Monday, June 02, 2003


From the steppes of Central Asia and the Altai Mountains on the borders of Mongolia, Yat-Kha are about as remote as you could get geographically. But, there music, if eccentric, is certainly accessible. Yat-Kah is a loose collective of musicians from Tuva, a republic within the Russian Federation, which sits in Southern Siberia. I checked the other day and there are no commercial flights to Kyzil, the capital of Tuva. That's how remote it is. On their web site, the group's driving force, Albert, talks of Tuvan villages cut off from civilisation because the roads have washed away.

I picked up two disks at the recent Barbican gig. The current CD - Tuva Rock - was sold out. That can be remedied on-line.

"Aldyn Dashka" is the name of the golden cup used for drinking fermented yak's milk, the traditional drink offered to visitors. Hospitality is a ritual for Mongolians with a rigid ethic. You enter the ger and circulate according to the rules - clockwise. You eat what is offered, even if it looks or smells repulsive. To refuse is to offend. And, you must drink the yak's milk. Disappointingly and thankfully, my scheduled visit to a traditional ger never came about when I was in Mongolia 18 months ago.

This album is made up of mainly traditional songs brought up to date by Albert and his buddies. Throat singing is highlighted here, but also the traditional zithers - Yat-Kha - and other exotic stringed instruments and flutes. Horses and other animals are important to Mongolian and Tuvan life. So, they feature as the subject of many of the songs together with songs of heroes ancient and modern. Titles like Spring Breeze", "I am a traveller" and "Rich Silver Mountain" in themselves say much about the music and the traditions of this isolated and distant land.

"Yat-Kha - in Europe Live 2001" is what it says on the tin. It captures the full group arounf the continent. Here too lots of deep growling throats, high soaring strings and female voice. The latter is a feature of the swirling "Ahoi". "Radik's Khoomei" shows off the throat, while "Takh-Pakh" is a real stomper - "just for fun". Close your eyes and you're riding the steppes.

:: Posted by pete @ 18:14