Tuvan Throat Singing – A Unique Mongolian Tradition

As with any other piece of music, it is quite impossible to describe through words what exactly Tuvan throat singing is. I could try to explain to you the physics of how it is done, but then you could always get that information from Wikipedia. I could try to explain what it sounds like, but then you could just listen to it on YouTube. Oh, and while you are on YouTube, please don’t go by Sheldon Cooper’s version of it from The Big Bang Theory. It is funny, but it is in no way the real thing.

Tuvan music is at best described as a variant of overtone singing. Its beauty lies in its traditional, rustic melody and it exudes an old-world charm. That’s not surprising, given the fact that this form of music dates very far back in history. A music that came into being purely out of culture and geographic location, the ancient Tuvans used to look for specific spots to practice it. Given the open landscape of Tuva, sounds are carried a great distance. Singers often travel far into the countryside, in search of the right river or mountainside for the environment that throat singing requires. Sounds like a beautiful way to blend music and nature.

Photo: Red Orange

Tuvan throat singing consists of harmonized sounds that are produced from deep within the throat. The unique style of singing is further divided into several styles – Khoomei, Kargyraa and Sygyt – each of which contains several sub styles. The division of style depends on how the sound is induced. Khorekteer is a ‘chest voice’, while the popular Khoomei is soft on the ears. The art of Tuvan throat singing is predominantly male-dominated, although a there is mention of a few popular female singers in Tuva’s history. Choldak-Kara Oyun is known to have throat-sang her whole life, singing lullabies to her children and also while milking her cows. I’m quite glad to have come across Tuvan throat singing. The music really is quite melodious, almost relaxing to listen to.


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