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Saturday night I saw Huun-Huur-Tu at the Somerville Theater.  Absolutely amazing!   This is one of the premier groups of Tuvan throat-singers in the world and it's astounding what they can do.   It's not enough to hear one of their CDs, you have to see it done live, in person, to really appreciate it.   I could tell some of it ahead of time, the growling low pitches with the higher overtones, but that whistling high background flute on some of the pieces?  Isn't a flute.  They do use a wide variety of folk instruments (which again is a reason to see them live).  The bowed stringed horse-headed instrumetns, the plucked guitar-like one, and the large drum give fairly standard sounds, but the jaw harp was a surprise, and there was a combination use of strange large "rattle" and a harder knocker piece that produced perfect hoofbeat sounds.  Many of the songs are about horses, and having that effect, plus a wonderful whinny from the bowed string, plus a vocal huffing, had everyone in the audience smiling.  The piece about a river in Siberia came accented with a beautifully wide variety of bird calls, too.  I don't know enough about the music to be sure how much of this was tarted up for western audiences.   It was noted in the program that even the traditional songs are animistic in a way, are meant to evoke specific landscapes and experiences rather than sound for the sake of sound.   I enjoyed all of it, but the two pieces that hit me most were when one person of the group simply sang alone, without instruments.   That's when you realize that you have no idea what the human voice is capable of.

They have a website of course: http://www.huunhuurtu.com/

Another group that has a better website for samples of the singing styles and more info on the instruments is Alash Ensemble, and that group will be in the Boston area in December: http://www.alashensemble.com/



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
Aren't they amazing? ;)

For what it's worth, the singing in "Ghengis Blues" sounds a lot like what I heard Huun Huur Tu do last time I saw them, so I don't know that it's all that tarted up for Westies.

edited for HTML

Edited at 2008-11-24 06:59 pm (UTC)
Nov. 24th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Cool! There was throat-singing in "Mongol" too, the movie about Genghis Khan's early life. In one scene, he and his friend are totally drunk, leaning forehead to forehead against each other, and throat-singing. :-)
Nov. 25th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed that movie greatly. And certainly the suggestion that the best way to practice throat-singing is to get totally drunk. ;)
Nov. 24th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
That sounds really cool.
Nov. 24th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
It is! You should go. I'm sure some groups must get to Chicago. :-)
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 24th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
I was there with my daughter, who was there because (1) it's cool, and (2) to write up another concert review for her college music class.

We were floor, side right, on aisle, row "E", which was actually fourth (not fifth) row back. Great view!

Sorry we didn't see you. I did look across the orchestra rows at the break, wondering if there was anyone I might know, but I didn't check the balcony, heh.
Nov. 24th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
There's a film about the amazing Dr. Richard Feynman, the physicist. If you ever come across it grab it with both hands. He loved Throat singing to the point where he tried to get a visa from the russians to visit Tuuva as a tourist but they were sure he was trying to spy because such a world renowned man couldn't possibly be interested in peasants singing !Great film.
Nov. 24th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
I'd heard it was a passion of his! My son is a big Feynman fan. :-)
Nov. 24th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
He is a man of exquisite taste.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )