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Huun-Huur-Tu (Tuvan: Хүн Хүртү Khün Khürtü, Russian: Хуун-Хуур-Ту) are a music group from Tuva, a Russian Federation republic situated on the Mongolian border.
The most distinctive characteristic of Huun Huur Tu's music is throat singing, in which the singers sing both the note (drone) and the drone's overtone(s), thus producing two or three notes simultaneously. The overtone may sound like a flute, whistle or bird, but is solely a product of the human voice.
The group primarily use native Tuvan instruments such as the igil, khomus (Tuvan jaw harp), doshpuluur, and dünggür (shaman drum). However, in recent years, the group have begun to selectively incorporate western instruments, such as the guitar. While the thrust of Huun Huur Tu's music is fundamentally indigenous Tuvan folk music, they also experiment with incorporating not only Western instruments, but electronic music as well.
The khöömei quartet Kunggurtug (Tuvan: Куңгуртуг, ˈkuŋ.ɡur.tuk) was founded in 1992 by Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, brothers Alexander and Sayan Bapa, and Albert Kuvezin. Khovalyg had been involved on the khoomei scene since 1979. Not long afterwards, the group changed its name to Huun-Huur-Tu, meaning "sunbeams" (literally "sun propeller"). The focus of their music was traditional Tuvan folk songs, frequently featuring imagery of the Tuvan steppe or of horses.
The ensemble released its first album, 60 Horses In My Herd, the following year. The album was recorded at studios in London and Mill Valley, California. By the time recording began for the follow-up, Kuvezin had left the group to form the more rock-oriented Yat-Kha. Kuvezin was replaced by Anatoli Kuular, who had previously worked with Khovalyg and Kongar-ool Ondar as part of the Tuva Ensemble. The new line-up recorded The Orphan's Lament in New York City and Moscow, and released it in 1994.
In 1995, Alexander Bapa, who had produced the first two albums, departed the group to pursue production as a full-time career. He was replaced by Alexei Saryglar, formerly a member of the Russian state ensemble Siberian Souvenir. A third album, If I'd Been Born An Eagle, recorded in the Netherlands, followed in 1997. This time, in addition to the traditional folk music, the group performed some rather more contemporary Tuvan songs, from the latter half of the 20th century.
In early 1999, the group released its fourth album, Where Young Grass Grows. For the first time on a Huun-Huur-Tu album, non-Tuvan instruments (except for the guitar) were featured, including harp, tabla, Scottish smallpipe (performed by Martyn Bennett) and synthesiser. The album also features two excerpts of recordings made of Kaigal-ool and Anatoli singing whilst riding horseback on the Tuvan grasslands.
Huun-Huur-Tu participated in the 2000 BBC Music Live event, performing the opening and closing songs for a live, early morning broadcast from Snape Maltings. The following year, the group released their first live album.
In 2003, Kuular quit the group and was replaced by Andrey Mongush, an experienced teacher of khöömei and Tuvan instruments. Mongush's tenure with the group was short and in 2005 he was replaced by Radik Tyulyush, formerly of Yat-Kha fame.
Huun-Huur-Tu signed with Beijing management company Stallion Era in March 2015 and has since come to China for several performances.
Since the group's inception, Huun Huur Tu has collaborated with musicians from many genres, such as Frank Zappa, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, the Kodo drummers, The Moscow Art Trio, the Kronos Quartet, Hazmat Modine, The Chieftains and Bulgarian women's singing group, Angelite. Their recording "Eternal" is a collaborative effort with underground electronic musician, Carmen Rizzo. In January 2010, group Hazmat Modine also announced plans to record with Huun Huur Tu again.
60 Horses In My Herd (1993),
The Orphan's Lament (1994),
If I'd Been Born An Eagle (1997),
Where Young Grass Grows (1999),
Live 1 also known as Best * Live (2001),
Live 2 (2001),
More Live (2003),
Altai Sayan Tandy-Uula (2004),
Live at Fantasy Studios (2008)†,
Ancestors Call (2010),
With Marcel Vanthilt
I Shoot Dikke Jo single (1995),
With Kronos Quartet
Early Music (Lachrymae Antiquae) (1997),
With The Bulgarian Voices - Angelite:
Fly, Fly My Sadness (1996),
Mountain Tale (1998),
With various electronic artists (remixes)
Spirits from Tuva (2002 & 2003),
huun huur tu malerija (2003),
With Hazmat Modine
With Sainkho Namtchylak
Mother-Earth! Father-Sky! (2008),
With Ross Daly
The White Dragon (2008),
With Carmen Rizzo
† Live at Fantasy Studios was initially available as an online podcast only. Now the video recording is available for download at several sites. The setlist includes several staples, such as "Chiraa-Khoor", "Konggurey", "Ösküs Bodum (The Orphan's Lament)" and "Aa-Shuu-Dekei-Oo".