If you look at the sun at sunset, the rays often seem to split and fan out like a propeller. If you listen to a Tuvan throat singer, the different tones and melodies produced by his incredible vocal chords "refract" and split like the sun's rays. This is why Tuva's foremost traditional combo decided to call themselves "Huun Huur Tu" which means "sun propeller" in Tuvan. Tuva is an eccentric Siberian land of horizon-kissing steppes and dark limitless forests which possesses one of the most original musical cultures in the world, inspired by the closeness of its semi-nomadic sheep and reindeer herders to nature and all its rhythms and sounds. It can be no co incidence that this country practices Tibetan Buddhism and looks to the Dalai Lama as their spiritual master. The amazing technique of Tuvan throat singing is still a mystery to Western science. But, listen closely and you will hear the singers produce up to four notes at once, singing melody and accompaniment simultaneously in what many listeners call a truly spiritual experience.
Their trademark sound derives from the use of various over-tone or 'throat-singing' techniques which were invented by nomadic hunter-herders of the Tuvan steppes and mountains. Traditionally, these were largely performed a cappella, but Huun-Huur-Tu were one of the first groups to combine them with ancient acoustic instruments such as the cello-like two-stringed igil, the four-stringed byzaanchi, the three-stringed doshpuluur and the khmomuz - a local equivalent of the Jew's harp. Using these with percussion and voice, they create eerie harmonics and otherworldly noises, even mimicking animals like horses. Although justly revered for their singing their remarkable group sound is sometimes overlooked because of it.
Huun Huur Tu was formed back in 1992 by Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Alexander Bapa, his brother Sayan Bapa and the irrepressible Albert Kuvezin, who has since gone on to marry Tuvan music with weird and raw rock of all kinds in his combo Yat Kha. Thanks in part to the tireless efforts of ethnomusicologist Ted Levin, Huun Huur Tu became the darlings of the experimental music scene in the US in 1993 and went on to collaborate with Frank Zappa, Ry Cooder, the Chieftains, Kronos Quartet and Ravi Shankar to name but a few.
Whilst preserving an extraordinary musical tradition, Huun Huur Tu continue to innovate and collaborate far and wide.
This is the sound of a magical world. Savour it while you can.