Sainkho Namtchylak, Singer from Tuva

It is easier to hear Tuvinian throat singing in the West than in St Petersburg - Sergey Chernov states in the St. Petersburg Press. It was not always like this. It took her a long way to the west.

Sainkho Namtchylak

Sainkho Namtchylak was born in a small gold mining village in the former Soviet Republic of Tuva in Southern Siberia near the Mongolian border. Her grandparents were nomads and her parents were both school teachers. She studied music at the local college but was denied professional credentials by the Philharmonic Comittee and went on her own to Moscow to finish music college there. She was trained as a vocalist at the Gnesinsky Institute there.

At the same time she studied different vocal techniques of lamaistic and shamanistic traditions in Siberia as well as the local Tuvan and Mongolian throat / overtone singing styles. She began her professional career as a folk singer with Sayani, the Tuvan State Folk Ensemble, touring in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

From 1988 Sainkho began to work with creative improvising musicians in the Soviet Union, trying to blend traditional ethnic elements with the sounds of avant-garde. She first appeared in the West in this new role at the Muenster Festival in 1990 and in Ulrichsberg.

She was member of the ensemble Tri-O with Sergej Letov (sax), Arkadij Kiritschenko (tuba) and Alexander Alexandrov (fagot). Tri-O has to be translated as 3 holes better than Trio. These three musicians from Moscow were known for their original jazz, as they didn't imitate, they created their own music.

When Sainkho joined the ensemble, they found attention in the western media. First, mainly because she appeared so exotic. I remember an article in the german newspaper Der Spiegel on the inauguration of the Goethe-Institute in Moscow, and as journalist don't investigate too much today, they printed a photo of Sainkho, naming her Tri-O. Her name is so exotic, nobody can memorize it, so why not use the name of the ensemble? Nobody would notice....

Sainkho NamtchylakBut we noticed. Suddenly we encountered strange tunes, songs with two voices, overtone melodies... mixed with jazz, blended into jazz, a new sound in Jazz. The Mongolian overtone singing was known in the west already, but now it left the esoteric corner and the World - Music - Reservation. This music was not presented by traditional folklore-ensembles or imitated by enlightened westerners, this music became a part in our musical life, and we, the audience, got used to it. This means, after the first astonishment, we asked for more. It expressed music, strenght, vitality, sensitivity, emotion, ... it became part of our music, it was no circus performance.

Sainkho lived in the west, she worked with numerous artists and toured through many countries, took part in festivals. It was not so easy for her, as we western people live and think in categories. She fitted into too many categories: she is a woman, she is the voice of a very exotic culture, she plays with Jazz musicians ... and here in the west you cannot dance at two wedding-parties.

CD Cover: Out of Tuva Sainkho was featured on a CD called 'Women's World Music', and her CD 'Out of Tuva' brings us Ethno-Pop, recorded between 1989 and 1993 in Kyzyl, Moscow, Wuppertal, Paris and Brussels. She is an improvising singer, performing with Peter Kowald, Butch Morris, Werner Lüdi and an actress in the performance 'Tunguska-Guska'. She produced her very private 'Letters' to her father and she worked at the STEIM-Institute in Amsterdam. She lived in Vienna, Berlin and Moscow. She is wandering between the worlds, but for her these borders don't exist.

It's the moment and it is the music, categories are not necessary. That's one of her confessions. She knows her roots in the strong tuvan traditions and she needs the improvisation to express herself.

Following Sergej Chernow, she says that her performances do not involve traditional Tuvinian throat singing: "If you want to hear sygyt (a style of Tuvinian throat singing), you won't ... When a man sings he compresses his lungs, which demands great physical force; and I noticed that women who try to learn to sing in a man's way, lose their own voice. So I decided not to do this, but to create something that sounds like Tuvinian throat singing, but keeps my voice intact," she said after one of her concerts last year.

Although she is one of the best Tuvan ambassadors, not everybody in Tuva accepts her. One of the reason is, that overtone-singing is a male technique and a woman must not do this. Another reason is that she left Tuva and lived in the west. We felt this resentiments when we were in Kyzyl in 1993, following her invitation.

She is dedicating her SEVEN SONGS FOR TUVA to her people.

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