Khoomei – Throat Singing from Mongolia

From Northern Asia, comes the ancient throat singing tradition called Khoomei.

The Republic of Tuva is south of Siberia, North of Mongolia. There are many styles of Throat singing and Khoomei is one of them. Others are Khorekteer, sygyt, kargyraa etc. Tuvan Republic has indigenous people belonging to a separate, exotic culture, although Tuva was occupied by white Russia before it became a republic in 1944. Along with a unique musical style, Tuvan people have their unique oral traditions of anecdotes, stories, tongue twisters which they are known for. Kyzyl is the capital of Tuva.

Throat singing is is a very unique experience for a listener. For one, the overtones produced by the singers are unbelievable and it becomes very hard to realize that the coarse, rough bottom notes and the soft, whistle like top notes are a simultaneous production! There are fewer women than men in throat singing. It is said that if women sang this style, it could harm their male relatives and also cause problems in childbirth; although there are some famous female throat singers who we will talk about this week.

Human mimicry of nature’s sounds seems to be the basis of throat singing. It is said that shepherds and nomads developed this form of singing with their daily work. Many songs sung in this style are pentatonic, and hence bring out the hilly, nomadic landscape rich with the contents of a simple life which is close to nature.

Traditionally, the voices are accompanied by instruments such as Igil, which is a bowed two-stringed instrument, Doshpuluur, which is plucked and fretless and others. The Chanzy is most used to accompany throat singing, and its sound is much louder than the Doshpuluur, although their constructs are similar. There are several very interesting instruments in Tuvan culture – Jaw Harps, zithers, and others.

Here is a small little glimpse into throat singing: Make sure you listen to the windy whistle-ey flute-like overtones. It is pure voice. And it is quite AMAZING!

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