Attractions & Activities Republic of Khakassia Traditional throat singing "Khoomei"

Traditional throat singing  •  Khakassia, Tuva, Altai Region, Buryatia, Bashkortostan

“Khoomei” throat singing is a unique kind of art which only some of the Sayan-Altai region nations possess. They are the Tuvinians, the Mongolians, the Altai people and the Bashkirs who live in the western part of Russia. The peculiarity of this singing is that a singer can emit two notes simultaneously thus making a solo of two voices.

The majority of the specialists consider that tuvinian throat singing is different from other throat singing styles. The main tuvinian styles are kargyraa, khoomei, ezengileer, borbannadyr and sygyt.

There are many interesting legends and stories about throat singing. One of the legends says that kargyraa style was created by camel breeders. It is an imitation of a camel’s voice. When a camel cub dies a mother camel goes around it and emits sounds similar to kargyraa. In tuvinian language the word “kargyraa” means “wheeze” or sounds similar to wheeze.

The word “khoomei” has several explanations. Some specialists connect it with a special manner of sound emitting named “hooleer”. This word means “to drone”. Others say that it comes from a tuvinian word “throat” – “hoo”, “hoozu”. Hoomei style is acoustically close to low humming sound. Throat singing itself is more important than a text of a song. The tuvinian throat singing may not include the text. It is a very important fact for ancient tuvinian music.

Sygyt style comes from the verb “sygyr” – “to whistle”. The word “sygyt” means to moan, to bewail.

The name of the style ezengileer comes from the word “ezengi” which means “stirrup”. A silver bridle touched the stirrup while riding a horse thus producing rhythmic sounds. Ezengileer style is an attempt to imitate those sounds.

Borbannadyr style comes from a tuvinian verb “borbannat” – “to roll a round object”. This style is a rhythmic one.

Throat singing is a result of a specific guttural singing and a poetic outlook of the nation. The Tuvinians faithfully love their nature. Nature has always been the source of inspiration for throat singers. The beauty of the sound was estimated according to the skill of showing a real life.

From ancient times throat singing has been one of traditional forms of tuvinian music art and was an essential part of festivals, customs, heroic epos and fairytales.

The time of throat singing forming is not precisely defined. Some scientists say that throat singing traditions formed before 6-8 centuries.

Skilful throat singers as well as story tellers were the keepers of national music and lyrics. These people were highly respected. Such respectful attitude can be seen nowadays too. There is a hall in the Regional Tuvinian museum fully devoted to hoomei. There are a lot of khoomei singers’ portraits hanging on the walls of the hall. Many music bands such as “Hun-Hur-Tuu”, “Tuva”, “Yat-Kha” and others are famous all over the world. Their concerts in the USA, Germany, France and other countries always have great success. Different throat singing contests and festivals are held every year.

Tours in which you can hear traditional music
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