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16 March 2011

"Yat-kha" in Buryatia

Ministry of culture of Buryatia. Translated by Heda Jindrak

"Yat-kha" in BuryatiaA miracle? Yes, to a certain extent it is a miracle. The group performs very rarely in Eastern Siberia, and  in Russia in general. It is not surprising that even professional musicians in Buryatia do not know Albert Kuvezin, and if they have heard of him,  it is only  in  connection with world rock-festivals and European charts.

However, Albert Kuvezin's name is well known in Germany and Belgium, Spain and France, USA and Canada.  Already by the late 90's, "YAT-KHA" participated in  world tours with some of the best known American and European rock groups. That is super-level!  All concert halls of "Carnegie Hall" class! There were recordings of discs in Toronto and London, films, clips and soundtracks in Japan, France, Hong-Kong. One of the films and a clip have taken the first place among soundtracks in  the Cannes International Festival. They know the producer of "Pink Floyd" Joe Boyd, are friends with Brian Eno and Lou Edmonds, Paul Cockett and Justin Adams,  and Robert Plant.  What a "modest" crowd!

Since 2000, the group has its own label "Yat-kha Recordings", registered in London.  Since that time, that is where most of their discs have been released.

How did it happen that a Tuvan musician became a recognized world star of ethno-rock? The answer is complicated and simple at the same time. First, for a number of historical and political reasons,  the culture of Tuva, hidden in the Sayan mountains was absolutely unknown to the world almost until the end of  the 20th century. When the folk music of most of the world's peoples was already exhausted and was used up through and through  by professionals of various directions and styles, Tuvan folk music was just beginning to shine on the horizon of civilization. At the same time, academic tendencies were weakly surviving in the mountainous republic. But rock-music became domesticated right away on Tuvan soil. The bristly, resilient rhythm turned out to be quite organic for vocal-instrumental ensembles of Kyzyl, and the esthetic of throat-singing was in an astonishing way incorporated into rock techniques. So in this way it worked out that musicians who grew up on and were brought up by folk music, started playing rock.  As a result,  VIA "Ayan", "Huun-Huur-Tu", Centr Azii" and many others were born. They had no sound apparatus, no transport, no instruments, guitars or synthesizers, but they had a burning  desire to experiment and crate, to search for freedom of self-expression.

Albert Kuvezin was one of the first to begin experimenting with mixing rock with "folk", trying to gather around himself progressive Tuvan musicians. When he graduated from the Kyzyl art school, in 1989 Albert went to Sverdlovsk, where there already was a Tuvan community. That is where the first cassette album, "Prizrak Bedy" was recorded, devoted to Eastern traditions and philosophy. In the spring of 1990, A. Kuvezin experienced a shocking success at the First International Contest "Voice of Asia" in Kazakhstan, and established contact with Artem Troitskiy, Evgeniy Kolbyshev and a number of big producers of the world.

As an aside, one day Artem Troitskiy, an authoritative Russian music critic and TV personality, joked that he knows only two contemporary astonishing male voices - Luciano Pavarotti and Albert Kuvezin!

In the fall of the same year, A. Kuvezin's magnificent performance at the "Rock-Asia" festival took place, after which an intensive tour activity began for the group.

The year 1992 is considered to be the date of birth of  "YAT-KHA", when their album "Yat-kha" - "Anthropophagia" was recorded and released, and  by 1993 the group broke through the Russian borders and conquered popularity in Europe. Regardless of world recognition, Albert has truly brotherly contacts with his colleagues in Tuva, Sakha-Yakutia and Republic Buryatia. Already at the dawn of his musical career, he expressed high appreciation for Yakut ethno-rock, groups "Serge", "Cholbon" and "Ai-Tal".

Even though in Buryatia the rock scene formed a bit later, in 21st century, it announced itself so brightly that it was impossible to ignore. Last summer  "Uragshaa ethno-rock"  won a grandiose success at festivals in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Khakassia and Tyva, and was recognized as one of the moving forces of the genre.

Albert Kuvezin was not simply sincerely pleased with the achievement of Buryat musicians, he also agreed to bring his ensemble to visit our republic. It is understandable that the author of the Ulan-Ude project is one of the founders of Buryat ethno-rock, Sayan Zhambalov. It is clear that at the concert on 16 March, as the hosts,  the group "Uragshaa ethno-rock" will play as well. It is also clear that the hall of the Buryat Philharmony will not be able to hold all those who will want to get to this forum.  However, Kuvezin is not interested anymore in huge venues and powerful sound technology. This remarkable musician, since 2003, has been performing and recording together with Tuvan ethno-rock also cover-versions of various blues-rock compositions and songs of authors and performers of different countries and times, (London album "Re-Covers"), but he also turns more and more often to "quiet" acoustic music. In the fall of 2008 A. Kuvezin's solo album "poets and Lighthouses" was recorded. And Albert's friend and group member Evgeniy Tkachev released a disc with recordings of spiritual psalms of the Old Believers of the Upper Yenisei of Tuva, accompanied by the whispering sounds of nature of that region with rhythms on jamba and dungur (percussion instruments).

It is time to explain that yatkha, and instrument that gave its name to the group, is related to Buryat yataga and other similar bowed string instruments of the entire Asian - Pacific region.

Beside yatkha, the group widely uses all the folk instruments that have been preserved to this day: morin-huur,  dungur, igil, and other Asian and also African instruments - darbuk, dzhambush, saz. It is understood that the genre demands the use of bass-, rhythm-, and solo guitar in the ensemble, and a corresponding collection of jazz percussion instruments, which the Tuvan musicians use inventively and with virtuosity.

Just like all people who have reached the heights in artistic creativity, Albert Kuvezin astonishes with his erudition, modesty, and  simple, easy relations with people. The artistic leader of the musical theatre - studio "Uragshaa" Sayan Zhambalov speaks of him with warmth and recognition as about the Personality, Citizen of the World, who has seen much, learned much and gained deep wisdom, and who is ready to share it with anybody who truly wants it.

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