Tuvan Throat Singers
Tuva, Siberia, Russian Federation
The members of Alash are masters of Tuvan throat singing (xöömei), a remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time.
Tuva is a region at the southern edge of Siberia with Mongolia to the south. Over the centuries, Tuva has been part of Chinese and Mongolian empires and shares many cultural ties with Mongolia. In 1944 it became part of the USSR. Tuva is now a member of the Russian Federation. What distinguishes this gifted trio from earlier generations of Tuvan throat singers is the subtle infusion of modern influences into their traditional music. One can find complex harmonies, western instruments, and contemporary song forms in Alash’s music, but its overall sound and spirit are decidedly Tuvan.
Trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood, the Alash musicians studied at Kyzyl Arts College just as Tuva was beginning to open up to the West. They formed a traditional ensemble and won multiple awards for traditional throat singing in international xöömei competitions, both as an ensemble and as individuals. At the same time, they paid close attention to new trends coming out of the West. They have borrowed new ideas that mesh well with the sound and feel of the traditional Tuvan music, but they have never sacrificed the integrity of their own heritage in an effort to make their music hipper. Alash first toured the U.S. under the sponsorship of the Open World Leadership program of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then they have returned many times, to the delight of American audiences. The Washington Post described their music as “utterly stunning,” quipping that after the performance “audience members picked their jaws up off the floor.” Alash enjoys collaborating with musicians of all stripes. They appear as guest artists on Béla Fleck & the Flecktones’ holiday CD Jingle All the Way (2008), which won a Grammy. The Denver Post remarked, “As electrifying as the Flecktones’ performance was, the band was nearly upstaged by Alash Ensemble.” Alash also enjoys a longstanding musical partnership with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra, and they have collaborated with musicians across the spectrum, from country to classical to beatboxing. Beyond performing, Alash has a passion for teaching and promoting understanding between cultures. Their tours often include workshops where they introduce Tuvan music to students from primary, middle and high schools, colleges, universities, and music conservatories. Children as young as 8 and 9 have learned to throat-sing.
Although audiences have enjoyed Inuit throat singers, this will be the first time ever the Tuvan tradition of throat singing has been presented at the Montana Folk Festival.