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 V.16 No.7 | February 15 - 21, 2007 

How To:

Tuvan Throat Sing

Tyva Kyzy
Tyva Kyzy

Whether your interest is spiritual, scientific or just in the unique physical aspect of it, here's a beginners' guide to harnessing your throat-singing voice. Throat singers produces two or more tones of equal volume simultaneously. Maybe that sounds impossible, but the practice in the small Russian republic of Tuva goes back at least a thousand years, though it's probably older than that. Placitas resident and throat-singer Michael Crofoot gave the Alibi some tips on how to start. Remember, what you're trying to do is "find the most natural sound that your body's all set up to do," as Crofoot says.

Step One: Find Your Kargyraa

The kargyraa is your lower voice. Start with a low growl, one you would use if you play with your dogs. Feel it rumble in the back of your throat. Then push harder from your abdomen and constrict your throat. Once you can sustain it for a few seconds, try raising and lowering the pitch.

Tyva Kyzy
Tyva Kyzy

If that's not working for you, start with a cough. It's almost cartoonish, like an old smoker’s cough. Again, as you're producing the sound, push with your abdomen and tighten your throat.

You should know this might feel very strange at first and make you want to actually cough. If your voice is hoarse or if it hurts, stop practicing and don't try again until your throat feels better.

Step Two: Find Your Khoomei

The khoomei is a bit higher than the kargyraa. Mimic the sound of a door slowly opening in a scary flick. This is also called a "vocal fry." Saying "yah yeh yee yo yu" will get your tongue in the right position. Repeat the process we mentioned before of pushing with your diaphragm and closing your throat to slow the release of air and sound. Crofoot says because of the constriction, he can usually hold a note for a minute and a half, though sometimes it makes him a little dizzy.

Another way to find this mid-range tone is to start with a grunt, the same one you would emit if you were lifting something heavy.

Get the Harmonic

This is where the simultaneous multi-tone singing comes in. Instructions are sparse. As you do your kargyraa and khoomei, use your tongue and lips and the roof of your mouth to create a harmonic chamber. This may take some tinkering. When you get good, your harmonic should be as loud as your lower voice.

Practice

Crofoot says "singing the landscape" is one of the neatest things he's done with throat singing. Look to the skyline. Start your pitch and raise or lower it as you scan the highs and lows of the mountains and plateaus.

Get Feedback

There are other throat-singing tones to achieve. Go to khoomei.com, a site of forums, audio and visual aids on the subject. Brian Grover, a local throat-singing teacher, has a page at www.busker-kibbutznik.org/khoomei that includes a how-to guide. You can meet up with the throat-singing support group the first Sunday of every month from 3-6 p.m. at the Blue Dragon.

Celebrate the start of the Tuvan/Buddhist New Year by partaking in any of these hypnotic throat-singing events.

• Brian Grover will perform at the Blue Dragon Coffee House Saturday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. He will also give a throat-singing workshop at the café Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m.

Tyva Kyzy is the "first and only all-female throat-singing troope in Tuva to perform all styles of Tuvan throat-singing," according to www.tyvakyzy.com. Though it is thought that women performed throat singing sometime in Tuvan history, some traditions banned them from it, saying it could "diminish the vitality" of male relatives and cause trouble during childbirth. Check them out:

Sunday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Outpost Performance Space

Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at Blue Dragon Coffee House

Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m. when the group hosts a coed workshop at the Blue Dragon

Wednesday, Feb. 28, live on Carol Boss's free-form show on KUNM 89.9 at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at Santa Fe's Cloud Cliff Bakery and Art Space

 
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