The music of khomus is the soul of the Yakut people, their cosmogonic perception of beauty and harmony of the world, compassion and love for the world, philosophical attitude to life.

Kuyar Khomus (2018) by Nadezhda QueenNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Albina M. Degtyareva is a musician, composer and songwriter, teacher, founder and leader of the world-famous Ayarkhaan group. Thanks to her talent, the Yakut khomus is now a cultural brand of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), a whole trend in the genre of world music.
Albina Degtyareva - World Master of Culture and Art (2007), Honored Artist of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (2010), laureate of the “Soul of Russia” State Prize (2011), Virtuoso of the World (2011).
The music by Albina Degtyareva is beyond genres and categories. She opens new possibilities for khomus and creates her own unique style, which was previously considered avant-garde. Today it is a universally recognized classic, which has many followers, including her students brought up over the years of creativity.

In the cradle (1964) by Ivanov Mikhail EgorovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Albina Degtyareva started playing khomus at the age of two.
I grew up in a small village of Kyrgyday, the Vilyui ulus of Yakutia. I grew up there surrounded by beautiful nature, absorbing the culture of my people from an early age.
Father, Mikhail Yegorovich Ivanov, worked as a primary school teacher, he was a well-regarded person, everyone turned to him for advice and help. He was jack-of-all-trades, he could fix everything - from watch to cars. My mother, Anna Yeremeyevna is a craftswoman of Yakutia.
I guess I heard the sound of khomus before I was born. Khomus has been accompanying me since my birth. All my family plays khomus - both parents, my elder sister Oksana, my brothers Gorik and Volodya.

Ysyakh YsyakhNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

As a child, I was very sickly. After the whooping cough that I suffered, my brothers constantly carried me in their arms, rode me on their backs and, so that I could breathe more fresh air, we often walked through the woods. I guess I better fell asleep to the sound of the wind and birdsong. I guess I better fell asleep to the sound of the wind and birdsong. Growing up, I tried to keep up with my brothers, tailed after them, imitating them in everything. And each time I asked them to play khomus, all the time trying to know how to make these magic sounds. I remember very clearly my first Ysyakh festival in my life. It was a hot day; I was on the back of my older brother Gorik. So that I could better see the performance, he seated me on his neck and held my hands. Suddenly, I saw our parents at the festive tusulge: my father led a white horse by the bridle, on which my mother was riding. I immediately wanted to go to them and my brother had to let me go. As soon as my mother left the horse, I began to ask to ride the horse, too. At first, my father refused, but I got upset and started crying. Then the old men standing next to him said to him: "Let her do that, your horse is calm, you will anyway hold by the bridle." Then my father grabbed me with strong arms and put me on the saddle. Either from sudden joy, or from a sharp climb up, I had like collywobbles, so I took a deep breath and gave a wild scream like a sudden laugh or a neighing horse! And since then, when I experienced sudden joy, I used to give such a scream spontaneously, and I was very shy of it. Later, I learned to keep down, and it gradually came to naught. Later, as an adult looking at the photo, I remembered that moment and learned how to make this sound while playing my khomus.

Family (1966/1967) by Ivanov Mikhail EgorovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In those days, khomus was a rarity. My parents would order it in Megino-Kangalass ulus, there lived a master named Amynnyky Uus. Of course, they took great care of the khomus and hid it from me. But I found it with enviable constancy and molested everyone with a request to play or teach to play. I myself at first, of course, did not succeed. I remember the very first time that I managed to sound: I was dazzled and vibrations went all over my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes! Every cell of my body responded to the sound of khomus, it seemed that I was all filled with a vibrating sound. It was like quickly filling a choron with a sparkling, frothy koumiss. Enthusiasm and emotions beat over the edge! It turns out that human memory stores such instants of experienced emotions, therefore the most vivid moments of life remain in our memory.

Brothers (1984/1985) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The elder brother Gorik went to study in Leningrad, from there he sent us sound cards with his recorded playing khomus. Listening to his music, I felt his love for us, and how much he was missing his native land. In Leningrad, Gorik danced in the ensemble Siyanie Severa, played khomus. Then he became a soloist of the Algys ensemble led by Ivan Alekseev, later I also joined it. Thus, in the footsteps of my older brother Georgy, I entered the world of khomus. Thanks to him, his creative influence, khomus became my profession. He was an excellent organizer and leader. Unfortunately, it was his superior position that did not allow him to devote enough time to his hobby. And the responsibility that he instilled in me, the responsibility for the work that you are passionate about, that you love and share with people, predetermined my future life path.

