Huun Huur Tu

Huun Huur Tu

About

The whistling of the high-mountain wind forms eerie overtones and postmodern statement. The repeated thrum of a string against wood and hide turns into a meditative, evocative figure straight from the avant garde. The descendents of isolated Siberian herdsmen make serious, strangely universal music out of some of the planets quirkiest acoustics.

The Tuvan acoustic quartet Huun Huur Tu prove that Tuvan music can take plenty of intelligent innovation. Using traditional instruments and drawing subtly on 20th-century composers, funky rhythms, and the decades they spent honing their overtone singing, Huun Huur Tu transform ancient songs into complex acoustic compositions. Beginning over seventeen years ago, Huun Huur Tu has almost single-handedly introduced the outside world to the boundless wealth of Tuvan traditions, thanks in great part to their superior musicianship.


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Areas of Representation: North & South America

Biography

The whistling of the high-mountain wind creates eerie overtones and postmodern statement. The repeated thrum of a string against wood and hide turns into a meditative, evocative figure straight from the avant garde. The descendents of isolated Siberian herdsmen make serious, strangely universal music out of some of the planet’s quirkiest acoustics.

The Tuvan acoustic quartet Huun Huur Tu prove that Tuvan music can take plenty of intelligent innovation. Using traditional instruments and drawing subtly on 20th-century composers, funky rhythms, and the palette of electronica, Huun Huur Tu transform ancient songs into complex acoustic compositions.

As they began touring in the West seventeen years ago, Huun Huur Tu almost single-handedly introduced the outside world to the boundless wealth of Tuvan traditions, thanks in great part to their superior musicianship. Hailing from the high pastures of the Altai Mountains in south central Siberia, the musicians have spent decades honing the overtone singing, instrumental approaches, and vibrant songs of their home.

Yet the group also had the musical savvy and the chops to take their traditions far from the slopes and valleys of Central Asia. They made groundbreaking traditional recordings that put their home on the map. They toured the world, gaining fans and inspiring overtone singers. They’ve wowed audiences in both Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, eliciting surprised remarks after one festival show in Kenya that they played with the same ”soul” as local musicians. They sparked a boom in Tuvan and other throat-singing, lute-strumming ensembles from Central Asia that have been the mainstays of global music festivals.

Being the first (and arguably the most skillful) has its advantages. Well-established as “world music” masters, Huun Huur Tu has long been involved in pushing the envelope and digging deep into their roots to find new possibilities. The most recent member to join the group, Radik Tyulyush, a third-generation throat-singer, talented multi-instrumentalist, and conservatory trained composer, added a dose of youthful energy and rhythmic complexity recalling good old American funk.

In 2011, Huun Huur Tu collaborated with prominent Russian composer Vladimir Martynov, who drew on the works by the visionary early 20th-century avant-garde poet Velimir Khlebnikov to create Children of the Otter (forthcoming as a DVD on GreenWave), a 70-minute piece for chamber orchestra, choir, and Tuvan ensemble.

Martynov’s background in Russian Orthodox music, other non-Russian music from Central Asia, as well as his embrace of everything from mid-century minimalism to rock operas to Renaissance polyphony, made collaboration easy and inspiring for Huun Huur Tu. While the quiet influence of minimalism can be felt in the group’s newest approach to “Chyraa-Khoor,” a traditional Tuvan song, but with a contemplative Philip Glass-esque undercurrent.

Another, similarly harmonious collaboration with a very different kind of musician came when the group worked with producer Carmen Rizzo (Niyaz, Seal, Paul Oakenfold, Ryuichi Sakamoto). By working closely with Rizzo on Eternal (GreenWave, 2009), the members of Huun Huur Tu got a taste of how to create electronic soundscapes around traditional material. This experience, along with their role as the heart of a new kind of chamber orchestra, has guided much of their music following that project.

“Gradually, over the years, the sound has shifted,” reflects former manager and co-producer of their 2010 release, Ancestors Call, Vladimir Oboronko. “It’s become more sophisticated, more-dimensional, and much more relevant to current music sensibilities. Huun Huur Tu is innovating indigenous Tuvan music under the subtle influence of the music of 20th and 21st centuries, and the result is both contemporary music that belongs to the whole world and a fresh take on the traditional music of their beloved Tuva”


About Huun Huur Tu

(Program Notes Excerpts by Ted Levin – 1999)

“Huun-Huur-Tu, having completed its fourth tour in North America, and a veteran of concert and festival performances in nearly every country of Europe, has emerged as the foremost international representative of Tuva’s remarkable musical culture. Representing such a culture, however, is surely a delicate task. For how can one convey to outsiders the subtle sensibility of a music so intimately tied to a sense of place — a place whose landscapes and soundscapes are unknown to most listeners in the West? Must one experience the place to understand the music? Or do the sweeping melodic contours and poignant timbres of Tuvan music touch something in all of us — a vestigial collective memory of one of humankind’s most ancient livelihoods: pastoralism?

