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Almost Cosmic Tuvan Throat Singing

Tuvan throat singing is a special singing tradition in which the sound is produced not in a familiar to us way, but using a throat, causing amazement of the audience.

Tuvan Throat Singing

Aldar of Chirgilchin group in Ustuu-Huree festival in Chadana, Tuva, Siberia. By Onesecbeforethedub (CC, flickr)

Tuva is a republic in Siberia (Russia) that is surrounded by the mountains of Altai and Sayan, and has a pretty harsh climate. Tuva is famous for its throat or guttural singing, when an unusual sound is created directly in the singer’s throat.

Unlike other regions where there is also found throat singing, Tuvinians have many different styles of throat singing. Furthermore, Tuvinians are able to make two sounds simultaneously! So it comes out sounding like a dual voice solo.

Tuvan throat singing performance can be both without words, and with the lyrics.

Tuvan band Huun Huur Tu

Where did Tuvan Throat Singing Come from?

According to a legend, described on the website of the Republic of Tuva, one of the performance styles was common among camel herders. And it emerged as a sad imitation of the voice of a female camel: when a young camel dies a female camel jumps around making the sounds that are similar to those performed by a singer. Even the name of this style of Tuvan throat singing, kargyraa, is somewhat reminiscent of a performance of throat singing.

According to another legend, there lived an orphan boy. He lived by a cliff. He lived by a cliff for three years. A special resonant soundformed between two rocks due to wind. The young man began to imitate those sounds, becoming eventually better and better at it. It is believed that this is how another style of Tuvan throat singing was formed, which is also common in Mongolia – hoomei.

Most likely all the styles of Tuvan throat singing evolved from natural sounds.

Tuvan throat singing, perhaps originally was the primary source of religious practice, but nowadays becoming a part of the daily life of Tuvinians and having adapted to it, it is performed at festivals and in everyday life.

It is possible that one in five Tuvan people can do throat singing

Performers of Tuvan throat singing have been the preservers of folk traditions, which they passed on in their stories.

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