Sainkho Namtchylak (Tuvan : Сайын-Хөө Намчылак, Russian : Сайнхо Намчылак, born 1957) is a singer originally from Tuva, an autonomous republic in the Russian Federation just north of Mongolia. She is known for her Tuvan throat singing or Khöömei.
Namtchylak is an experimental singer, born in 1957 in a secluded village in the south of Tuva. She is proficient in overtone singing; her music encompasses avant-jazz, electronica, modern composition and Tuvan influences. In Tuva, numerous cultural influences collide: the Turkic roots and culture it shares with Central Asian states, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan; the strong Mongolic cultural influence and traditions it shares with Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Buryatia and Kalmykia; the cultural influences from the various Siberian nomadic ethnic groups such as Samoyeds, Yeniseians, Evenks and from the Russian Old Believers, the migrant and resettled populations from Ukraine, Tatarstan and other minority groups west of the Urals. All of these, to extents, impact on Namtchylak's voice, although the Siberian influences dominate: her thesis produced while studying voice, first at the University of Kyzyl, then in the Gnesins Institute in Moscow during the 1980s focussed on Lamaistic and cult musics of minority groups across Siberia, and her music frequently shows tendencies towards Tungus-style imitative singing.
Being the daughter of a pair of schoolteachers, she grew up in an isolated village on the Tuvan/Mongolian border, exposed to the local overtone singing – something that was generally reserved for the males; in fact, females were actively discouraged from learning it (even now, the best-known practitioners remain male, artists like Huun-Huur-Tu and Yat-Kha). However, she learned much of her traditional repertoire from her grandmother, and went on to study music at the local college, but she was denied professional qualifications. Quietly she studied the overtone singing, as well as the shamanic traditions of the region, before leaving for study further in Moscow (Tuva was, at that time, part of the U.S.S.R.). Her degree completed, she returned to Tuva where she became a member of Sayani, the Tuvan state folk ensemble, before abandoning it to return to Moscow and joining the experimental Tri-O, where her vocal talents and sense of melodic and harmonic adventure could wander freely. That first brought her to the West in 1990, although her first recorded exposure came with the Crammed Discs compilation Out of Tuva. Once the Soviet Union had collapsed, she moved to Vienna, making it her base, although she traveled widely, working in any number of shifting groups and recording a number of discs that revolved around free improvisation – not unlike Yoko Ono – as well as performing around the globe. It was definitely fringe music, although Namtchylak established herself very firmly as a fixture on that fringe. In 1997 she was the victim of an attack that left her in a coma for several weeks. Initially she thought it was some divine retribution for her creative hubris, and seemed to step back when she recorded 1998's Naked Spirit, which had new age leanings. However, by 2000 she seemed to have overcome that block, releasing Stepmother City, her most accessible work to date, where she seemed to really find her stride, mixing traditional Tuvan instruments and singing with turntables and effects, placing her in a creative firmament between Yoko and Björk, but with the je ne sais quoi of Mongolia as part of the bargain. A showcase at the WOMEX Festival in Berlin brought her to the attention of many, and in 2001 a U.S. tour was planned.
After graduating, Namtchylak worked with several ensembles: the Moscow State Orchestra; the Moscow-based jazz ensemble Tri-O (since 1989); School of Dramatic Art under the direction of Anatoly Vasiliev (Moscow), various orchestras in Kyzyl, the Tuvan 'folkloric orchestra'—a far less sanitised example of folk baroque than, say, existed in pre-independence Kazakhstan—that has housed many of Tuva's other important singers. However, for several years Namtchylak annually invited foreign musicians to Tuva to promote Tuvan culture.
Based in Vienna, Namtchylak sculpted Stepmother City to reflect her ambivalent feelings about European metropolis. Calling herself "first and foremost a woman from the Steppes," Namtchylak's first musical inspiration came from her nomadic grandmother, who would sing lullabies for hours. She grew up in a culture where people just sing when they feel like it—singing when they’re happy and singing when they’re sad. Denied professional credentials from a local college where her explorative nature led her toward forbidden male-dominated overtone singing styles, Namtchylak transferred to Moscow where she discovered Russian improvisation and where she also continue to study about vocal techniques of Siberian lamaistic and shamanistic traditions.
Audiences are astounded by the diversity of sounds Namtchylak can produce with her voice, from operatic soprano to birdlike squawks, from childlike pleas to soulful crooning; which at various moments elicit comparisons to Zap Mama, Patti Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Hagen. In 1997, Namtchylak was horrifically attacked by Tuvinian racketeers which left her in a coma for two weeks. Again, sources regarding this contradict – others maintain that she underwent surgery for a severe malignant brain tumor; regardless, 1997 marked an appreciable change in her life. Since then, she has been resident in exile in Vienna, and has also recorded more prolifically as a solo artist – although she has released over thirty albums in the past twenty years, only seven have been entirely solo.
