sábado, 20 de junio de 2009

The Music of Khakassia. Travel to the Center of Asia

Khakassia is a Republic within the Russian Federation, with an area of 61900km². It is located in the south of Siberia. The population is about of 550000 inhabitans. People speak russian, but some ethnic groups, such the khakass speak their own language. The main ethnic group is russian (81%), followed by the Khakass (10%). However, there are other groups such as the ukrainians, tatars and germans. The khakass, together the altais, tofalars, shors and tuvian belong to the turkic speaking ethnic group. The border republics of Khakassia are Gorny Altai and Tuva in the south and Krasnoyarsk and Kemerovo in the north. Musically speaking the khakkas share more in common with the altais that with the tuvian. The capital of Khakassia, named Abakan, is the main door entrance towards Tuva, which is connected by by bus to Kyzyl (Tuva). A beautiful lanscape of the Sayan mountains can be seen on route to Kyzyl. Abakan has a railway station that allow to connect easily with other russian cities. This station is NOT part of the transiberian route.

During the Soviet time the khakass music was almost forgotten. However, in the 70-80' a new generation of young musicians started to play khakass traditional music with their own traditional instruments, in some cases made by themselves.
The throat-singing with its nice overtones and melodies has similarities with the mongolian aand tuvian "khoomi". The khakass throat-singing is named "khay" and it is related with the heroic epic "aliptigh nimakh" telling and the melody by overtones is not considered to be very important. "Khay" singing is connected with the "kai" altai singing and shor people.

When I was in Khakassia I met the renowned music and revitalist Sergey Charkov. He is involved in the traditional khakass music and khai throat-singing. Below I list the groups and his recordings.

-Sabjilar. It was formed in 1996. They play and sing traditional Khakass music with traditional made musical instruments. Most of the instruments are made by Sergei Charkov. They perform old epics from the 6th to the 12th century, nomad songs from the Siberian steppe regions and hunter melodies from the mountains.They have played in many European countries (Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Holland, Norway, Finland, England, as well as USA, Japan,Switzerland.The members are of Sabjilar were the following: Anna Burnakova : vocals (one of the first woman throat-singing), khobrakh, timir khomys and tüür. See below for the discription of theese instruments. Anna won the Special Prizr as best femela singer in the First International Khakass Folk Music competition held in Abakan in 1995. Sergey Charkov: He sings t2 styles of khai and plays chatkhan, yikh, syylas. In the performances he used to improvice in the chatkhan. He is a great luthier of khakass musical instruments, that can be seen in his performances and also he make instruments for another folk groups of Siberia. Vyatcheslav Kuchenov: He sings 3 styles of khay and he play chatkhan, khomys, müüs yikh. He won the Special Prize at the International Symposium of Throat Singing in Tuva in 1998. You can visit his web page page: http://www.sabjilar.com/.
The recordings of Sabjilar and Sergey Charkov are very good. I strongly recommended and can be purchased on line (see below):

-Sabjilar. Syr Chome, 1999 Pure Nature Music. http://www.purenaturemusic.com

-Sabjilar. Saddle Creek. 200? Pure Nature Music

They have collaborated in some other compilations:

-Tien-Shan-Switzerland Express. 2002 Virgin. It is a live recording in which, in addition of Sabjilar, there are performances of The National Mountain Orchestra (Switzerland / Austria), who sing in the yodelling style and play the logn trumpet named alphorn, Egschiglen (Mongolia) and Tenir Too (Kyrgyzstan). Sabjilar played two tunes and the last one of the CD is all the musicians together. http://www.musikderwelt.ch/en/tsse_artist_e.html

-The Silk Road. This is a double CD that I strongly recommend. There is a song by Evgeni Ulugbashev singing and playing the chatkah and one of Sabjlilar entitled Kögmen. The song was writen by Slava Kuchenov. The Cd is a nice trip to the music and musicians of the silk road (kazhaks, uyghurs, tajicks, uzbeks, turkish, kyrgyz, mongol and azari/iranian people. It was released by The Smithsonian Folkways in 2002 .

- Central Asia Tales. In this album there are songs of Sabjilar (Khakkasia), Chirgilchin (Tuva) and Sarymai (Altai).

