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Sunbeams from the north

By Chen Nan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-09-21 08:18

In 2019, Huun Huur Tu performed in Aranya, a seaside art community located in Qinhuangdao, North China's Hebei province. CHINA DAILY

All of the members sing, both as soloists and together, as well as playing traditional Tuvan instruments, including Bapa's three-stringed doshpuluur (Tuvan lute), Tyulyush's four-stringed byzaanchi (four-string fiddle) and flutelike instrument shoor, Khovalyg's two-stringed bowed igil and Saryglar's shaman drum.

Khoomei is an old technique also known as throat singing, which allows singers to produce the sounds of multiple notes simultaneously in their throat. Khoomei was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.Other than Tuva, it is also practiced in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Mongolia.

Huun Huur Tu's distinctive style once expanded Western conceptions of the capabilities of the human voice. With each album they released and each show they gave during the past three decades, the quartet has shown that khoomei is not just an exotic novelty, but a part of a rich tradition of their culture.

Nobel Prize winner in physics Richard Feynman, who dreamed about going to Tuva, gave ethnomusicologist Ted Levin recordings of khoomei by Tuvan musicians, according to Bapa. Overwhelmed by the mysterious sound, in 1987, Levin traveled to the country, where he met the four musicians of Huun Huur Tu.

In 1993, Huun Huur Tu released its first album, 60 Horses in My Herd and the same year, the band made its American debut, enabling the members to become musical ambassadors of Tuva.

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