Aidys Norbu started his throat singing career at the age of 13. He has represented the Tuva Republic in singing contests throughout the Russian Federation.
In 2008, Aidys Norbu became the winner of the contest “Music of spring” that was held in the Ural mountains. Moreover, Norbu has participated in a variety of contests across Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The ensemble Tuva (also spelled Tyva), from Kyzyl in the Russian Federation, is a true legend of Tuvan folk music. The members of “Tuva” constantly continue to improve their performance skills in the traditional performing arts. During its existence “Tuva” ensemble has gained its distinctive look, style, and international recognition of Tuvan folk lovers. Its repertoire, based on Tuvan folk songs, includes 5 styles of throat singing: khoomei, sygyt, kargyraa, ezengileer, and borbannadyr.
Over its decades of existence, the ensemble has had several generations of singers and musicians. Aidys Norbu and Mergen-Kherel Chadamba are two of the most recent artists, representing the fourth generation of the ensemble. Their repertoire shows off the best examples of traditional khoomei which is accompanied by traditional string instruments such as igil, byzaanchy, doshpuluur and morsing (Jew‘s harp) as well.
Alash’s music is firmly grounded in cultural and spiritual traditions of Tuva, a remote Russian Republic on the Siberian-Mongolian border, but incorporates newer sounds. “We like to play within the great range of expression that the tradition offers, finding areas where our knowledge of complex rhythms and western harmonies mesh well with the traditional sound and feel of Tuvan music,” said ensemble member Mai-ool Sedip.
The Alash Ensemble was founded in 1999 in the basement of the Kyzyl Arts College in Tuva’s capital city. The group, originally known as Changy-Xaya, became the resident traditional ensemble at the school.
The group learned more about traditional Tuvan music from the well-known master Xoomeizhi (throat singer) Kongar-ool Ondar, but they also began to learn about Western classical music and such concepts as harmony, theory and staff notation.
The members of Alash perform on traditional Tuvan instruments as well as hybrids of Tuvan instruments and violins and cellos. They find these Western instruments appealing, and have begun exploring the new sound worlds that have arisen from their unique, dual musical consciousness. The group incorporates many seldom-played traditional Tuvan instruments such as the murgu, shoor and limpi (wind instruments) as well as the more common igil and dosh-puluur.
The members of the ensemble acknowledge the influence of many diverse sources – Tuvan and otherwise – in their work. Ondar played a key role in the life of the ensemble since its early days as its artistic director, encouraging and guiding the group’s formation as an ensemble. The Alash ensemble is among the first of a new generation of Tuvan musicians who have matured in the musically fertile and adventurous post-communist period in Tuva, says Sedip.
“We are inspired by the music of our grandparents, and their grandparents, and all the great Tuvan and Central Asian musicians of the post-Soviet era – Tuva Ensemble, Huun-Huur-Tu, Chirgilchin, Sarymai, Andrei Mongush and Alexander Sarzhat-ool,” notes Sedip. “We are also influenced by Sun Ra and Jimi Hendrix. We compose new songs, and arrange songs that we remember from childhood, such as “Saryglar.“
The Alash Ensemble toured North America for the first time in Spring 2006 through the Open World Leadership Program of the Library of Congress, performing and teaching on the East Coast and in the Midwest. The group released its first U.S. CD, Alash Live at the Enchanted Garden, featuring its sold-out performance at the Enchanted Garden in Ridgefield, Connecticut on March 17, 2006.
During the summer of 2006, the group performed in a Mongolian festival in Taiwan honoring the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan, traveled, performed and taught in Poland, and participated in Tuva’s well-known festival in Chadaan. In September 2006, Alash’s members performed with the Tuvan National Folk Orchestra, which won the grand prize in the All-Russia Competition of National Orchestras and Ensembles in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia.
The throat-singing ensemble returned to North America in 2007.
Original members of Alash were: Kongar-ool Ondar, artistic director; Bady-Dorzhu Ondar — Vocals, igil, doshpuluur; Ayan-ool Sam: guitar, vocals, doshpuluur, chanzy, igil; Mai-ool Sedip — vocals, byzaanchy, limpi; Ayan Shirizhik –vocals, murgu, shoor, kengirge, xapchyk, dunggur; and Sergei Sotpa –vocals, igil, shoor, limpi, xomus, instrument-master.
