March 1st, 2010
The Stoughton Opera House scored a real coup by getting the Tuvan band Huun Huur Tu to play there Saturday night. They even dragged along their friend L.A. electronica muso Carmen Rizzo who added his talent to their latest album Eternal. And to the credit of people in the area, the place had a very nice crowd which I’d estimate to be in the area of 250 who come out to see a unique hybrid of Tuvan music & throat singing and electronic beats.
Joel Shanahan of the A.V. Club Madison has a good review up and I’m going to steal some of his information.
The night began with “Orphaned Land”. Rizzo provided a drum loop with the four band members playing on top of it. Honestly, it didn’t do much for me and I was hoping that either the electronic elements became less obtrusive or that there would be all acoustic interludes. Luckily both came to fruition. The second song also featured Rizzo but his loop and synth embellishments were more restrained and fit with Huun Huur Tu’s omphaloskeptic mood piece much better. For the remainder of the first set, it was the band alone. After the intermission, the band returned with Rizzo once again taking to his electronics while the two encores were acoustic romps by the band.
Everyone juggled assorted instruments throughout the night. Radik Tyulyush, the newest member, alternated between the igil, a two-stringed instrument and one bows, and Tuvan flute. On the other side of the stage sat Alexei Saryglar who, when not playing the Tuvan equivalent of a bass drum with a string of bells strapped atop it, also played the igil. Sayan Bapa acted as emcee as well as playing doshpuluur, igil, and acoustic guitar. The doshpuluur is a Tuvan lute with three strings. Lastly, we have Kaigal-ool Khovalyg who played igil.
While all band members added their voice and, if memory serves, it was only Saryglar who did not do any of that magical throat singing which involves making two or more notes simultaneously, it was Khovalyg who did the most throat singing. Indeed, he did a solo piece which Bapa described as something to be sung from a Tuvan mountain top that was at once soothing and otherworldly. I believe they did “Yellow Horse”, a performance of which from 2006 is below.
Igil aplenty here while Bapa’s hands on the doshpuluur remind me of watching Les Claypool’s bass gymnastics. Saryglar’s percussion work is exquisitely simple yet more effective to my ears than most of the drum loops. I’m not trying to bash Rizzo here because I did like a lot of his Western electronic additions but there were also times when I felt that they were overdone and added a thick layer of sound when a patina would have been better. Fusing Western music with that of some other non-Western culture is tricky business and there are just times when drum boxes and synthesizers distract from songs that require a more plaintive, organic touch. Having said all that, Rizzo’s contributions in the second set were, in my opinion, better than the first. They blended with the band better and evoked more of a Tuvan mood than one of Los Angeles.
I’ll join Shanahan in hoping that the folks down in Stoughton book more world music.