Oct 22, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Nelson Odeon prides itself on being a concert venue that not only promotes local music but also brings respected regional, national and international acts to the Central New York area to play for music lovers and music discoverers alike. Next week, the Odeon presents what may be the most unique musical act to yet grace its stage: Alash, a trio of world-renowned Tuvan musicians and throat singers who can create multiple melodic pitches using only their voices.
“We are honored to have such a world-renowned group as Alash come to our humble establishment from the other side of the world. This is some very old, but very cool, music,” said Jeff Schoenfeld, owner of Nelson Odeon. “If you are unfamiliar with throat singing, some people call the singers human bagpipes. It’s beautiful and haunting at the same time. The members of Alash are also master musicians and play ancient Tuvan instruments which are absolutely fascinating.”
The ancient tradition of throat singing (xöömei in Tuvan) developed among the nomadic herdsmen of Central Asia, people who lived in yurts, rode horses, raised yaks, sheep and camels and had a close spiritual relationship with nature. Passed down through the generations but largely unheard by the outside world, xöömei is now the subject of international fascination and has become Tuva’s best known export.
The tiny republic of Tuva sits at the southern edge of Siberia, with Mongolia to its south. Tuva has been part of Chinese and Mongolian empires, and shares many cultural ties with Mongolia. In 1944 it became part of the USSR, and is now a member of the Russian Federation.
According to information on Alash’s website, The Tuvan way of making music is based on appreciation of complex sounds with multiple layers. Throat singing is an ancient technique that amplifies some overtones while screening out others; it allows a vocalist to spread his or her voice into two-three and occasionally four distinct pitches that can be controlled while the lowest pitch continues on a drone. Tuvan throat singing includes a variety of styles, each associated with a different sound in nature, while the rhythms of Tuvan songs often simulate the loping gait of a horse.
Just as the western cowboy plays a guitar or banjo, the Tuvan cowboy often accompanies himself with a three-stringed doshpuluur or chanzy (plucked or strummed like a banjo) or a two-stringed igil (bowed like a cello). The instruments are traditionally decorated with carved horses’ heads.
The members of Alash have trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood, but have also paid close attention to Western music and trends and have borrowed new ideas that mesh well with the sound and feel of traditional Tuvan music. This blending of Eastern musical traditions with modern Western influences is what distinguishes the trio from earlier generations of Tuvan throat singers.
“One can find complex harmonies, western instruments and contemporary song forms in Alash’s music, but its overall sound and spirit is decidedly Tuvan,” according to their website.
Alash first toured the U.S in 2006 sponsored by the Open World Leadership program of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts, and since then have returned numerous times and consistently received rave reviews. Alash has collaborated with musicians across the spectrum, from country to classical, and records and tours with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones on a semi-regular basis.
Alash has released three CDs of its own: Alash Live at the Enchanted Garden (2006), Alash (2007) and Buura (2011).
“This is a very rare opportunity,” Schoenfeld wrote on the Nelson Odeon website promoting the Alash concert. “Alash utilizes a branch of musical skill the West is generally unfamiliar with, and these are some of the finest proprietors of it. Be you a musician looking for some new creative input or a lover of music pure and simple, join us.”
The Nelson Odeon is located at 4035 Nelson Road. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the concert to start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $22 at the door.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.