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Tuvan Throat Singing Ensemble, Huun-Huur-Tu, to Perform at Swarthmore

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2006
Contact: Marsha Mullan
(610) 328-8535


Tuvan Throat Singing Ensemble, Huun-Huur-Tu,
 to Perform at Swarthmore College

A "Tuvan Overtone Singing" performance will be presented by Huun-Huur-Tu at Swarthmore College on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 8 p.m. in the Tarble-in-Clothier All-Campus Space. A workshop will also be presented on Friday, Oct. 6, at 3 p.m. in Lang Concert Hall, and will be led by noted Tuva expert Theodore Levin, professor of ethnomusicology at Dartmouth College.

Tuvans are nomadic pastoralists who live at the geographic center of Asia, between Mongolia and Russia. Tuvan culture is renowned for its unique vocal arts, especially the so-called "throat singing" or "overtone singing," in which performers are heard to produce multiple notes and melodies with a single vocal track.

Huun-Huur-Tu is the first and most accomplished of Tuvan ensembles to establish itself on the world music scene. Established in 1992, their name means literally "sun propellor," the vertical separation of light rays that often occurs just after sunrise or just before sunset. For the members of Huun-Huur-Tu, the refraction of light that produces these rays seems analogous to the "refraction" of sound that produces articulated harmonics in Tuvan throat-singing. Members of this quartet are Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Sayan Bapa, Alexei Saryglar, and Radik Tolouche.

Kaigal-ool Khovalyg is an extremely talented, self-taught overtone singer, who worked as a shepherd until the age of 21, when he was invited to join the Tuvan State Ensemble. A co-founder of Huun-Huur-Tu, he left the State Ensemble in 1993 to devote his attention to the newly formed quartet.

Sayan Bapa, child of a Tuvan father and Russian mother, received his musical training in Kislovodsk, Northern Caucasus, where he played fretless bass in a Russian jazz-rock band for several years. In the early 1990s he returned to Tuva to study his roots, and became a member of a folk-rock band, performing traditional Tuvan music on electric instruments. A co-founder of Huun-Huur-Tu, Bapa is a versatile string instrumentalist and performs on the doshpuluur, igil, and acoustic guitar.

Alexei Saryglar joined the ensemble in 1995. He completed his musical training as a percussionist for classical and popular music and became a member of the large Russian state ensemble "Siberian Souvenir." A multi-talented performer, he makes his mark as a sygyt singer, and his expertise with traditional Tuvan percussion and string instruments naturally extends into the art of piano playing.

Radik Tolouche has been interested in studying and performing folk music since childhood and learned throat singing from his grandfather. He studied medicine and worked at the Centre of Folk Medicine and later graduated from the Chyrgal-ool Arts School, where he studied igil. He participated in various Tuvan rock and folk collectives before joining Huun-Huur-Tu in 2005.

Theodore Levin is an ethnomusicologist whose research has focused on the traditional music of Central Asia, Siberia, and Slavic Russia. He is the author of The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York) (Indiana University Press, 1997) and co-author with Valentina Süzükei of Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond (Indiana University Press, 2006).

The performance and workshop are sponsored by the William J. Cooper Foundation and are free and open to the public.  The workshop is limited to 60 participants; priority will be given to Tri-College students.

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