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Throat Singers of Tuva perform at Unitarian Center

St. Clair Productions presents Huun-Huur Tu, one of the best known performing group of Tuvan throat-singing, on Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m., at the Unitarian Center, on Fourth and C Streets. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door, $10 for teens 12 to 17 and free for under 12 with a paying adult. Tickets may be purchased at the Music Coop in the A Street Marketplace, on-line at or by calling (541) 535-3562.

The name Huun-Huur Tu describes the effect of vertical rays of light which shine down from the clouds at dawn and dusk - a familiar sight that inspires awe wherever it occurs. No doubt it's given added drama when projected over the stunning landscapes of Tuva. This landlocked republic at the heart of Asia is the home of the four-piece Huun-Huur-Tu, whose music represents a re-imagining of traditional Tuvan folklore and is strongly evocative of the natural world.

Huun-Huur Tu's 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. In throat-singing, a single vocalist simultaneously produces two distinct pitches: a fundamental note and, high above it, a series of articulated harmonics that are sequenced into melodies and manipulated with extreme virtuosity in several canonical styles.

Traditionally, throat-singing was largely performed a cappella. However, Huun-Huur-Tu was one of the first groups to combine throat-s 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.

According to Jazz Times, "a rustic joyousness and unadulterated expressiveness come out of these musicians". Analyzing Huun-Huur-Tu's music, The Chicago Tribune, wrote, 'it is unfamiliar yet very accessible, an other-worldly but deeply spiritual music that is rooted in the sound of nature". Dirty Linen took a similar view, claiming, "this music is both very spiritual and down to earth, grounded in a strong sense of place, yet its appeal is universal."

Since the quartet's early incarnation as Kungurtuk in 1992, Huun Huur Tu has undergone a couple of membership changes. It has, however, retained its original philosophy of updating and perpetuating Tuvan folklore.

The musicians of Huun Huur Tu include: Kaigal-ool Khovalyg who is an extremely talented, self-taught overtone singer. Khovalyg worked as a shepherd until the age of 21, when he was invited to join the Tuvan State Ensemble. He settled in Kyzyl and started teaching throat singing and igil. A co-founder of Huun-Huur- Tu, he left the State Ensemble in 1993 to devote his attention to the newly formed quartet. Khoyalyg has performed and recorded with the Tuva Ensemble, Vershki da Koreshki, the World Groove Band and the Volkov Trio. Covering a range from tenor to bass, Khovalyg is particularly known for his unique rendition of the kh'i and kargyraa singing styles.

Sayan Bapa received his musical training in Kislovodsk, Northern Caucasus, where he played fretless bass in a Russian jazz-rock band for several years. In the early 1990s he returned to Tuva to study his roots, and became a member of a folk-rock band, performing traditional Tuvan music on electric instruments. A co-founder of Huun-Huur-Tu, Bapa is a versatile string instrumentalist, and performs on the doshpuluur, igil and acoustic guitar. As a vocalist he is currently specializing in the kargyraa style.

Radik Tolouche (Tiuliush) was born in the Ovur area of The Republic of Tuva, near the border with Mongolia. He learned throat-singing from his grand-dad. While Radik was still in secondary school, his family moved to Kyzyl. After receiving his high school diploma, he started studying medicine. Upon graduation, he worked at the Centre of Folk Medicine in Kyzyl. He later graduated from the Chyrgal-ool Arts School (Kyzyl), where he had been studying igil. He participated in various Tuvan rock and folk collectives. Radik currently teaches igil at the Kerndenbilija Arts School of The Republic of Tuva. He joined Huun-Huur-Tu in 2005.

Alexei Saryglar joined the ensemble in 1995 to replace Alexander Bapa. He completed his musical training in Ulan Ude as a percussionist for classical and popular music, and became a member of the large Russian state ensemble 'Siberian Souvenir'. A multi- talented performer, Saryglar makes his mark as a sygyt singer, and his expertise with traditional Tuvan percussion and string instruments naturally extends into the art of piano playing.