Back when Bulgarian women’s choirs were the it thing in world music crossovers, Tuvan throat singing became the hype machine’s heir apparent.
Huun-Huur Tu served as ambassadors of Tuvan throat singing, and if such performances as “Kongerei” on Kronos Quartet’s Night Prayers were any indication, the trio deserved its international reputation.
Albert Kuvezin of Yat-Kha could never be mistaken for a member of Huun-Huur Tu. The bizzare overtones produced from throat singing is imperceptible in Kuvezin’s technique. (Except in one instance, but more on that later.)
That’s not what makes Yat-Kha interesting.
Influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and Deep Purple, Yat-Kha leader Kuvezin has instead injected an expansive creative freedom into the music indigenous to his region.
Yat-Kha’s music isn’t Eric’s trip, nor is it smoke on the water. Rather, it’s the long drones, the reedy accompaniment and the rumbling chants of Central Asia with electric guitars weaving in and out of the texture.
In other words, it’s rock music in attitude, not sound.
Yenisei Punk became something of a hit in the U.K. a few years back, and Yat-Kha has since become a fixture on the European tour circuit.
Listeners not previously introduced to Tuvan throat singing will find Kuvezin’s vocals difficult to digest. When Yenisei Punk was played over the Waterloo Records in-store system, customer reaction was, charitably put, quizzically hostile.
But there’s something hypnotic in the way Kuvezin integrates electric guitars with the indigenous instruments of Tuva. If anything, the electric guitar loses its identity as a Western instrument altogether.
British writers have already evoked Velvet Underground comparrisons, and nowhere is that more apparent on Yenisei Punk than on “Karangailyg kara hovva (Dyngyldai)”. The guitar solo in the middle amidst all that drone could have come straight off of Velvet Underground & Nico.
Yenisei Punk concludes — not counting the bonus tracks — with “Kargyram”, an a capella showcase of Kuvezin’s throat singing abilities. It’s tough to sit through all 11 minutes of it at first, but it’s worth the effort. Kuvezin may not have Huun-Huur Tu’s finesse, but he’s still a compelling performer.