Sounds of Siberia at the Rubin Museum

Yuliyana Krivoshapkina

Yuliyana Krivoshapkina and Nachyn Choreve
Rubin Museum, New York
January 10, 2020

What a terrific concert Yuliyana Krivoshapkina and Nachyn Choreve gave at The Rubin Museum of Art (New York) on January tenth! The museum is dedicated to Himalayan art, and this concert, called Songs of Siberia, presented the music of Yakutia and the throat singing of Tuva, a republic within The Russian Federation bordering on Mongolia.

Ms. Krivoshapkinaalso played the khomus (a type of jaw harp), and both she and Mr. Choreve played a string instrument which I believe was an igil, with three strings.

To open, Ms. Krivoshapkina sang the in vocalese – no words, just a vowel sound. Her elegant gestures suggested a wide-wings bird.

For the next song, Ms. Krivoshapkina sang words, presumably Yakut. Mr. Choreve played an igil with a boat-shaped body (later in the concert, he’d switch to a doshpuluur lute with a rectangular body). His bowing was particularly interesting when he sang those prolonged vowel characteristic of throat singing. In other songs he plucked or picked the instrument.

Nachyn Choreve

Next, Mr. Choreve used an extraordinary technique in which he sang and simultaneously whistled. I wondered if the whistling was superimposed on the sound system. But no – both the singing and the whistling were functions of his breath phrases.

In a later song Ms. Krivoshapkina played the khomus. Holding the instrument with the left hand, she made lovely gestures with her right arm as she stroked the reed. She later played the khomus while making the sounds of birds – including shrieking like a barred owl. In another song, she imitated the sound of the wind. Absolutely marvelous!

Both musicians played the balalaika and sang a duet – including a call-response section. They sang in unison for a time. Mr. Choreve introduced a particularly beautiful song calling it a lament – it expressed poignant grief.

Mr. Choreve’s singing was more mellifluous than throat singing I’ve heard before. Ms. Krivoshapkina’s singing was more varied. Sometimes she sounded legit!

Sometimes these singers sang words but prolonged the vowels for so long that the words became inconsequential. They even prolonged the vowels between breath phrases. Many songs ended with a humorous tag – and one was sung so wildly staccato. We in the audience joined them in a call-response segment during the encore.

There were two weaknesses to the concert, neither the fault of the artists. The sound was distorted because of the echo from the sound system. And The Rubin – that terrific museum – gave us not a word of explanation about the songs.

Still, Sounds of Siberia was a rare and wonderful evening. The Rubin is to be congratulated!

More about Yuliyana Krivoshapkina and Nachyn Choreve

Author: Steve Capra

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