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【Instrument】The Rare Byzaanchy (Part 1)

Byzaanchy (Tuva: бызаанчы; Russian: Бизанчи; also transliterated as byzanchi or byzanchie) is a four-string vertical “huqin” used within traditional tuvan music. Tuvans who play Byzaanchy number fewer than Tuvans that play Igil. In fact, the look is similar to an instrument called sihu in China. However, the byzaanchy's resonator hull is usually made of wood or the horn of a cow, while the sihu tends to have a metal base. Byzaanchy's hull can be cylindrical or less commonly square shaped. The four strings of the instrument are in fact two conglomerated strings of many parallel unwrapped yet tight string each no thicker than a single strand of hair, they are tuned a fifth apart. Furthermore, the horse hair bow is divided into two sets of unbraided hair-thin strings that are tightened or loosened according to the sound desidered. The engraved bull's head is usually located at the top of the wooden neck of the instrument.

Radik Tyulyush w/Living Mythologies performing Byzaanchy at MAO Hangzhou (2016)

The name Byzaanchy stems from the Tuvan word byzaan, Tuvan for maverick or calf. According to Aldar Tamdyn, the current Minister of Culture of the Republic of Tuva, the calf is a very sacred animal for Tuvans. This makes us very curious about the story behind this instrument. However, the problem of Byzaanchy traceability is very difficult to solve. Regarding the question of origin, even Tuvans are not sure. In addition, some people in Kazakhstan said that the Kazakhs had previously used this instrument as one of their own. For example, there is even a museum in Kazakhstan that has a very old Byzaanchy on permanent display. In addition to China's sihu, there are other instruments that resemble it such as the extremely rare Matar khuur in western Mongolia as well as the Hami Ghirjek. Could these instruments have a common ancestor? Or are these instruments the result of separate inventions in different places at different times? Living Mythologies is still searching for more stories behind the Byzaanchy. However, some of the most professional Tuvan Byzaanchy musicians have still to encounter such legends. We hope you are looking forward to the next Living Mythologies byzaanchy news as much as we are...

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