Huun-Huur Tu brings Tuva to Tucson

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Not many people have experienced the strange Khoomei music of the Siberian region of Tuva. Tuvan singers have found a way to turn their throats into oscillation chambers in which two notes can sound simultaneously. Huun-Huur Tu, the Throat Singers of Tuva, will bring their high pitched, strong whistling tones to Tucson this Saturday night.

The Khoomei style has developed over centuries, being handed down by tradition from father to son. The resonating vocal tones have been likened to the aural effect heard from the plastic tubes that you buy at a circus and whirl around your head.

Huun-Huur Tu is one of the only groups that perform this Siberian folk music outside of their native land. Their astonishing vocal dexterity is accompanied by a wide array of instruments, including the violin-like igil, and rattles made from dried bull scrotums and sheep knuckles.

Their varied instrumentation blends with the Khoomei literally meaning "throat" create deep droning music, with a very pretty birdlike melody that floats several octaves higher on the harmonic scale. The songs themselves, are generally relegated to subjects of loneliness, exile and ecstasy. An interpreter will be on hand this Saturday to explain, in English, the origin and meaning of the songs.

Though Huun-Huur-Tu, whose name means "layers of light," are the first group to perform this normally private solo vocal music, this hasn't prevented the group from becoming widely popular. They are in the middle of their second U.S. tour, this time in support of their debut album 60 Horses in My Herd on Shanachie Records. Dressed in colorful, shining robes, the Throat Singers in concert provide a stunning sensual experience.

The Throat Singers of Tuva will play this Saturday at the Berger Performing Arts Center. Reserved tickets can be purchased at Hear's Music and Piney Hollow, or at the door on the day of the performance. For more information, call the Tucson Friends of Traditional Music at 327-4809.

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