You shut your eyelids. At an instant you find yourself standing on a green-yellow knoll in the midst of nowhere. Clouds are moving pale and sorrowful in their long march from the West to the East. Below there is not a single tree in sight. There, though, when the wind is not whipping your cheeks, you can hear a distant but oh-so-familiar murmur, coming from four caped men on the horizon who are singing – literally – in a full cry.
This is at least the out-of-body experience we get when listening to Huun-Huur-Tu, the South-Sibirian group who helped popularize Tuvanian throat singing and folk music. Led by original members Kaigal-ool Khovalyg and Sayan Bapa, the quartet have been putting the World’s music geeks in a trance-like state since their breakthrough album The Orphan’s Lament (1994). Their distinctiveness lies in the unique use of the most basic instrument of all: the voice.
Because the Russian province of Tuva is located in Asia’s geographic center, a landscape marked by endless steppes, the population have long been users of throat singing – where you’re able to sing several notes simultaneously – to be heard among the mighty gusts of wind. It’s such a genuine and beautiful way of singing that we have chosen to invite the genre masters to our festival for a second time; their last visit was in 2009, after Huun-Huur-Tu had completed one of their many trans-continental cooperation projects, then with the electronica musician Carmen Rizzo.