It is indeed the Tuvan pastoralists’ keen perception of natural landscapes and soundscapes that has most conspicuously shaped their music. The Tuvans, a South Siberian Turkic people who number some 150,000, preserve what are arguably some of the world’s oldest forms of music-making. What binds these forms together is their use of mimesis, or imitation for aesthetic purposes. By imitating or aesthetically representing the sounds of nature, human music-makers seek to link themselves to the beings and forces that most concern them: in the case of the Tuvans, domestic animals, the physical environment of mountains and grasslands, and the elemental energies of wind, water, and light. The best known genre of Tuvan music, xöömei (throat-singing), comprises what one might call a lexicon of musical onomatopoeia in which natural sounds are mimetically transformed into musical representations.

Tuvans not only transform the sounds of the natural world into music through imitation; they also make sonic “maps” of physical landscapes which may be expressed in texted songs, throat-singing, whistling, or other types of vocal production. For the Tuvans, one of the purposes of music seems to be to offer detailed and concrete descriptions of topography. In short, Tuvan music is not abstract, like most Western music, but radically representational, the product of a cult of imitation that ties it to an animistic understanding of the world…..

While the Tuvans’ legacy of animism is at the core of their musical tradition, the tradition itself has broadened. How could it be otherwise, for in order to be “authentic,” traditional music must maintain its relevance to the life of a community. Tuva has changed. Decades of Soviet rule brought influences from Russia and from the West as well as a cultural politics that strove to transform indigenous music and musical life into European-style practices. Now the Soviet Union is gone, but the transformations which it wrought still cast a long shadow over Tuva…. Tuvan music, like many indigenous musical traditions around the world, has become de-territorialized.

Huun-Huur-Tu’s community of listeners is a worldwide community, and its tradition is a reimagined one. The tradition’s authenticity stems from the group’s effort to bring their own life experience into their music, and to build a rapport with their audiences, as any tradition must to remain alive. In serving their community, the members of Huun-Huur-Tu have of necessity reverted to their forebears’ way of life: nomadism — but nomadism that takes place largely beyond the borders of Tuva. We can only wish the group well in their travels, and hope that the collage of landscapes and soundscapes they encounter can continue to nourish their music and help it remain vital and relevant — to their lives and ours.”

— Theodore Levin © 1999

Tour Dates

Future Tour Dates

View Tour History

Aug 11, 2017 Get Info/Tix
Tidewater, OR USA Tidewater Falls
2:00PM  
Aug 17, 2017 Get Info/Tix
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Tour History

Return to Future Tour Dates

2016
Oct 1, 2016 Venue Info
Toronto, ON CANADA Aga Khan Museum Auditorium
8:00 PM  
Sep 29, 2016 Venue Info
Eau Claire, WI USA Gantner Concert Hall
8PM  
Sep 26, 2016 Venue Info
Appleton, WI USA Harper Hall - Lawrence University
8:00PM  
Sep 24, 2016 Venue Info
Portland, OR USA Alberta Rose Theatre
8PM  
Sep 23, 2016 Venue Info
Vancouver, BC CANADA Vancouver Playhouse, City of Vancouver
8:30 PM  
Sep 22, 2016 Festival Santa Lucia 2016 Venue Info
Monterrey, NL MEXICO Various Festival Locations
7:30PM  
Sep 17, 2016 Venue Info
Crescent CIty, CA USA Crescent Elk Auditorium
7:30PM  
2015
Sep 30, 2015 Venue Info
Ann Arbor, MI USA The Ark
8:00 PM  
Sep 29, 2015 Venue Info
Laramie, WY USA Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall
7:30 PM MST  
Sep 27, 2015 Venue Info
San Francisco, CA USA Great American Music Hall
8:00PM  
Sep 25, 2015 Venue Info
Los Angles, CA USA Royce Hall
8:00 PM  
2014
Nov 15, 2014 Hamilton Arts Series Venue Info
Hamilton, OH USA Parrish Auditorium - Miami University
7:30 PM  
Nov 14, 2014 Venue Info
Tampa, FL USA Skipper's Smokehouse
8:30PM  
Nov 9, 2014 Venue Info
Cleveland, OH USA Music Box Supper Club
7:30PM  
Nov 9, 2014 Venue Info
Cleveland, OH USA Music Box Supper Club
7:30PM  
Nov 8, 2014 Venue Info
Pittsburgh, PA USA St Paul's Cathedral - Synod Hall
7:30 PM  
Nov 7, 2014 Venue Info
Detroit, MI USA Rivera Court-Detroit Institute of Art
7 and 8:30 PM  
Nov 5, 2014  
Oklahoma City, OK USA Metropolitan Library
 
