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An Interview with Albert Kuvezin of Yat-Kha

Albert Kuvezin. Photo by Hutchie Albert Kuvezin is the leader of Tuvan group Yat-Kha. The Central Asian band has taken Tuvan folk music to uncharted territories, crossing musical boundaries. Kuvezin is also responsible for popularizing Tuvan throat singing worldwide through several of his projects.

Yat-Kha has a new recording out, Re-Covers, which combines rock music with Tuvan roots. World Music Central interviewed Kuvezin in Kyzyl (capital of the Tuva Republic) through an Internet Cafe. When did you begin your vocal training and who taught you?

About 15 years ago, from musicians from the State ensemble I have been working with. Aldyn-ool Sevek and Gennadiy Tumat have explained to me the technique and style. Then I started to developed my own approach.

How long does it take to master the throat singing technique?

It depends on different people and their talents. Some can spend all their lives and some can do it for two-three years. But for mastership there is no limit.

Who learns throat singing in Tuva? Is it only musicians?

In the past that was part of culture and ordinary shepherds, hunters and others could do that and sang and they learned from their older relatives but now it is more for musicians and you can study it in music school and college.

Why do you think throat singing fascinates people so much?

Because it could sound like a synthesizer or effect processor from a man's mouth.

When and why did you decide to fuse rock with Tuvan roots music?

When I was a student of music college (in 1983-87) I was interested in different music genres and liked to combine them. Later, I began to learn throat singing myself and put it on hard rock and metal riffs. I thought that the sounds of kargyra and khoomei (one of throat singing styles) are very close to the rock sound.

And I love both: Tuvan traditional music and rock, they are both in blood and soul.

What folk instruments do you use?

On the recordings we use igil, doshpoluur, dungur, morinkhuur, temir-khomus, yatkha and many others what we could get. But on live concerts we don't have enough hands to play all of them and to carry. May one day when will get big budget and and own crew.

Are all the musicians in your band Tuvan?

No, the drummer and bassist are not original Tuvan but were born and live here.

We read that you fell in hard times two years ago. What happened?

Car accident, then illness and depression. Hope now these all have gone forever.

Why did you decide to record Tuvan versions of rock music classics?

Why not? I wanted to express other possibility and other sides of these well-known songs, as well as to show that people got different minds and can think in different ways.

How are people reacting to the new album?

I hope they like it, at least who been on our concerts or have heard CD.

One of our editors commented that your music would be perfect for a spaghetti western. Is there are cinematic influence in your music?

I wish my music could help people turn on their imagination and see images including of such remote country like Tuva.

How was the experience working in London with Ben Mandelson?

Very productive and creative. I got a great experience working with him and the other producer Justin Adams.
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