Live Shots: Huun Huur Tu, Cowell Theater, 02/11/2010


Sometimes music is so powerful that it can transport you to another world. Huun Huur Tu, a throat-singing group from the Russian Republic of Tuva, create melodies that make you think you're riding a horse through some ancient, windblown prairie.

The four-man band performed Thursday night at the Cowell Theater, bringing with them a variety of ancient and modern instruments, including the igil, a long two-stringed guitar-like instrument made of pine trees, that is held tightly between the knees while played. The igil is decorated with a carved horse's head at the top of the instrument's neck. There was even an instrument made of two real horse hooves, that were clapped together to create the sound of horses galloping. Many of Huun Huur Tu's pieces used throat singing, a type of singing where two or more pitches can be heard at the same time from a single voice.

The songs Huun Huur Tu performed were about riding, nature, or the power of community. These voices made a wild, almost hypnotic mix of melodies, that for me were space-agey and futuristic -- odd because this technique of singing is an ancient form of Tuvan folk music. I left the theater feeling calmed by the meditative quality of the music, and yet exhilarated by the novelty of the experience. My fiance came with me, and inspired by the performance, he's been trying to recreate the sounds of the Tuvan throat-singing all morning, ha, but somehow it doesn't compare.