As the mountainous ribs of southern Siberia, the republic of Tuva breathes with a culture of inherent symbiosis. The expansive region rests at the true heart of Central Asia, brushed by the ancient carcass of the Sayan Mountains that rumble alongside the eastern steppe, the rigid Altai peaks that hover over winding plateaus to the west, and the Mongolian border to the south. At this intersection of Asian lands and traditionally semi-nomadic cultures, a legendary form of music continues to cultivate creative expression, spirituality, and, through adaptation, modern experimentation.
The music of any region is the skin of its culture. Its texture, wrinkles, and colors stretch over flesh, bone, and spirit. Within the open palm of Central Asia, Tuva holds a musical tradition that has been quietly capturing the imagination of the world and which is among the most awe-inspiring vocal arts to have persisted to this day. Also known as overtone singing, and colloquially as khoomei, throat singing is a style of vocal performance that allows a singer to deliver two or more notes simultaneously, while the pitch is naturally controlled by the lips and throat. Overtone singing can be heard in many cultures: for instance, in some isolated regions in Canada's Arctic; within the Xhosa communities of South Africa; among the Chukchi; and in the memory of the Ainu art of Rekuhkara. Tuva's throat singing, however, is unlike any other in the world.
1. From the Lungs of Central Asia
2. Between Political and Folk Narrative
3. Transcending Place
4. Music as the Frequency of Spiritual Experience
5. Continuing Exploration and Growth
Alash River, Tuva Republic. Photography by Konstantin Mikhailov
"For Tuvans, I would say, khoomei expresses thought within the field of sound. And that is why, for the majority of Tuvans — even those who do not sing but only listen — it evokes associations with the sounds of nature, while for the performers, as they sing, it would be native lands, mountains, steppe, taiga, and so on." - Choduraa Tumat, Tyva Kyzy
"Но у тувинцев, я бы сказала, хоомей выражается как мышление в звуковом пространстве. И поэтому у большинства тувинцев, даже у тех кто не поет а только слушает, при слушании возникает ассоциация со звуками природы. А у самих исполнителей при пении явная визуализация природы: родные места, горы, степь, тайга и т.д." - Чодураа Тумат, Тыва Кызы
17 May, 2013