Khomus studio under the guidance of Ivan Alekseyev (1984) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Khomus entered the life of Albina Degtyareva seriously and for a long time already in her student years. These were wonderful years spent as part of the famous Algys Khomus Ensemble led by Ivan Alekseev - Khomus Uybaan, where she played with her older brother Georgy. The lessons of master-mentor Ivan Alekseev, a sense of unity with friends in the ensemble, the joy of co-creation - all this brightened up the learning routine, brightened up the life of yesterday’s schoolgirl in a small northern city.

XII World festival of youth and students (1985) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The XII World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow, a tour of Western Europe in 1987 and other first significant trips - all this took place precisely in the student years and remained in memory for a long time as bright, vivid flashbacks of the time when everything just began and when the world seemed huge and future opportunities were just opening up. By the graduation of the university, people, not only close ones, but also strangers already perceived her as the khomus-musician. And involuntarily, the khomus out of hobby has already become a profession, the destiny of all her life.

The first touring tours in Europe (1986/1987) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

It was a great honor for me to become part of such an eminent team. I, yesterday’s graduate of a rural school, suddenly found myself in such a cycle of events and impressions! Tours abroad, participation in world art festivals, communication with like-minded people, musicians, creative people - all this gave a strong impetus to my spiritual development.

Osuokhay in Berlin (1986/1987) by Jurgen DietricNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Albina Degtyareva is also known as a talented poet. In 2014, a collection of poems by the author of AiYlyy (Co-Creation) was released. Many of the works included in the book were shifted to melodies and became hits performed by pop artists of Yakutia.

I started composing poems at the age of 4-5 years, writing them down on a piece of paper. I remember once showing my poems to dad. Having read them, he did not believe in my authorship. I remember a strong resentment, then I threw the pieces of paper with my verses into the fire of the stove. Then for a long time did not return to this occupation. I returned to poetry later: composed from time to time at different periods of life. Some of these verses sounded as songs in the repertoire of Ayarkhaan group.

Homusist Conference (1987/1988) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

At the very beginning of my work, from the mid-80s, I began to create stage costumes that combine modern trends and national color. With the created images I wanted to convey the idea that it was wrong to treat ethnics as a relic of the past. That one can draw inspiration for creating modern new images in the traditional, too. A whole collection of new stage images was born at the time when I was on leave for childcare. With these costumes, I subsequently took part and won the Saharga fashion design competition. My mother, craftswoman Anna Yeremeyevna Ivanova, provides invaluable help in tailoring costumes.

Firstborn (1988) by Ivanov Mikhail EgorovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In 1988, after graduation from the department of Yakut philology of Yakutsk State University, Albina Degtyareva plunged into family life. By the way, she gave birth to her first-born son, on the day the diploma was defended. In memory and gratitude for the beginning of her career as a member of the ensemble, she gave her son the name Algys. A year later, the twin daughters Tuyara and Nyurguyaana were born.

Children (1991) by Ivanov Mikhail EgorovichNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Albina Degtyareva interrupted her concert activity for a while to start raising children. When the children grew up, Albina Degtyareva was invited to work as a teacher at the Higher School of Music and Yakutsk Zhirkov Music College. By the end of school, the children told her at the family council that now she could fully devote herself to creativity. There is nothing more touching and valuable than the recognition and gratitude of matured children, who appreciated the work of a mother who devoted herself to children, who refused for their sake countless invitations and tours. Albina Degtyareva made a decision with her team Ayarkhaan, which included graduates of the Yakut Music College, to join to the State Variety Theater of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. That’s how the team she created became the first professional group of khomusists of Yakutia. All three of her children - Algys, Tuyara and Nyurguyaana - graduated from universities with honors: a son in Yakutsk, daughters in Moscow. And today they are support and inspiration for the beloved mother, now known musician worldwide.

Republican contest of family ensembles (1990) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

At the beginning of the 90s, performing as a large family ensemble, together with parents, children and nephews, they more than once have won the republican competition of khomusists, the competition of khomusists at the Ysyakh of Tuymaada.

Open lesson Open lessonNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

In the 1990s, Albina Degtyareva began teaching at the Higher School of Music of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Yakutsk Zhirkov Music College. She began to actively introduce new techniques for playing khomus. Founded by Albina Degtyareva style, previously considered avant-garde, today has already become a classic of the Yakut khomus and has found many followers around the world.

International Competition "Sounds of Khomus" International Competition "Sounds of Khomus"National Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

I finally got the opportunity to bring my creative ideas to life. I searched and found new ways of playing, tried different styles, breathing techniques, bit by bit collected the almost lost traditional repertoire and came up with my own compositions.