Kongar-ool Ondar died in 2013.
Alash Live at the Enchanted Garden (2006) Alash (2007) Buura (2011) Achai (2015/Smithsonian Folkways, 2017)
Nikolay Oorzhak was born in December 1949, in the small village Khorum-Dag in western Tuva. After graduating from high school in 1964, he worked for four years as a shepherd, herding horses, sheep, and cows. There on the steppes, alone with his herds, he started producing sounds like his father and grandfather used to sing. This was Khoomei, or throat-singing. At that time, his only audiences were the horses, sheep, and cows.
From 1968 to 1970 Nikolay served in the army, which was mandatory in Soviet times. When he returned from military service, he worked as an artist for the local public theater in Chadaana, Tuva.
In 1982, Nikolay caught the attention of the local authorities, who supported his bid for a professional education. So, in 1983 Nikolay began attending the Ulan-Ude cultural institute in Buryatia, where he also became Director for Public Theaters. This was also an opportunity to finally open his hidden talent of throat-singing.
In 1989 the First International Festival of Throat-Singing was held in the Tuvan capital of Kyzyl. Nikolay was awarded First Prize for Kargyraa style. At that time he already brilliantly performs in all the overtone singing (xorekteer) styles: khoomei, kargyraa, sygyt, borbangnadyr, ezengileer and became a Khoomeiji (Recognized Master of Khoomei) in his country. The same year he and fellow throat-singer Boris Kherly and scientist Zoya Kyrgys founded Ensemble Tuva. Meeting with great success, they toured internationally, including Norway, Sweden, Turkey and Mongolia.
In those days, it was common for such ensembles to include a dramatization of a shamanic ritual, and in addition to singing and playing with Ensemble Tuva, Nikolay portrayed the shaman. Elders often commented that he appeared authentic and suited for this role, and that perhaps he was meant to be a real shaman. Sometimes, after these performances, he felt dizzy and suffered headaches. He sought help from Oleg Toiduk, a well-known shaman. Oleg told him that Nikolay was destined to be a shaman, and was suffering the effects of energies sand talents that he needed to share with others for healing.
In Tuva, shamans often inherit their abilities, and Nikolay was no exception. There were shamans on his mother’s side, and her father was a famous shaman in the Sut-Khol region of Tuva. On this basis, Nikolay started his healing way. Observing his progress, in 1998 the pre-eminent Tuvan shamanism scholar Prof. Mongush Kenin-Lopsan invited Nikolay to work for his shamanic society Dungur.
In 1995 Nikolay was invited to India to celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 60 birthday. He got the Dalai Lama’s blessing, which enables him to increase his healing singing abilities.
In 1999 Nikolay was elected Chairman of Tuvan shaman society Tos-Deer, and that same year visited Vienna, Austria, with Prof. Mongush for the Shamanic Congress. He also toured Italy and Switzerland. Back in Tuva in December 1999 German television filmed a documentary on his outstanding technique of shamanism and throat singing. In 2000 he was invited to return to Germany for that year’s Shamanic Congress.
In 2002 he made a successful three-month tour in Canada and USA on invitation of Mr. Steeve Sklar (International Association for Harmonic Singing) and Canadian Shaman’s Society. During the tour, he had a meeting with Dr. Michael Harner, a famous founder of Foundation for Shamanic Studies, who has highly evaluated Nikolay’s abilities.
Nikolay regularly gives a seminars in different towns of Russia, Ukraine and Europe, teaching the shamanism, throat singing and using the overtones in healing practice and self-development. He also is a welcomed and honorary guest at local and international music festivals.
In 2005 Dilja Publishing published a book “The Ancient Wisdom of Shamans: Teaching of Tuvan Shaman Nikolay Oorzhak”, written by Nikolay’s disciples Olard Dixon and Alexander Fray. It represents Nikolay’s lessons and personal teaching which were given them in period of 2000 – 2004 years.
