ALASH are masters of Tuvan throat singing (xoomei), a remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. What does Tuvan throat singing sound like? "Imagine a human bagpipe--a person who could sing a sustained low note while humming an eerie, whistle-like melody. For good measure, toss in a thrumming rhythm similar to that of a jaw harp, but produced vocally--by the same person, at the same time." (Newsweek, 3/17/2006)
Alash sets itself apart from earlier generations of Tuvan throat singers by subtly infusing modern influences into traditional music. One can find complex harmonies, western instruments, and contemporary song forms in Alash’s music, but its overall sound and spirit is decidedly Tuvan.
The musicians were trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood. In 1999, as students at Kyzyl Arts College, they formed a traditional ensemble. At the same time they learned about western music, practiced on hybrid Tuvan-European instruments, and listened to new trends coming out of America. They are inspired by the music of their grandparents and the great Tuvan and Central Asian musicians, but also influenced by jazz and rock as they look for new ideas that mesh well with the sound and feel of traditional Tuvan music.
Alash collaborates with musicians of all stripes, from the avant-garde jazz Sun Ra Arkestra to the classical Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. They appear as guest artists on a new CD by Grammy winning Bela Fleck & the Flecktones ("Jingle All the Way," Rounder 2008). Yet they remain deeply committed to their own ancestral heritage, winning multiple awards for traditional throat singing in international xoomei competitions, both as an ensemble and as individual musicians.
Alash’s inaugural U.S. tour was sponsored in 2006 by the Open World Leadership program of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, they have returned to tour extensively, playing to enthusiastic audiences and presenting workshops to eager students of all ages. The Washington Post described their music as "utterly stunning," quipping that after the performance "audience members picked their jaws up off the floor."
The members of Alash are:
Bady-Dorzhu Ondar: vocals, igil, doshpuluur, guitar. Kyzyl Arts College. Best soloist, 2005 All-Russian Festival of Traditional Ensembles and Orchestras. Best in Maxim Dakpai xoomei competition, 2006. Named People’s Xoomeizhi (throat singer), 2007. Grand prize, Ustuu-Xuree Festival, 2008.
Ayan-ool Sam: vocals, doshpuluur, chanzy, igil, guitar. Republic School of the Arts. Kyzyl Arts College. Moscow State Pedagogical University. First prize, Ustuu-Xuree Festival, 2008.
Mai-ool Sedip: vocals, byzaanchy, limpi. Comes from a family of famous throat singers and was taught by his grandfather. Kyzyl Arts College.
Ayan Shirizhik: vocals, kengirge, shyngyrash, murgu, xomus. Kyzyl Arts College. Second prize, Ustuu-Xuree Festival, 2008.