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23 November 2010

Huun Huur Tu: Ancestors Call

Michael Church, http://news.scotsman.com
Huun Huur Tu: Ancestors Call"MY HERD roaming on the hill – is it there? Are you words joking or serious, my love? I don't understand." This group may now be global superstars, but the way they open their new CD couldn't be more sweetly authentic. The soloist delivers a simple melody while the rest of the group provide a soft drone – it's a couple of minutes before we get a hint of the throat-singing which is their trademark sound. The second track plunges us into their infectiously warm instrumentalism – low plucked sounds plus a drum – while the throat-singing drops an octave.

Some of the songs – for example The Orphan's Lament – have a gorgeous backing of smoothly-bowed strings. The rhythms are all horseback stuff – trotting, cantering, galloping – as befits the land which inspires this music, once the Soviet republic of Tuva, now the Tuva Republic within the Russian Federation and still the home of nomads for whom mountains, rivers, and trees all have their own spirits, and who all mystically "sing". The many varieties of throat music they produce allow them to evoke everything that animates their surroundings.
We hear a lot about "trance" music, but Huun Huur Tu's really is that thing. What's particularly nice about their career is the way they have not immured themselves in the traditions of their past, even though their star singer learned his art while sitting on the back of his grandfather's horse and feeling the vibrations of his singing pass through his body.

They have drawn in Western chamber-players to lay a Philip Glass-style carpet of sound below their chants, and they have investigated the potential of electronica while in no way letting that submerge their own sound. The ancestral music is being remade, but it's still superbly itself.

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