Students of the Higher School of Music (2000/2001) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

With my work, of course, there was no time for sewing, but I still managed to create images and sew costumes for my students. After all, their efforts, their zeal in learning to play khomus, to some extent also depended on their desire to perform in beautiful costumes. Sometimes I borrowed my concert costumes for my students to perform on big stage. So, that’s how the recognizable style of the scenic images of Ayarkhaan was formed. Then we had individual costumes by Uruidaana Kharitonova, Tatiana Pinigina, we jointly created images with Peter Vinokurov as well. I am grateful to the talented seamstresses Sargylana Kulichkina, Margarita Kirillina, Lyudmila Alekseeva, who now make costumes according to my designs. Because it’s simply unrealistic for me to combine designing with a busy schedule of tours, active creative work.

Ayarkhaan (2007) by Alexey PavlovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

The Ayarkhaan group (formerly Kylysakh) was created by Albina Degtyareva in 2002. From 2003 up to now, the group has been successfully touring every year around the world. For the first time hearing the sound of Ayarkhaan such an opinion was published: "A hurricane of sounds made by Yakut khomuses replaces a cello, saxophone, electric guitar and at least a third of the composition of a symphony orchestra - such a level of skill". For many years, the group has been a leader in reviving and preserving the traditional music of the Sakha people.

Travel Ayarkhaan (2011) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

When I joined the eminent Algys ensemble of Ivan Alekseev, I realized that the possibilities of this instrument are endless. And I began to try to convey my emotions, vision of the world, sensations through the music of the khomus. I began to search for a special breathing technique, subordinating the tempo and rhythm of playing to this melody, new throat and vocal sounds. My every new sound was invented for a certain composition. Then the thought came to me that if you teach someone to play this new technique, you can achieve multidimensional sounding of khomus. So, the style of Ayarkhaan was born. "Ayarhaan" is a two-word derivative word: "Ayar" means ‘creation’ and "khaan" has several meanings such as khaan-king, khaan- blood and khaan-genetic memory. By combining all these concepts in the name of my group, I put the meaning into it: a tribe of creators, preserving the genetic memory of their ancestors.

Travel Ayarkhaan (2013) by Unknown authorNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Having traveled all over the world, becoming laureates and headliners of major international music festivals, Albina Degtyareva and her group brought the khomus to the world music scene. The creative biography of the Ayarkhaan group includes participation in Russian and international competitions and festivals of ethnic and live music, performances at prestigious venues and stages (Royal Albert Hall, Copenhagen Concert Hall), participation in big events (such as BBC Proms, WOMEX, WOMAD etc.), many wins and prizes.

Travel Ayarkhaan (2018) by Roman MakhmudovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Albina Degtyareva and her group Ayarkhaan is a unique trademark of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), always adequately representing it at significant Russian and international events.
The khomus performing school of Albina Degtyareva is distinguished by special musicality and rhythm, a clear command of breathing techniques, a variety of voice techniques, plasticity and gracefulness of performance.

Travel Ayarkhaan (2019) by Melvut AkkayaNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

My students are very different, each with their own personality. It is all the more interesting to work with them: I like to reveal their potential, to light a spark in each of them. My first students were students of the Yakutsk Zhirkov Music College and the Higher School of Music. Later, new students began to appear thanks to master classes that I conducted at various festivals and competitions, at training courses and individual lessons. Recently, with the advent of the Internet, there have been many students who have adopted my technique and skill, listening to performance from discs, videos from concert performances. Now, with the development of new technologies, a new way of learning has appeared - an online khomus school.

Among the students of Albina Degtyareva we can name all the popular khomusists of Yakutia - representatives of the young generation. These are Yuliana Krivoshapkina, Nariyana Renanto, Amgayana Nesterova, Olena Uutay (Olga Podluzhnaya), Aisen Ammosov, Arthur Semyonov - Ton Sakha, Alisa Savvinova, Talin Tuya (China), Hussein Akbash (Turkey), Sayuri Ehara (Japan) and many others. Many students of Albina Mikhailovna themselves teach to play khomus, are the leaders of the groups. This is Varya Stepanova - Archyyna, Veronika Lytkina, Aytalina Zaborovskaya, Nikita Semyonov, Nikolai Borisov, etc.

Photo portrait (2017) by Ivan SemenovNational Library of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)

Currently, Albina Degtyareva is the leader of the Ayarkhaan group, an instrumental artist, master of the State Variety Theater of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
She conducts active public activities, being the Chair of the Board of the Foundation for Preservation and Development of the Musical Heritage ‘World of Khomus’, Honorary Member of the International Jew’s Harp Society and a member of the jury of the International Festival of Ethnic Music and Crafts ‘World of Siberia.’

"The truth that I have learned in life: you must follow your dream."

Credits: Story

Alexey Ivanov,
author and curator of the project «Culture of Yakutia in the world space» (inclusion of regional cultural of institutions of Yakutia into the project Google Cultural Institute), initiator of support for the Yakut language and languages of indigenous peoples in machine translators, research fellow of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Elena Grigoryeva,
head of the Secretariat of the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

Alexey Yakovlev,

Exhibition of 2019

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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