In 2006 Nikolay presented the result of his many years of self-exploration – Un-Hun, The Sound of Sun, shamanic system for spiritual development and improving the health, based on throat singing.
Yat-Kha started in 1991 in the hyper-industrial Siberian steel-belt city of Boris Yeltsin’s then home-town of Sverdlovsk. Albert Kuvezin – taking a holiday from the attentions of the KGB and ideology department of the Tuvan Communist Party – found himself in the middle of a perestroika/ glasnost-induced spring-thaw punk rock explosion.
Home-made bands across the Siberian hinterland, with their acerbic lyrics and free-thinking attitudes transformed the grim Soviet music scene. Albert’s contribution was a cassette, “Priznak Gryedushi Byedi,” the only cassette copy of which he has lost.
On return to Tuva, Albert got involved with many other young Tuvans interested in rock, throat-singing and Tuvan music and went on to found Kungurtug (the rockier version of what is now Huun-Huur-Tu) which featured Alexander Bapa and his brother Sayan Bapa plus top khoomei singers Kaiga-ool Khovalyg and Aldyn-ool Sevek. With some help from one experimental Swedish festival in 1992 this group played a few gigs until feeling a bit trapped inside what became a more folkloric style, Albert decided to spend some time in Moscow for a few years and see what might happen.
When he performed at the Alma-Aty festival Voices of Asia, one particular judge, Brian Eno was so astonished that he invented a special prize for Albert’s unique double-bass voice and its mixture of thunderous growling and high harmonics. Albert then made a CD “Antropofagia,” an experimental electro-Tuvan CD with Russian keyboardist Andrei Sokolovsky which came out on General Records (Moscow) which first came out as a cassette “Khan Party”.
But at the same time Albert was getting more and more involved in exploring the borders between Tuvan traditional music instruments and western rock electricity with Tuvans. After a performance at the Berlin BID in 1992, various small festivals were quick to recognize that Yat-Kha was a bit different.
The Potsdammer Abkommen, Sfinks and other progressive festivals brought Albert over to Europe but it was not until WOMAD at Helsinki (line-up: Jah Wobble Transglobal Underground, Natacha Atlas, Shriekback and Wimme) organized by GMC Helsinki that a recording was made. This was the 1995 CD “Yenisei-Punk” which was recorded with 2 microphones and a 1″ tape machine in GMC’s global mobile studio with help from Kari Hakala and Martijn Fernig.
Yenisei-Punk had Alexei SAAIA on morinhuur and (normal) voice. Much to everyone’s surprise this CD went into the world music charts Europe and won various prizes – RFI, Grand Jury for Decouvertes and #1 MIDEM lo-fi video (dir. Gerd Conradt). Yenisei-Punk was re-mastered and re-released by GMC in 1999 with 2 extra tracks featuring Kan-ool Mongush on morinhuur and voice. But tough times meant the band scraped along as their “impure” style of music confused many.
As Albert was being evicted from his Moscow flat, their UK producer, manager, engineer, driver and temporary bassist Lu Edmonds landed the band a surprise record deal.
Yat-Kha signed in 1998 to Wicklow Records – brainchild of The Chieftains pipe-player Paddy Moloney and the CD “Dalai Beldiri” came out. After a long time apart Albert was joined again by Aldyn-ool Sevek on khoomei vocals. Percussionist Zhenya Tkachov also participated.
Alexei Saaia again joined the band for touring and they went to the USA and Europe 3 times in 1999 played at WOMAD Reading. They also got the attention of such bands as Asian Dub Foundation and Transglobal Underground (who remixed a track for a Wicklow compilation). Later in 1999 they played WOMEX in Berlin and toured with British folk-rock legends Oysterband. All this helped to generate more critical press acclaim.
Yat-Kha’s year 2000 started in March with a USA tour as special guests of The Chieftains. A new CD “Aldyn Dashka” (the golden cup) was also finished. That year Yat-Kha added bass player Mahmoud Skripaltschchikov and a young 19-year old female singer named Sailyk Ommun.
In 2001 Yat-Kha released Poets and Lighthouses recorded on the Scottish island of Jura.