Sergei Charkov has released other great albums:

-Khyrkhass. Songs of our Elders. 2004 Seven Star Records. The CD was produce by Carole Pegg. She was a member of the 70's english folk group Mr.Fox and she made many albums with Bob Pegg. She wrote and interesting book: Mongolian, Dance & Oral Narrative. Sergei Charkov and his daughter Yulia sing ancient epic and traditional songs of the taiga and steppes. The khai singing style, it is also used for the first time for a women. There was a popular belief that khai throat singing may harm female fertilty. You can buy this CD the Carole Pegg page http:// www.innerasianmusic.com

-Khayjilar: Chatkhan (Long Zither) and Khay (Throat-Singing) of the Khakass from the Center of Asia. Musicians are Evgeniy Ulugbashev (chatkhan, khai), Sergey Charkov (chatkhan, yikh, khai), Vyacheslav Kuchenov (tüür, khai) and Lyubov Ayoshina (timir khomis). This was produced by the japanese Teo Tadagawa in 2004. The booklet has many pictures and texts in original Khakass, English and Japanese. I met Teo Tadagawa in Abakan in 2008. He is a nice guy, who is interested in jew's harp. He has a web page. http://www.koukin.jp/. Pitifully, it's only in the japanese language. He has produced several other CDs from other areas such as Yakutia and Kyrgystan. In Abakan I bought other CDs from Khakass music. They are not commercially manufactured. It seems "home made". However, the music is great! You can obtain these CDs thru the Richard Feynman web page "Tuva Trader" http://scs-intl.com/trader/. Some of these CDs are the following:

-Ailanys, who play traditional khakas folklore with most of the the musical instruments listed below (see page of Khakkas musical instrumests).

-Evgeniy Ulugbashev. Belosnezhnye. He plays the chatkhan.

-Azbien Jacheesmar. Kogeler Cheiiendeisi. Chelger Patsnomye

Another intersting young group is Ensemble Üch Süme. Traditional songs of the Khakass and the Altai people.
The CD has been released by Face Music http://www.face-music.ch/catalog/uechsuemervol_1.html. It is an only online shop from Switzerland. The release World Music from several Asian Countries.

Some other pictures:

Sergei Charkov playing some instruments made by himself and the author of this blog

miércoles, 17 de junio de 2009




-Chatkhan. It is the most popular instrument. It is a plucked long zither, with a trapezoid shape, which is generally used as the accompaniment to the "khay" throat-singing.. It has from 5 to 13 strings. Modern zithers used to have 13 strings with movable bridges made by the anklebones of sheeps. Tuvians and tofalars had a similar instruments named chadagan and chattygan. The chatkhan pictured was made by Sergei Charkov.

-Khomys. It is a two-three strings plucked type of lute with a wood resonance box. Altai people has a similar instrument named topshur. It is also related with tuvan toshpulur and the Mongolian tobshuur.

-Yikh. It is a bowed two-string instrument. The strings are made from twisted sinews of deer or sheep. It is played with a bow made made of horsetail hair stringing. The peach-shape resonance box is made of animal skin. The altai equivalent name is ikili, the tuvan is igil and the Mongolian is ikil. It as some resemblance with the khomys, but usually less decorated.

Yikh made by Sergei Charkov


-Temir-khomys. It is a metal jew's harp made of brass or zteel, which is very popular. The pitch is modified by changing the shape of the mouth cavity, which at the same time acts as a resonance chamber. The tuvian name is khomus.

Temir-khomys made by Sergei Charkov

-Orba. It is a rattle with a handle made of the urinary bladder of animal filled with grain.


-Tüür. It is a single-headed frame drum, generally round. The membrane is sometimes decorated with drawings. It usually comes with a beater covered by a soft skin. It is played by shamans, but it is also played by modern traditional groups. A similar shamanic drum is named dungur in Tuva


- Khobrakh (or shoor). It is an open long end-blown flute. It is made of wood and nowdays of plastic. It usually comes with 3-6 finger-holes.

- Syylas. It is a a flute from the Taiga

- Pyrgy. It is a large conical pipe made of the stem of plant with no finger holes. It is closely related to the altai abyrga. It is used to lure the siberian stag.

Pyrgy and Khobrakh made by Petri Topoev

-Symyskha. It is a birch-bark folded in two for luring goats.

Schyltys. Singer-songwriter from Altai playing the khomys made by the luthier Petri Topoev. She won the best female singer in the Ustuu-Khuree Music Festival in Tuva, in 2008