Huun Huur Tu Tuvan Throat Singers

$20 adv/$25 door all ages welcome
First Unitarian Church, Morewood & Ellsworth, Shadyside

Pittsburgh Khoomei presents
an evening with the renowned Tuvan throat-singer quartet
Huun Huur Tu

tickets on sale at Clothes Minded (Bloomfield), Caliban Books (Oakland), Jerry's Records (Squirrel Hill), Dave's Music Mine (South Side), Government Center Records (North Side) and online at Brown Paper Tickets.

In 1992, Huun-Huur-Tu was founded by Sasha Bapa, his brother, Sayan, and two other musicians, Kaigal-ool Khovalyg and Albert Kuvezin. Ever since, they have tried to focus on the performance of “old and forgotten songs”, as Sasha put it. Sasha, Sayan, and Kaigal-ool were refugees of one of the large state-managed song and dance ensembles that became fixed institutions of the public cultural life during the Soviet era. For decades, these ensembles with their glitzy performances offered the only possibility for young musicians to play indigenous music for a living. Throughout the privatization of the music business in the former Soviet Union, many musicians decided to abandon these state ensembles and form their own groups.

Sasha Bapa explained the meaning of ‘Huun-Huur-Tu’ as the vertical separation of light rays that one often see out on the grasslands just after sunrise or just before sunset. It seems to be a metaphor for the band’s key element– throat-singing that “consists of producing a deep tone in such a way as to create one or two substantial harmonics. The first harmonic is a humming sound in the mid-range, and on top is a loud whistling tone that the singer raises and lowers to create a weird sort of melody by varying the embouchure” (Jon Sobel, Blogcritics Magazine).

Through their heavy touring, Huur-Tu can truly be seen as a leading force in popularizing throat singing or khöömei in the past 25 years.
Today, their lineup consists of Sayan and Kaigal-ool with newer additions Radik Tülüsh (formerly of Yat-Kha) and Alexei Saryglar.

However rooted in Tuvan traditions, it would be a mistake to limit Huun-Huur-Tu to a folk ensemble. Huun-Huur-Tu placed in the pop charts with a remix of the title “Eki Attar," which became Greece’s No.1 hit in the summer of 2002. The ensemble went on to release a studio project entitled ‘Spirits of Tuva’ with DJs of various nationalities. They have performed with Ry Cooder, Frank Zappa, The Chieftains, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Kronos Quartet and L. Shankar among the others. The ensemble has collaborated with Hazmat Modine, Bulgarian Voices and Moscow Art Trio.

Huun-Huur-Tu’s style could be best described as profoundly mysterious. This comes as a consequence of their traditional, ritual laryngeal chants descending from Central Asian land of Tuva. This unique song technique reside on developing an enthralling sound cosmos rich in undertones and overtones.

The members of Huun-Huur-Tu have devoted themselves to learning oId songs and tunes, but at the same time their performances reflect the values of globalization. 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. Using traditional instruments and drawing subtly on 20th-century composers, Huun Huur Tu transform ancient songs into complex acoustic compositions.

As they began touring in the West, Huun Huur Tu 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 and steeped in Tuvan folklore, the ensemble wears traditional garb and accompanies themselves on string and percussion instruments, playing galloping rhythms that evoke the vast south Siberian steppe. Their tightly structured pieces often imitate natural sounds, so that a song can be a literal representation of a Tuvan landscape.

Jon Sobel of Blogcritics Magazine characterized the ensemble’s live performance as: “[…] the music is as warmly human as any folk style, and it’s not all khoomei. The four men have six or seven very distinct singing voices among them. Accompanying themselves on plucked and bowed stringed instruments, percussion, and jaw harps, they emulate biological rhythms in song: heartbeats, breathing, a brain drifting in dreamland, and not least (for a nomadic people), a horse’s trot. The songs are about romantic love, love of place, and (not least) horses, with moods that range from lyrical and thoughtful to joyful, humorous and danceable.”

In this sense, the San Francisco Bay Guardian concluded that the Tuvan show “will ride into your brain and leave hoof-prints up and down your spine.”