Nov 4, 2014  
Oklahoma City, OK USA Metropolitan Library
 
Nov 3, 2014  
Oklahoma City, OK USA Metropolitan Library
 
Nov 2, 2014  
Oklahoma City, OK USA Metropolitan Library
 
Nov 1, 2014  
Oklahoma City, OK USA Metropolitan Library
 
Apr 25, 2014 Venue Info
Cambridge, MA USA First Congregational Church
8:00PM  
Apr 23, 2014 Venue Info
New York, NY USA Zankel Hall
6:00PM  
Apr 20, 2014 Venue Info
Portland, OR USA Alberta Rose Theatre
9:00PM  
Apr 19, 2014 Venue Info
Los Angeles, CA USA Disney Hall
11:00AM & 12:30PM  
Apr 17, 2014 Venue Info
Folsom, CA USA Stage One
7:00PM & 9:00PM  
Apr 16, 2014 Venue Info
Phoenix, AZ Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
7 PM  
Apr 13, 2014 Venue Info
Cedar Rapids, IA USA CSPS Hall
7 PM  
Apr 12, 2014 Venue Info
Batavia, IL USA Fermilab's Ramsey Auditorium
8 PM  
Apr 11, 2014 Venue Info
Dearborn, MI USA Arab American National Museum
7:30 PM  
2012
Oct 3, 2012  
Pittsburgh, PA USA First Unitarian Church
 
Oct 1, 2012  
Cedar Rapids, IA USA CSPS Hall
7PM  
Sep 30, 2012  
Minneapolis, MN USA Cedar Cultural Center
7:30 PM  
Sep 29, 2012  
Minneapolis, MN USA Cedar Cultural Center
7:30 PM  
Sep 29, 2012  
Chicago, IL USA Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall
7:30PM  
Sep 27, 2012  
Meeteetse, WY USA Meeteetse School Auditorium
 
Sep 26, 2012  
Meeteetse, WY USA Meeteetse School Auditorium
 
Sep 23, 2012  
Los Angeles, CA USA Hollywood Bowl
 
Sep 22, 2012  
Bishop, CA USA Millpond Music Festival
 
Sep 21, 2012  
San Francisco, CA USA Great American Music Hall
8:00PM  
2011
Oct 18, 2011  
Bethlehem, PA USA Moravian Academy
8:35AM  
Oct 8, 2011  
Lexington, KY USA Singletary Center for the Arts
7:30PM  
Oct 7, 2011  
Cleveland, OH USA Cleveland Museum of Art
7:30 PM  
Oct 4, 2011 World Rhythms  
Dayton, OH USA Boll Theatre - U Dayton
8:00PM  

Videos

News

  • Huun-Hurr-Tu Live in Toronto, Nov 20, 2014 riot-news-huunhuurtu-live-torontoBy Allister Thompson
    I have a thing for Central Asian music, which I wrote about in this piece, so I won’t recap here why it’s so appealing to me. This year, me and the wife were looking for a concert because we buy tickets every year to some event around the holiday season, instead of buying each ...

Press

To those who have heard of it, the autonomous Russian republic of Tuva is chiefly known for three things: its colorful and highly collectible stamps, its rugged terrain (this was the place chosen by fly-fishing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the backdrop for a much ridiculed series of photos in which he appeared shirtless and on horseback) and its khoomei, or throat singing. — TIME


Their trademark sound derives from the use of various over-tone or ‘throat-singing’ techniques which were invented by nomadic hunter-herders of the Tuvan steppes and mountains. Traditionally, these were largely performed a cappella, but Huun-Huur-Tu were one of the first groups to combine them with ancient acoustic instruments such as the cello-like two-stringed igil, the four-stringed byzaanchi, the three-stringed doshpuluur and the khmomuz – a local equivalent of the Jew’s harp. — BBC


You’ve never heard anything like this folk music from Tuva, a Siberian region at the edge of Outer Mongolia. At times the four members of Huun-Huur-Tu conjure a beauty so strange that it might have emanated from the banks of Martian canals. — LOS ANGELES TIMES


While it might sound vaguely painful to say, throat singing is entirely mesmerizing. BBC World Music Award nominees Huun-Huur-Tu practice the folk sound common in the Tuva Republic, a vocal intonation so precise and resonant, you can almost hear the vocal chords reverberating like they belong on a well-played string instrument. Speaking of which, the vocals are accompanied by rare instruments like the doshpuluur, a long-necked Tuvan lute. — WASHINGTON POST

Preview/Review in Monterrey, Mexico (Espanol)

Testimonials

“250 attendance.

Some of my season ticket holders were leery, but the band won them over and they were raving about them by the end of the evening. Band was easy to work with. A very positive night for us.”

— Howard Epstein – Miami U of Ohio – Hamilton, OH, USA

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