Sacred Music from the Steppe
by Chirgilchin Master Throat
Singers from Tuva, Russia
Aldar Tamdyn - byzaanchy, igil, throat singing, vocal
Aidysmaa Koshkendey - vocal, percussion
Mongoun-Ool Ondar - vocal, igil, doshpoulour, throat singing,
Igor Koshkendey - vocal, igil, doshpoulour, throat singing, bayan
Throat singing is a type of overtone or harmonic
singing common in Central Asia and Mongolia. The singer manipulates
the resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal
folds and out to the lips to produce a melody. By changing the shape
of the resonant cavities of the mouth, larynx and the pharynx the
singer can create more than one pitch at the same time,( the
fundamental and selected over tones), thus allowing the singer to
sing simultaneously with 2,3
even 4 voices.
The best-known of the traditional forms comes from Tuva,a small
autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.
Ethnomusicologists mark this musical technique not only to the vast
open spaces of the countryside (where sounds carry to a great
distance) but to an ancient
culture of pastoral animism. The animistic world view of this region
identifies the spirituality of objects in nature, not just in their
shape or location, but in their sound as well. Thus, human mimicry
of nature's sounds is seen as the root of throat singing. (An
example is the Mongolian story of the waterfall above the Buyan Gol
(Deer River), where mysterious harmonic sounds are said to have
attracted deer to bask in the waters.) Indeed, the cultures in this
part of Asia have
developed many instruments and techniques to mimic the sounds of
animals, wind, and water.
The most popular style of Tuvan throat singing is known as "Khomeii."
It is traditionally a softer sounding style, with the fundamental
usually in the low-mid to midrange of the singer's normal voice with
2 or 3 harmonics that can be heard above the fundamental. Pitch is
manipulated through a combination of lip and throat movement.
Singing in this style gives the impression of "wind swirling among
is a technique that utilizes a mid-range fundamental and produces a
high-pitched, rather piercing harmonic reminiscent of whistling. The
tone sounds very bright and clear and is also described as an
imitation of the gentle breezes of summer, the songs of birds.
is a deep undertone technique. The fundamental produced by the
vocal folds, and the mouth cavity is shaped to select harmonics of
both the fundamental and the undertone, producing from four to six
pitches simultaneously. This style can also be described as the
howling winds of winter or the plaintive cries of a mother camel
after losing her calf. Another writer describes it thus"to get an
idea of kargyraa imagine a voice that resembles the roaring of a
lion, the howling of a wolf, and the croaking of a frog – and all
these mixed together."
Other styles are described as "chirping of crickets.", "throat
humming" (Dumchuktaar) and "Ezengileer" a pulsating style, mimicking
the rhythms of horseback riding. Tuva's neighbours, Bashkortostan,
the Altai Republic and Khakassia also have traditions of throat
singing. Tibetan Buddhist chanting is a sub-genre of throat singing.
Most often the chants hold to the lower
pitches of throat singing.
Nirgun & Sagun
by Madhup Mudgal
conventional way to categorize devotional feeling is with the terms
sagun and nirgun. The nirgun deity is invoked in negatives such as
invisible, indescribable, ungraspable, beyond form, inconceivable,
and unnameable. Nirgun poetry evokes a deeper level of experience by
cutting off normal ways of thinking, pushing the listener to a place
that is no-place, to a consciousness where all analytical categories
(including nirgun and sagun) collapse. It does so not with
high-flown language but with everyday imagery. Kabir is the premier
nirgun poet of North India. "
"The landscape of North Indian religion was dramatically transformed
in the 15 and 16 centuries by a remarkable family of poet-saints.
Among the most famous and beloved of these figures--in India and
throughout the world--are Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir.
These medieval mystic poets explored the emotional and passionate
aspects of Bhakti. Their poetry shows a multiplicity of meaning from
bliss to mystical unity as typified in the Nirgun Bhakti works of
Kabir, Raidas, Dadu and in the hymns of Guru Nanak and other Sikh
Gurus compiled in the Guru Granth Sahib
Musically this philosophy is expressed in the 'gayaki' style of
singing of the sagun poets mirabai and Surdas and the more abstract
softer style of the Kabir bhajans.
An interesting feature characteristic of both styles of Bhakti
poetry is the 'oral signature', - the mention of the poet's name
near the end of the poem.
The greatest disservice however to these poets says John Hawley (
author of 'Three Bhakti Voices') is the sagun-nirgun division
itself, This was far less evident in the original poems. The idea of
a difference between the two was probably the result of sectarian
definitions that grew stronger over time.
Madhup Mudgal is one of the best known Indian classical vocalists of
the present generation. He heads the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya,
Delhi's leading and oldest institution for training in music,
founded by his late father and first guru, Professor Vinay Chandra
Madhup has also been a student of some great maestros of Hindustani
music such as Shri Vasant Thakar, Pandit Jasraj and the celebrated
Madhup has won acclaim not only for his sonorous voice and
individual technique but also for his numerous original music