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The whistling of the high-mountain wind forms eerie overtones and a postmodern statement. The repeated thrum of a string against wood and hide turns into a meditative, evocative figure straight from the avant-garde. The descendants of isolated Siberian herdsmen make serious, strangely universal music out of some of the planet’s quirkiest acoustics.
The acoustic quartet Huun-Huur-Tu prove that Tuvan music can take plenty of intelligent innovation. Using traditional instruments and drawing subtly on twentieth-century composers, funky rhythms, and the decades they spent honing their overtone singing, the band members transform ancient songs into complex acoustic compositions. Beginning over seventeen years ago, Huun-Huur-Tu has almost single-handedly introduced the outside world to the boundless wealth of Tuvan traditions, thanks in great part to their superior musicianship. Hailing from the high pastures of the Altai Mountains in south central Siberia, the musicians have spent many years perfecting their throat singing and instrumental approaches as well as interpreting the vibrant songs of their homeland.
Well-established as “world music” masters, Huun-Huur-Tu has long been involved in pushing the envelope and digging deep into their roots to find new possibilities. The most recent member to join the group, Radik Tyulyush, a third-generation throat-singer, talented multi-instrumentalist, and conservatory-trained composer, added a dose of youthful energy and rhythmic complexity recalling good old American funk.
Their trademark sound derives from the use of various over-tone or ‘throat-singing’ techniques which were invented by nomadic hunter-herders of the Tuvan steppes and mountains. Traditionally, these were largely performed a cappella, but Huun-Huur-Tu were one of the first groups to combine them with ancient acoustic instruments such as the cello-like two-stringed igil, the four-stringed byzaanchi, the three-stringed doshpuluur and the khmomuz―a local equivalent of the Jew’s harp.
You’ve never heard anything like this folk music from Tuva, a Siberian region at the edge of Outer Mongolia. At times the four members of Huun-Huur-Tu conjure a beauty so strange that it might have emanated from the banks of Martian canals.
—Los Angeles Times