FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

Quick Guide to Throat-singing

When you say "oo" or "ee," you produce different patterns of overtones (harmonics), each in a different strength. Throat-singers screen out all but a few overtones, making them audible as distinct notes, by tightening their throats so much that only a tiny slit allows the sound through. This narrow slit also allows notes to be sung for a long time.

Tuvan throat-singing can be divided into several styles—there is debate as to how many there are. Five styles are sung in this album:

  1. Sygyt — a two-note style with the mouth shaped to say "er." It is Ondar's specialty, and the style in which he was world champion from 1992-1995.
  2. Höömei — a three- (sometimes four-) note style with the mouth shaped to say "oo." (This word is used in Tuva to denote both the three-note style, as well as the entire range of throat-singing styles — a situation no more confusing than saying letters that people send to each other are made of letters that form words!)
  3. Kargyraa — a two- (sometimes three- or four-) note style with the mouth usually shaped to say "uh." Most remarkable is its "sub-harmonic" quality, by which the voice emits "undertones" an octave (sometimes other intervals) below the fundamental tone. This is Pena's specialty, the style in which he is reigning world champion (1995), and the source of his name "Earthquake."
  4. Ezenggileer — this "saddle" technique evokes riding on horseback, and involves a rhythmic pulse—you could think of it as a Tuvan verson of ska. Note the end of Ondar's medley (track 5).
  5. Chylandyk — a combination of sygyt and kargyraa, this style is rarely heard in Tuva. Nevertheless, Paul has mastered it and sings it in "Kargyraa Moan" (track 10).

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