984
During the period of the Cold War, two charismatic persons from the two international super powers – Ivan Alexeyev in Sakha-Yakutia and Fred Crane in the U.S.A. – recognised the subversive and cosmic beauty of the jew’s harp. They started the movement that led to the foundation of national jew’s harp societies and to international festivals.
The first International Jew’s Harp Festival took place in Iowa City (USA) in September 1984. It connected the United States with Europe and presented the first stunning sounds on the “Khomus” from Yakutia (Russian Federation) on tape. The festival also focused on traditional folk music and improvisation.
The second Festival took place in Yakutsk (Soviet Union) in June 1991 and was an eye-opener for all participating musicians and researchers from East and West. This festival was the first real encounter with each other’s jew’s harp practice and traditions.
The third festival was held in June 1998, in Molln (Austria), which was the first place in Europe where since the 17th century jew’s harps were made professionally. This festival outbalanced East and West and emphasized the cross-fertilisation between cultures, traditions and playing styles. Personal techniques and national traditions became accessible worldwide.
The fourth festival in Rauland (Norway), in September 2002, consolidated the exchange between East and West, with the accent on traditional styles. There was an additional focus on dancing and improvised jew’s harp music.
The fifth festival in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) was the first to take place in a major European capital; it was organized at the Muziekgebouw in July 2006, the most important stage in the Netherlands for contemporary music, founded in 2005. The festival could benefit of a professional organization, 60 musicians and their ensembles from several continents were invited to perform, with a special focus on Asia. Besides the concerts, the public and hundreds of musicians from all over the world could attend lectures, films, workshops, and an exhibition; there were also activities for children, and a jew’s harp market. Jam sessions were organized on a dedicated Summer Stage. The public could enjoy various musical styles from traditional to experimental.
The sixth festival was organized by Áron Szilágyi and took place in the Youth Centre of Kecskemet from 16 to 19 September 2010. It was attended by 70 musicians from 16 countries and 980 people. It was the First Virtual Jew's Harp Festival as, besides the live performances and concerts, some concerts performed in different parts of the world were broadcasted online. Tradition and the role of the jew's harp in new musical environment were highlighted during the festival.
The seventh festival, entitled ‘Khomus (trump) in the World Cultural
Space’, took place in Yakutsk, Sakha
Republic (Yakutia), from 23 to 26 June 2011, under the auspices of UNESCO.
The festival received of a strong support from the Sakha State and
highlighted the khomus as an international instrument. Besides the concerts,
the conference, 3 international competitions, for makers and players,
performing a Guinness World Record, an event at the Museum of Khomus of People
of the World, the participants benefited of several excursions as well as a memorable
participation to the Yhyakh, the Sakha National Summer Solstice Festival.
The eighth festival took place in
Taucha, near Leipzig, from 8 to 10 August 2014. Again, it was possible to
organize the IJHS festival and congress in a different context. This time it
was embedded in an already existing music festival, namely the 7th Ancient
Trance Festival für Maultrommel und Weltmusik. This was a wonderful opportunity
to bring many people together in a warm and symbiotic atmosphere.
The ninth festival was scheduled to take place in Moscow in 2017 but it was postponed. The next festival and congress will certainly happen in 2019.