Namtchylak claims that music and spirituality are related by desire, or the tension that yells to reawaken people. Eager to take part in the process of remembering what has been forgotten, Stepmother City presents itself like a map, proposing routes to connect Western physicality with Eastern spirituality.
In 2005, the Italian publishing house Libero di Scrivere released a book of poetry Karmaland. In 2006 in Saint Petersburg, a book Chelo-Vek (a play on words in Russian, conflating "chelovek" meaning "person" and, though the hyphen, obsoletism "chelo" meaning "front" or "forehead" and "vek" meaning "age" or "eon" or "century", into something like "front-eon") was published in Russian, Tuvinian and in English.
in 2016, she released "like a bird or spirit, not a face", an album produced by Grammy-winner Ian Brennan (music producer, author) and featuring members of Tinariwen.
Overtone singing – also known as overtone chanting, harmonic singing, polyphonic overtone singing, and diphonic singing – is a set of singing techniques in which the vocalist manipulates the resonances of the vocal tract, in order to arouse the perception of additional, separate notes beyond the fundamental frequency being produced.
The Tuvan People's Republic, known as the Tannu Tuva People's Republic until 1926, was a partially recognized socialist republic that existed between 1921 and 1944. The country was located in the same territory as the former Tuvan protectorate of Imperial Russia, known as Uryankhay Krai, north-west of Mongolia, and now corresponds to the Tuva Republic within the Russian Federation.
The Tuvans are a Turkic ethnic group indigenous to Siberia who live in Russia (Tuva), Mongolia, and China. They speak Tuvan, a Siberian Turkic language. They are also regarded in Mongolia as one of the Uriankhai peoples.
Peter Kowald was a German free jazz and free improvising double bassist and tubist.
Paul Jerrod Pena was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist of Cape Verdean descent.
Tuva is a part of Russia, inhabited by a Turkic people. Tuvans are known abroad for khoomei (xöömej), a kind of overtone singing.
Huun-Huur-Tu are a music group from Tuva, a Russian federative republic situated on the Mongolia–Russia border. Their music includes throat singing, in which the singers sing both a note and its overtones, thus producing two or three notes simultaneously. The overtone may sound like a flute, whistle or bird, but is solely a product of the human voice.
Tuva or Tyva, officially the Republic of Tuva, is a federal subject of Russia.
Ned Rothenberg is an American multi-instrumentalist and composer. He specializes in woodwind instruments, including the alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, and shakuhachi. He is known for his work in contemporary classical and free improvisation. Rothenberg is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He was a founding member of the woodwind trio New Winds with J. D. Parran and Robert Dick. He has performed with Samm Bennett, Paul Dresher, Fred Frith, Evan Parker, Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp, John Zorn, Yuji Takahashi, Sainkho Namtchylak, and Katsuya Yokoyama.
Throat singing refers to several vocal practices found in different cultures around the world. The most distinctive feature of such vocal practices is to be associated to some type of guttural voice, that contrasts with the most common types of voices employed in singing, which are usually represented by chest (modal) and head registers. Also, throat singing is often described as producing the sensation of more than one pitch at a time, i.e., the listener perceives two or more distinct musical notes, while the singer is producing a single vocalization.
Khertek Amyrbitovna Anchimaa-Toka was a Tuvan/Soviet politician who in 1940–44 was the Chairwoman of Little Khural of the Tuvan People's Republic, and the first non-royal female head of state. She was the wife of Salchak Toka, who was the republic's supreme leader from 1932 to 1973.
Tuvan throat singing, the main technique of which is known as khoomei, includes a type of overtone singing practiced by people in Tuva, Mongolia, and Siberia. In 2009, it was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. The term hömey / kömey means throat and larynx in different Turkic languages. That could be borrowed from Mongolian khooloi, which means throat as well, driven from Proto-Mongolian word *koɣul-aj.
Valentina Suzukei is one of the leading ethnomusicologists in the Tyva Republic (Tuva), Russia.
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The territory currently known as Tuva has been occupied by various groups throughout its history. Sources are rare and unclear for most of Tuva's early history. Archeological evidence indicates a Scythian presence possibly as early as the 9th century BC. Tuva was conquered relatively easily by the succession of empires which swept across the region. It was most likely held by various Turkic khanates until 1207. It was then ruled by various Mongol-led regimes until the 18th century, when it submitted to the Manchu-led Qing dynasty. Slow Russian colonization during the 19th century led to progressive annexation of the region to Russia in the 20th century. The region was then controlled by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union before finally joining the Russian Federation in 1992. Throughout this whole time, the borders of Tuva have seen very little modification.
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