Sainkho Namtchylak combines Tuvan throat singing, experimental jazz, classical, electronica and Buddhism. She is Tuva’s most celebrated female vocalist.
Sainkho was born in 1957 in Tuva (Russian Federation), in southern Siberia, near the Mongolian border. Sainkho’s first musical inspiration came from her nomadic grandmother who would sing lullabies for hours. She grew up in a society where people sing when they feel like it; singing when they’re happy and singing when they’re sad.
Her parents were both school teachers. She studied music at the local college and went on her own to Moscow to complete her studies there.
While pursuing her normal college curriculum, Sainkho also studied various Siberian lamaistic and shamanistic traditions as well as the local Tuvan and Mongolian throat singing (overtone) styles. She then began her professional career as a folk singer with “Sayani,” the Tuvan State Folk Ensemble, touring throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.
In 1988 Sainkho began to work with creative improvisational musicians in the Soviet Union striving to blend traditional ethnic elements with modern styles. She was a key member of the ensemble Tri-O and she received attention from the western media because her appearance was so exotic. Suddenly, the public encountered strange tunes songs with two voices overtone melodies blended with jazz new music and ambient sounds in a transglobal context.
In 1997 Sainkho was the victim of a hate crime and was nearly killed in a horrific attack that left her in a coma for weeks.
Fascinating audiences with her amazing seven octave range, Sainkho uses songs like “Tuva Blues,” “Let the Sunshine,” and “Lonely Soul” to explore lands that live beyond the confines of the East and the West.
Sainkho is based in Vienna and calls herself “first and foremost a woman from the Steppes.”
Out of Tuva (Cram World 1993) Time Out (Ponderosa Music, 1997)
Naked Spirit (Amiata Records, 1998) Aura 3-CD boxed set (Enisai Records ESCD 991/Ponderosa, 1999) Stepmother City (Ponderosa Music 2002)
Arzhaana (Plus Records 2005)
Forgotten Streets of St. Petersburg (Leo Records 2005)
Karmaland (LiberoDiscrivere 2005)
Nomad compilation (Leo Records 2007)
Intrance (Leo Records 2008)
Mother-Earth! Father-Sky!, with Huun-huur-tu (Jaro Records, 2008)
Portrait of an Idealist, with Moscow Composer Orchestra (Leo Records 2009)
Tea Opera, with Dickson Dee (Leo Records 2009)
Not quite songs, with Nick Sudnik (Leo Records 2010)
Terra (Leo Records 2010)
Cyberia (Ponderosa Music, 2010)
Simply-Live (Tree Music, 2010)
Go To Tuva (2013) Like A Bird Or Spirit, Not A Face (Ponderosa Music, 2015)
If you were to journey to the geographical center of Asia you would reach Tuva, an autonomous republic on the Russian-Mongolian border. This is the home of Huun-Huur-Tu a group of fascinating overtone- and throat-singers whose language can be traced from Turkish and whose culture reflects many similarities to that of Mongolia. Tuvan throat-singers produce up to three notes simultaneously by selectively amplifying harmonics naturally present in their voices. Traditionally attired the quartet alternates between solo and ensemble works.
Sasha Bapa his brother Sayan and two other musicians Kaigal-ool Khovalyg and Albert Kuvezin formed Huun-Huur-Tu in 1992 to focus on the performance of as Sasha put it “old and forgotten songs”. Sasha Sayan and Kaigal-ool were refugees from one of the large state-managed song and dance ensembles that became a fixture of official cultural life during the Soviet era. For decades these ensembles with their glitzy performances of folk music or pseudo folk music offered close to the only outlet for young musicians who wanted to earn a living playing indigenous music. But as the music business has become increasingly privatized throughout the former Soviet Union many musicians have abandoned the state ensembles and formed their own groups. The musical results have been decidedly mixed.
