Art & music merge at Aga Khan Museum concert hall

Polaris Music Prize winner Tanya Tagaq and Tuvan folk musician Radik Tyulyush approach the intensely visceral technique of throat singing from traditions born on two radically different continents, and take nearly opposite approaches to presenting their craft to audiences, but proved to be a perfect match for each other at the Aga Khan Museum.

The combination of Tagaq’s experimentalism and Tyulyush’s traditionalism made for a thought provoking evening of music and ideas, not to mention dazzling displays of vocal talent.
The Aga Khan museum is an indisputably gorgeous building, but not that welcoming to get to if you don’t drive. Especially if you get off the bus prematurely and get lost in the winding pedestrian-unfriendly roads surrounding the complex.

The centre’s focus is on Islamic history, art and culture, but their live performance programming stretches far beyond that in an effort to build bridges with other cultures. The concert hall itself boasts great acoustics, a crystal clear sound system, comfortable seats, and a deceptively intimate design that makes the room feel much smaller than it is.

Radik Tyulush was raised near the border of Mongolia, and originally made his name playing in fusion bands that combined traditional Tuvan sounds with rock music. In more recent years his work has become increasingly traditional though, whether performing with the band Huun-Huur-Tu, or solo, as in this case.

Extremely soft spoken, Tyulyush cycled through a number of instruments throughout his set, offering brief explanations in between songs. As skilled as he is bowing, plucking, and blowing his various musical tools, the most arresting moments came when he relied completely on the power of his own voice, stunning the crowd with dazzling displays of control.

Hearing Tuvan throat singing from a group is an otherworldly experience, but it’s even more impressive when you hear the eerie resonant tones coming from a single body. The physical control required to sing such long drone notes while modulating a second melody by changing the resonance of his throat and mouth is undeniably impressive. At times his voice sounded more like an analog synthesizer than a human.

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Hey, what’s that sound: Throat singing

( The Guardian )

Huun-Huur-Tu Huun-Huur-Tu

What is it? A catch-all term covering different disciplines of extreme vocal technique from around the world, often recognised as a low, pulverising, drone-growl that western ears sometimes interpret as “scary”. But the history behind the throat singing traditions of Inuit tribes and the people of Siberia has strong cultural significance, and the overlapping, oscillating vocal tones (several different notes are produced in the mouth of one singer simultaneously) can be transcendent and beautiful.

Who uses it? The Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq has fashioned a powerful, abstract music all of her own, catching the ears of Mike Patton, Kronos Quartet and Björk. Tuvan exile Sainkho Namtchylak uses elements of throat singing in her challenging Yoko Ono-type music, which melds pop, jazz and avant garde. Huun Huur Tu are perhaps the Ladysmith Black Mambazo of Tuvan throat singing, with a prodigious back catalogue and collaboration credits with everyone from Frank Zappa to Nina Nastasia. Yat-Kha are edgier, covering Motörhead and working with Asian Dub Foundation. Check out our Spotify playlist.
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