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Who Are This Year's Khoomei Champions in Tuva? (S. Kenneth, USA)

The International Khoomei Festival was not held this year, but in July a throat singing festival was held in the Oviur district of Tuva, which borders Mongolia. The festival was held in honor of the memory of the legendary Khoomei perfomer, Gennady Tumat, who was a native of the area.
The Oviur festival gathered both Tuvan professionals, as well as beginners and about fifty fans of throat-singing, who came all the way from countries such as Spain, the United States, and Japan. The Japanese delegation was the largest with a total of fifteen performers, led by Koichi Makigami, the organizer of the Association of Khoomei Singers in Japan. Accompanying him to Tuva were his students, among them Fuyuki Yamakawa and last year's winner in the Special Guest nomination, Koji Kijima. This year, the best in solo Khoomei was Mergen Kuular, son of one of the eminent Oviur performers, German Kuular, who was also the head of the jury. Among the ensembles, first place was given to Alash, a group directed by Kongar-ool Ondar. This was a very tough decision for the jury as they wanted to award the local Oviur ensemble, Adashkylar, comprised of German Kuular and his sons. Second place was eventually awarded to Adashkylar, who shared the prize with a group from Kyzyl, Changy-Khaya. Andrei Mongush's Salgal came in third in the ensemble competition.
Unfortunately, the festival not only named Khoomei stars but has also revealed painful moments in the Khoomei circles, by those who are split due to regionalism (Oviurism, Chadanism, etc.) and those who wish to monopolize this vocal art of people. Anyhow, as noted in an interview given to a correspondent of the Tuva-Online agency, a member of the festival jury, musicologist Valentina Suzukej, in Oviur a serious conversation about the problems and prospects of the development of throat-singing has taken place and it helped cross some 't's and dot the 'i's as far as Khoomei life.
In those discussions both Tuvan veterans of Khoomei-- Valery Mongush, German Kuular, Vladimir Soyan, Boris Herlii, Sergei Kuular-- and foreign performers took part. The debates concerned the future destiny of Khoomei. ' Is it possible to manipulate so freely the art of our ancestors as you sometimes do while experimenting with Khoomei?', asked Tuvan Khoomeiji. Foreign throat-singers spoke of Khoomei as a world treasure which was given to humanity by Tuvans and that is is possible to respect the authentic form of Tuvan Khoomei while developing the art in their own style. Another important issue was how to treat foreign performers of Khoomei? Despite their diligence in Khoomei practice, they are far off from the level of an ordinary Tuvan perfomer, let alone the merited Khoomeiji. Still, the jury, out of hospitality, gives them prizes which correspondingly are not given to the more deserving Tuvan performers. After a special discussion everyone came to the common opinion that foreign participants should be appointed a special, seperate nomination.
You can express your own opinion of Khoomei's present and future by sending an e-mail to

Dina Oyun
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