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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Tuva Begins the Year of Khoomei

In Tuva a gala-concert in the Muzdramteatr (Music-Drama Theater) officially opened February 13 the Year of Khoomei. Khoomei is a unique vocal phenomenon, whereby in the performer's throat sounds of different pitches are created simultaneously. In effect, the person becomes like an orchestra. Today khoomei became the worldwide calling card of Tuva. In the summer of 2007 the art of Tuvan throat singing enraptured Vladimir Putin and his guest Albert II, Prince of Monaco.
Tuvans were first acknowledged by outsiders back in the 1980s. In 1992, the first international symposium about throat singing in Kyzyl attracted not only scientists, but also performers from around the world--from France, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and Finland.
Today, Tuvan masters of khoomei (the name of two-voiced singing) have gained the ability to hang out at the houses of western mega-stars, the attention of Hollywood, and participation in the most distinguished talk shows in America. Legendary Frank Zappa persistently invited the musicians of group "Huun-Huur-Tu" to his home, gladly fitted himself with a Tuvan folk outfit and eagerly listened to throat singing. And Stevie Wonder, according to eyewitnesses, simply burst into tears when he heard a joint appearance by Tuvan throat singers and a Bulgarian women's chorus. Peter Gabriel was offended by the Tuvans of the group "Shu-de", who "worked too long and forgot about everything" in his studio and ignored the maestro's invitation to come to his daughter's birthday. With the help of khoomei, Kongar-ool Ondar associated with highest-paid showmen of America, David Letterman and Chevy Chase, on their high-rated talk shows.
Each of these Tuvan groups has its army of worshippers, who listen to all their discs, adjust their schedules according to the tour schedules of their idols and readily follow them around the world.
Every year, hundreds of worshippers of Tuvan throat singing travel to Tuva, wanting to study khoomei in its native land--in the center of Asia. Associations of throat singers appear and work in Japan and Finland. In these countries, champions in the performance of throat singing are determined at "domestic" tournaments. These national champions, in turn, are granted the honor of leaving for Tuva to compete with Tuvan throat singers.
On "khoomei" more than one dissertation has been defended. (See Mark van Tongeren of the Netherlands and Tran Quang Hai of France.) Musicologist Zoya Kyrgys dedicated 25 years of study to Tuvan throat singing. The result of this study became her doctoral thesis. In the opinion of the scientist, specifically in the technique of sound production lies a vital distinction of Tuvan khoomei from other types of throat singing. Tuvan performers do not limit themselves to using the oral cavity and the larynx, as often occurs from in two-voiced singing of other people, but rather they sing with support of the chest, with the chest acting as a sound resonator, asserts the author. This is one type of corporomusic, in which the body actually works as a musical instrument. To denote Tuvan throat singing, the Tuvan musicologist uses the new working term "khorekteer" ("to chest-sing" in Tuvan).
Zoya Kyrgys became one of the head promoters in advancement of khoomei. At the end of the 1980s, she together with notable throat singer Gennady Tumat initiated the creation of the first ensemble of throat singers--"Tuva". The core of the group's repertoire was archival writings (songs, tales, prayers), collected in the course of field expeditions by the scientists of TNIIYALI. Then "Tuva", in time, became a factory of "throat" personnel. Out of "Tuva" came Kaygal-ool Khovalyg, Kongar-ool Ondar, Stanislav Tanmaa, Boris Kherlii, Otkun Dostay, Ivan Saryglar, Evgeniy Oyun and many others. Many of them decided to make their own groups which further on became quite popular. "Tuva"'s repertoir made up of Zoya Kyrgys archive findings served as a basis for them. Thus unknown old songs became sung everywhere.
The resolution about the declaration of 2008 as Year of Khoomei was accepted at the end of 2007 by the Government of the Republic. "Khoomei is one of the main properties of our culture," states Vice-Premier Anatoli Damba-Khuurak, who heads the organizational committee for conducting the
Year of Khoomei in Tuva. "The Year of Khoomei is declared not only with the goal of advertising this unique cultural phenomenon, but also for dealing with practical questions. In particular, earlier retirement for performers of throat singing, and creating a digital audio-visual archive of throat singing. We also intend to attain inclusion of khoomei in the list of objects of nonmaterial cultural heritage of UNESCO."
Declarations of the Year of Khoomei will pass not only in Tuva, but also in cities in Russia and abroad. In the Republic of Tuva, where practically one out of three men performs khoomei, a gathering of throat singers will take place in the summer of 2008. There is even an idea to register a record in the Guinness Book for the greatest number of people simultaneously performing khoomei.

Dina Oyun, translated by Ben Stevens
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