February 10, 2017
Alash are masters of traditional Tuvan instruments, as well as the ancient art of throat singing, a remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. Believing that traditional music must constantly evolve, the musicians subtly infuse their songs with western elements, creating their own unique style that is fresh and new, yet true to their Tuvan musical heritage.
The ensemble is named for the Alash River that runs through the northwestern region of Tuva, a waterway that has also inspired two Tuvan songs which carry its name.
All members of Alash were trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood, first learning from their families, and later becoming students of master throat singers. In 1999, as students at Kyzyl Arts College, they formed a group called Changy-Xaya. They practiced in the damp college basement on Kochetovo Street, and soon became the resident traditional ensemble on campus. At the same time they learned about western music, practiced on hybrid Tuvan-European instruments, and listened to new trends coming out of America. In 2002 under the guidance of Kongar-ool Ondar (best known to western audiences for his role in the film Genghis Blues), they began to forge a new musical identity. They introduced the guitar and sometimes even the Russian bayan (accordion) into their arrangements, alongside their traditional Tuvan instruments. They experimented with new harmonies and song structures. The effect is an intriguing mixture of old and new.
“This is some of the most beautiful and haunting music I have heard. If you have not heard them, you have no idea how incredible they are.” –Jeff Coffin of the Flecktones & Dave Matthews Band, from JamBands interview
“There are plenty of recordings of Tuvan throat singing out there, but they can’t compare to witnessing such sonic magic in real time.” –Washington Post
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