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Сегодня 5 August 2021 г.
11 March 2011

Birthday greetings to Sainkhoo Namchylak!

Translated by Heda Jindrak

Birthday greetings to Sainkhoo Namchylak!Today is the birthday of the star of world ethnic music -  one of the most internationally famous Tuvan women - talented, inimitable Sainkhoo Namchylak. Lyudmila Okan-oolovna Namchylak - that is the singer's real name - started her life in a small Tuvan village in a family of schoolteachers in 1957. Her parents loved music very much, and played musical instruments when they were young. Her father had a pleasant baritone, and he often performed with musicians - amateurs in concerts in Tuva. Later the family moved to Kyzyl,, because the head of the family received a new position, and became apolitical supervisor of TASS in Tuvan television. On Sundays, he liked to teach his daughter to sing and dance. Her father also often read poems and verse to his wife and daughters. On one of such evenings, on the holiday of March 8, he dedicated a poem to his wife and to Sainkhoo, with many words which were incomprehensible to the little girl. She looked out the window, where a bridge was lit by yellow beads of street lamps, and thought: "When I grow up like Papa, I will leave over this bridge and go far away, and I will also read my poems."


By her own admission, it was her grandmother who taught Sainkhoo folk songs and traditional throat singing. In 1975, Sainkhoo started receiving musical education. At first she studied in Kyzyl,  and later she graduated from the Moscow  Ippolitov-Ivanov musical school, and the folk department of Gnesinskovo school in Moscow in 1988.  Already during her studies, Sainkhoo participated in various musical projects, and went on concert tours all over the world.  The singer's musical career started in 1986, with folk songs of Siberia. It was then when she became known as a performer of Tuvan folklore, but practically right away she was recognized as an experimenter and synthesizer of musical ideas. In the same year she received the second prize in an All-Russian contest of folk song performers in Krasnodar, and a special prize of Irrna Jaunzem.


Sainkhoo successfully toured in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand as part of the folklore-ethnographic ensemble "Sayany".  Her star rose steeply on the world horizon of  new improvised music. In the spring of 1989, she turned her attention to new jazz. And already by the fall of the same year, she was described as "the discovery of the festival season" by European jazz journals. Insane success. Joint performances with group "Three O", and musicians from Switzerland and Germany, who helped her to discover the entire scope of  the possibilities of her own voice. At that time she finally changed her name Lyudmila for  time-honored Tuvan Sainkho - it was precisely under this name, without a surname, that the world learned about her.


In general, Sainkho's career abroad worked out very successfully. at one of her concerts in Germany, fate arranged for her meeting with Austrian musician Georg Graf, and in the spring of 1991 they got married in Scheibs , the groom's native city. On April 12, the magnolias were in bloom, and when the young couple came out of the building, they saw snow covering everything like a blanket. Everything was white! The mountaintops were shining on the background of bright blue sky, and the singer felt that nature is "calling or greeting her with a quiet hymn of Joy and Love".

After settling in Vienna, Sainkho very quickly learned the esthetic canons of new improvised music. Fate brought her together with jazz musicians, and to her reputation as a talented performer of world music, she adds another, a bolder one - free jazz singer. She performs and records with many famous musicians: Peter Kovalda, Evan Parker, Ned Rotenberg, Butch Morris, Andreas Wollenweider,  Vladimir Tarasov, Shelly Schirm, Trilok Gurtu, and many more. She also recorded several solo albums. Out of all the Soviet "new jazz" musicians, she attained the highest authority and recognition abroad. Sainkho participates in festivals of sound-poetry, experimental theatre productions (meteorite-opera Tunguska-Guska, , works for the Zurich theatre "Coprinus" and Vienna's "Theater des Augenblicks"), publishes books of verse and other works.

And to this day, Sainkho regularly turns to Tuvan music:  "Folk music is the only skeleton that holds me up,  through all the setbacks of life it is the only thing that is really important for me - a priceless corner of my soul of my past, my future. And my roots, from which, even if I wanted to, could never deny. They are in my physiology, in my face, in my voice.


I understand that once on this road, I have to make my own patterns. And in order to break stereotypes, I have to work with form, have to keep changing it constantly.  At times I have to break the "idol"  image that grew around me. I have to break myself. And to preserve my true nature, I turn to the folk materials. To preserve the aureole of the place where I was born…


When I am searching yet again for material for a new program, I try, like a good cook, to try out all the ingredients. Folk music lives, it is in constant motion, and one has to use an individual approach to it - that is the only chance to keep fro killing it. Only that way it will stay alive. If it stops being like that, it is no longer folk music. It turns into some kind of a formal advertising sign: balalaikas and matryoshkas. A totally visual image, without any emotional information. It is necessary to preserve not just visual images, but the meaning, breathing…"


The singer's unusual voice was even researched and observed  by scientists. This happened in France. A musicologist approached Sainkho, looked down her throat, and even tried to take measurements before a concert he observed the singer's preparations for a concert, what she ate and drank. Then she was 'scanned" and examined by French physicians… They  took x-rays of her throat, they stuck a special camera down her throat (fiberoptic laryngoscope?)  finally the scientists came to the conclusion that Sainkho's throat does not hold any biological aberrations. The magical sounds are born totally through the technique of the performer.


In 2007 Sainkho published a book "Chelo Vek" - a philosophical autobiographical thoughts about herself, about art, about music,  about her native country. This original poetic documentary of her travels from Central Asia to the West. For the first time in Russian language, lyrical and diary writings have been presented with illustrations by the author. Several parts were printed with parallel text in Tuvan and English languages. In her book, she writes: "I would like to

 Dedicate this first collection of verse to my father. Thank you, Papa! I finally grew up to your dream of publishing a book."




I remember, looking  in the direction of the sunrise…

I sing a tender song to my listeners.

Khoomei rings and gurgles in my chest -

Melody of a mad life,

Let it ring out sentimentally, I will sing it.

Listen and believe that it also is a part of the Universe…


Unusual concerts where Sainkho audaciously experiments with electronics and various styles,  delicately mixing Tuvan throat singing with contemporary music - jazz, modern, pop and rock, bring her many fans all over the world. She performs in Austria, England, Germany, Denmark, Holland, USA, Japan, Switzerland, France, Italy, but she does not forget about Russia  - she gives concerts in Moscow, Sankt-Peterburg,  Ekaterinburg, Arkhangelsk, Vologda.

About her ritual before a concert: "I definitely get ready. And it is important to me that a complete trust is established between me and the audience. Otherwise the magic won't happen. Rituals from my ethnic past have been preserved in my ordinary life. "When I drink wine, I always breathe the fumes into the air and make special passes with my hands, to share the aroma of the beverage with the gods. And also: there is one ritual which I brought from Tuva. When there is a long trip before me or my friends, I scatter drops of milk in front of myself. So that the road would be "white", light and bright".


The projects, extravagant and curious from both musical and esthetic aspect, which Sainkho has participated in, is a numberless multitude. This fragile woman who strives to unite different cultures, is not afraid of new searches and experiments.


And she definitely is not shy about her age. She widely celebrated her 50th birthday in Vienna. In one of her interviews, she said then:  "I am not hiding my age. Why would I?   In Asian terms, 50 years means only that my juvenile or young age is at the end. But is does not mean at all that now I should b pretend to be a  sedate matron. I can still leap around on the stage."

From materials of "Vena po russki".

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