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The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica presents a rare performance by Alash, a trio of master throat singers from Tuva, a tiny republic in the heart of Central Asia. Grounded in tradition while expanding its musical vocabulary with new ideas from the West, the ensemble and its individual members have consistently won top honors on the highest stages.
Tuvans boast a musical identity all their own, featuring a vocal tradition that has put them on the world-music map: throat singing. The Alash Ensemble honors that heritage with a modern twist. Its influences include all the modern throat singers, but also American innovators such as Jimi Hendrix and Sun Ra.
In an interview with NPR, Sean Quirk, Alash’s interpreter and manager explains, “Throat singing is technically the art of controlling overtones. The act of singing generates many partials — frequencies that are present, but not always readily heard. What [throat singers] are doing is essentially — they’re filtering out their voice[s]. They’re amplifying the overtones that they want, and de-amplifying the ones that they don’t want. And they’re doing that by making certain pressure at their vocal folds, and… at their ‘false’ vocal folds.”
Quirk continues, “Tuva is actually the center of a very ancient cultural sphere that people don’t know much about, because [Tuvans] were nomadic. They didn’t build any palaces or leave behind any written language. But it’s an amazing, very unique culture. And so it touches people a lot, because it’s so ancient.”