Tuvan Throat Singing

Part of the UbuWeb Ethnopoetics collection.

Borbannadir with finger strokes across lips :41
Melody on the amirge (hunting horn): luring of the stag :45
Kargiraa duet "Artii-Sayir" 1:04
Ezengileer 1:02
Sigit with khomuz :53
Medley of various throat-singing styles 2:50
Excerpt from shamanic healing ritual 2:11

From the CD "Voices from the Center of Asia," Pan Records, 1991

[Tuva is located in the Tannu Mountains on the Siberian border in northwestern Mongolia.]

"To an outsider, the most striking music in Tuva is that which the Tuvans call khoomei, from a Mongolian word that means ‘throat.’ Khoomei (sometimes transliterated as xöömij, xomei, or hoomi) is generally translated as ‘throat-singing,’ but Western musicians and researchers have also referred to the same phenomenon as overtone singing, biphonic and diphonic singing, and harmonic singing. The principal in all cases is the same: a single vocalist produces two, and occasionally three, distinct notes simultaneously. By precise movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, velum, and larynx, singers can selectively intensify vocally produced harmonics." (From the liner notes to Voices from the Center of Asia, Smithsonian Folkways)

While the result may not be poetry as such, Tuvan throat singing functions both as a conduit for verbal poetry and as an area of creation for the non-verbal. Divisible into a half dozen or more distinct styles, its functioning includes: imitation of animal and other natural sounds, whistles and wheezes, sounds produced by rapid lip vibrations, voicings in imitation of jew’s harp soundings, low sounds "with chest resonance" and high sounds like apparent falsettos.

The traditional throat singing has been carried on and developed by younger singers and aspects have been brought into contemporary sound poetry by artists like Sainkho Namtchylak.

further notes. 1. Borbannadir with finger strokes across lips: The singer is Tumat Kora-ool, b. 1935. The borbannadir style (the term, metaphorically, signifies "rolling") features a pulsating, asymmetrical rhythm that represents the canter of a horse. Characterized by nasal resonance and sung from a fundamental in either the bass or baritone range. 2. Melody on the amirge (hunting horn): luring of the stag : The singer is Vasilii Khuurak, b. 1916. 3. Kargiraa duet "Artii-Sayir": Sung by Tumat Kora-ool and Andrei Chuldum-ool, b. 1927. From an onomatopoetic word that means in Tuvan "to wheeze," "to speak in a hoarse or husky voice," kargiraa is characterized by an extremely low fundamental pitch sung with much chest resonance, long, even breaths, and open vowel sounds such as "aah," "ooh," "eh," and "oo" (as in "booze"). Some kargiraa suggest a relation to the Tantric "overtone chanting" of Tibetan Buddhist monks. 4. Ezengileer: The performer is Marzhimal Ondar, b. 1932. Description of the rhythm is similar to that for the borbannadir style, but with rapid vibrations of the lips sung over a low fundamental drone. 5. Sigit-style singing with khomuz (jew’s harp). The performer is Oleg Kuular. In the hands of a master, the jew’s harp is transformed into a human voice, while in throat-singing the voice sounds like a jew’s harp. 6. Medley of various throat-singing styles 7. Excerpt from shamanic healing ritual: Performed by Ensemble "Amirak" (Gennadi Chash, b. 1959; Evgenii Oyun, b. 1958; Mergen Mongush, b. 1961). [Based on notes by Edward Alekseev, Zoya Kirgiz, Ted Levin] -- Jerome Rothenberg

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