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Hear earthly harmonies at Minnaert Center for the Arts. Tuvan throat singers share beautiful and unusual technique

The all-female throat-singing group Tyva Kyzy sang in Olympia during its first U.S. tour. That stop, in 2005, was the first performance at South Puget Sound Community College's Minnaert Center for the Arts. On Friday, the group - whose name is pronounced "Tuva K'zih" - returns on its third tour. "It's our first repeat," said center director Cassandra Welliver.

The women live in Tuva, a Russian republic south of Siberia, but Tyva Kyzy has a Western Washington connection: Devan Miller , the group's North American manager, lives in Port Angeles.

Miller, who also sells art from Tuva and organizes tours there, first traveled to the re public because of his fascination with throat singing, a technique in which the singer uses muscle control to sing more than one note at a time.

"It sounds like multiple voices, but it's all coming from one person," he said. "They are doing some fancy stuff with their muscles and different cavities in their vocal organs from the sternum up to the head."

The group, which Miller connected with during his first trip to Tuva, is touring in support of its second album, "Igil Unu-Iyem Unu," which features the music of the igil, or horsehead flute.

"The title roughly means 'the sound of my igil is the sound of my mother's voice,' " he said. "They are singing with some of their mothers and grandmothers on the album."

Throat singing, which also is practiced in Mongolia and Tibet, continues to become better known and more popular in the West, Miller said.

"I have been paying attention to Tuva since 1996, when I first heard t he music," he said. "Ever since then, I've been in love with the music and t he culture. I started trying to throat sing back then. Back then, nobody knew what it was. Now 80, 90 percent of the people I mention Tuva to have heard of it or know of some reference to it."

The music of Tyva Kyzy, the only all-female professional throat-singing ensemble in the republic, combines traditional and modern elements.

"A lot of these songs are ancient or at least antique," Miller said. "They like to go back and find songs of their grandparents or parents. They make arrangements that are partly traditional and partly innovative, and in the spirit of what Tuvan music is all about, trying to connect with the feeling of Tuva, the energy of it and the landscapes."

That connection with the land scape can be literal if you listen closely, he said.

"You'll hear the sounds of animals and get the sense for weather, and ultimately, if you are paying close enough attention, you'll sometimes get a sense of the landscape just by the sort of patterns and nuances of the music."

Miller added, "For me, it's about trying to bring people's attention to Tuva and what an amazing culture it has. Tuvan culture still has a deep connection with the Earth and to people's own creativity."

tyva kyzy

What: The all-female throat- singing ensemble returns to South Puget Sound Community College.

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Minnaert Center for the Arts, 2011 Mottman Road S.W., Olympia

Tickets: $20 general admission; $15 for seniors, staff and members of the military; $10 for students

More information: 360-596-5501 or

Molly Gilmore | For The Olympian
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