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Awards for World Music 2008
Huun Huur Tu
Huun Huur Tu album cover
The first and most successful group to emerge from the remote central Asian republic of Tyva (or Tuva), Huun-Huur-Tu have acted as cultural emissaries for their country since 1992. With former members including Radik Tülülsh and Albert Kuvezin (who left early on to found Tyvan rock fusion outfit Yat-Kha) Huun-Huur-Tu also represent the mother ship of Tyvan music. This is their second nomination for these awards.

As founder member Sayan Bapa tells his audience in broken but effective English during the 2002 concert on their DVD Live In Munich: 'We play mostly our traditional songs, sometimes our leader has composed songs about our nature, about our nomads' life, also about love story, [and] about horse ­ it's very important animal in our culture.'

What he doesn't mention is their eerily beautiful 'throat-singing' (or overtone singing) styles, which use selective amplification of natural vocal harmonics to produce two (or even three) melodic lines simultaneously from one singer. Tyvan music is all about harmonics, and they even extract them from their instruments. These include the 2-stringed igil and four-stringed byzaanchi (both bowed) plus the 3-stringed doshpulur, which is plucked. The sound is completed by the deep thundery rumble of tungur (shaman drum) and various percussive items such as the xapchyk (sheep's kneebones inside a bull's scrotum) and, for that extra equine effect, real horse hooves. It all adds up to a powerfully evocative sound-of-the-steppes ambience, although Huun-Huur-Tu's music is really neo-folklore, since the throat-singing and instruments were not combined in their traditional hunter-herder context.

Huun-Huur-Tu's more radical experiments have included two albums collaborating with The Bulgarian Voices Angelite (Fly, Fly My Sadness, 1996), the second of which added the Moscow Art Trio (Mountain Tale, 1998). Two other albums included DJs and electronic effects, the second of which Altai Sayan Tandy-Uula (2004) is more successful. Their latest release is the DVD Been Away For a While Huun Huur Tu in Tuva (2007). But the band are best heard in their original stripped-down incarnation, as on classic albums such as Where Young Grass Grows (1999), or Best Live (2001) and More Live (2003) ­ actually both recorded at the same concert. Better still is to see them perform in all their silky finery and hear their soaring, ethereal sounds in person.

Jon Lusk

Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

Belle Yang from Carmel, California
My dad and I listened to this piece many times over and I purchased it on iTunes. Pop is from Manchuria and, yes, the erhu is very much part of his legacy. The music makes me weep, makes me want to ride off into the Western sky on the back of a camel.

reema london
a piece that can just let you go.

a piece that can just let you go.

Lydia From China
Very touching music.I reminds me something in Northern China which has music element in common.

Lydia UK
Very touching music.

Sarah Flavell
Loved it!! We went to see Huun Huur Tu in Aberdeen about 8 or 9 years ago and it was an amazing experience.

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