At the same time that the members of Huun-Huur-Tu have devoted themselves to learning old songs and tunes their performances reflect the values of innovation as much as tradition. For example the very notion of an ensemble like Huun-Huur-Tu is new to Tuva: Most Tuvan music has traditionally been performed by a solo singer or instrumentalist and musicians have tended to specialize in a particular genre or musical style. These genres and styles in turn have deep roots in particular kinds of social occasions. By contrast Huun-Huur-Tu’s eclectic concert presentations of old songs and tunes fall between the cracks of Tuvan musical life.
“In Tuva there’s still no real context for what we do,” says Sasha Bapa. “We perform there only rarely because it’s so difficult for an independent group like ours: where can we find a good hall and sound equipment and transportation to get there? How can we deal with all the government and commercial structures that still control a lot of the booking? And who can offer fees that will support us even modestly as professional musicians? Kaigal-ool Khovalyg the musical leader of our group might be better known in America than in Tuva. We’re trying to preserve our musical heritage but at the same time we’re trying to look forward. If a musical tradition stops evolving it is destined to die.”
Chirgilchin are the 1998 champions of the Tuvan national throat singing competitions in Kyzyl the capital of Tuva. Chirgilchin means either mirage or miracle in the Tuvan language.
In 1996 Alexander Bapa also the founder and producer of Tuvan Throat Singing group Huun Huur Tu gathered the cream of the younger generation of Tuvan musicians and formed Chirgilchin. One of the group’s more extraordinary features is the appearance of a Female Throat Singer which is still quite uncommon in Tuva.
All Chirgilchin’s songs are in the Tuvan language and the group plays instruments such as the Doshpuluur – a kind of lute with two strings the Igil – a violin with two strings the Limbi – a trapezoid harmonic soundbox Flute and the Dymbra – a rattle drum used by the Tuvan Shamans in their rituals.
A Chirgilchin performance will also get the public acquainted with shamanism. The Tuvan religious culture is primarily shamanistic but for some hundreds of years has also been strongly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism [or Lamaism as they call it]. Indeed many people note the relationship between some Tuvan throat singing styles and the religious chanting of Tibetan lamas.
Throat-singing or overtone singing is the audible expression of producing two or more notes at once. This startling technique was developed in response to the sounds of the natural environment in which Central Asian nomadic tribes roamed.
A particularly rich throat-singing tradition survives in Tuva and neighboring Mongolia. In these areas marked by vast grasslands and mountain ranges throat singing is called khoomei. The singer produces overtones by varying the shape of his mouth and pharynx; as a result two three or even four distinct tones can be heard at once. The fundamental tone remains constant while melodies are sung with the highest overtone resembling the sound of a flute.
Renowned Tuvan throat singing ensemble Alash is set to perform this Thursday, February 16 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina.
Alash’s musicians are maestros of Tuvan throat singing (xöömei), an extraordinary technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. What differentiates this talented trio from earlier generations of Tuvan throat singers is the delicate addition of modern influences into their music.
Alash collaborated with American musicians Béla Fleck & the Flecktones and the jazz collective Sun Ra Arkestra.
This live album showcases the transfixing music style developed by Tuvan throat singer Albert Kuvezhin. Although Kuvezhin founded the traditional throat-singing group Huun Huur Tu, his greatest achievement is Yat-Kha, a genre-defying band that mixes overtone Tuvan music with rock. Some call it ethno-rock, others world music, but whatever you call it, it’s a groundbreaking form of music that brings an ancient Siberian tradition to European rock clubs.
Live at “Stray Dog Club” was originally released by Yat-Kha in 2011. The Sketis Music label has re-released, providing a much larger distribution and marketing effort and therefore reaching a significant audience.
On Live at “Stray Dog Club” you’ll find Kuvezin’s characteristic vocal drones and fascinating growls accompanied by a mix of western and Tuvan musical instruments.
The lineup on this album includes Albert Kuvezhin on vocals and guitar; Evgeny Tkachev on drums, mandolin and backing vocals; Sholban Mongush on vocals, igil (2 or 3-stringed Tuvan fiddle with a carved wooden horse’s head attached to the top of the neck), temir-khomus (Tuvan jew’s harp); and Alex Saaya on bass, clarinet, backing vocals
Live at “Stray Dog Club” is a stunning performance by one of the most alluring artists from Siberia.