In tune with the old ways

Updated: 2011-11-22 07:30

By Shao Wei (China Daily)

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YINING, Xinjiang - It's not difficult for a visitor in winter to find the workshop of the Russian accordionist.

In tune with the old ways


Alexander Zazuolin, accordionist of the Russian ethnic group 

Behind two snowy trees with yellow and crimson leaves on Ehmetjan Road, notes of an accordion and the aromatic smell of fresh bread waft into the street of Yining, in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Following the aroma into the cramped workshop of Alexander Zazuolin, a 53-year-old man from the Russian ethnic group, one spies hundreds of accordions neatly stacked on wooden shelves.

"I've been addicted to old accordions of different brands and from different countries," said Zazuolin, beaming like a child as he talks about his collection of 300 or so accordions in his eight-sq-m workshop.

"Those made in Austria, Italy, Poland and other places of the world can be found here. Isn't that great?"

His latest purchase was four old accordions from an online seller in Shanghai.

"They cost me 12,000 yuan ($1,900) in total, equaling the workshop's income for five to six months," he said.

The most expensive instrument in his collection is priced at more than 100,000 yuan, and the oldest, from Austria, was manufactured in the 19th century.

"For me, the most attractive part of an accordion is its timbre, so special that no other musical instruments can be compared with it," said Zazuolin.

Born into a silversmith's family in Yining, Zazuolin said his love affair with accordions began on those summer nights when Russian expatriates played accordions on the street.

"When I was 5 or 6 years old, on weekends, people in threes and fours usually played in accordion choirs outside the city," Zazuolin recalled.

"But those days are long gone. The city has now become more and more populous and modern, and most of the expatriates left the city for Russia or Australia in the 1980s," he added.

Zazuolin learned to play the accordion in his childhood, and at the age of 15 began to help repair accordions. In 1990, he opened his own workshop.

"Alexander is a celebrity in Yining. He can repair and tune accordions very well," said Suliya, a middle-aged Uygur woman who brought her daughter's accordion to him, to "tune it for next month's playing contest in Urumqi".

"I play the accordions here one by one in my spare time, to 'make them alive', as the timbre will change and even be destroyed if they are left untouched for more than two months," he explained.