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Arts & Culture

Musical Masters Of "Throat Singing" Perform In New Haven

Courtesy Alash Ensemble
Ayan Shirzhik, Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, and Ayan-ool Sam.

Musical masters of a remarkable vocal technique called “throat singing” perform in Connecticut on Thursday evening. They’re members of the group called Alash.

Throat singing involves a single singer who is able to produce two, three, or four pitches at the same time.

Members of Alash come from the Republic of Tuva, a state within the Russian Federation in southern Siberia, just north of Mongolia.

“The Tuvan people are not Russians and they’re not Mongolians. They have their own language and their own culture and of course their own really fascinating and beautiful music,” said their manager, Sean Quirk. 

Though throat singing can be found in other cultures – in South Africa, and among the Inuits of Arctic regions in Canada – Tuvan throat singing is not directly related to these other styles.

Quirk said it originates from a deep connection between Tuvans and the natural world around them.

"This stems partially from Tuva’s longtime tradition of being a nomadic people," he said. "But a lot of the purpose is the same reason people make music anywhere: to make a mark for yourself in the sonic world around you, and to imitate and reflect the nature around you. Also, to sing and have a good time!"

Credit alashensemble.com / Courtesy Alash Ensemble
Courtesy Alash Ensemble
Ayan Shirzhik.

Alash performs on traditional instruments: a two-stringed fiddle held between the legs and bowed like a cello, a banjo like instrument and various percussion.

And though rooted in traditional Tuvan music, the members of Alash enjoy collaborating with musicians from the West and incorporating all kinds of musical influences.

Alash performs on Thursday night, June 29, at Café Nine in New Haven.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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