Tuvan National Orchestra

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History

Tuva (sometimes spelled Tyva) sits at the southern edge of Siberia, with Mongolia to its south. Over the centuries, Tuva has been part of Chinese and Mongolian empires, and shares many cultural ties with Mongolia. In 1944 it joined the Soviet Union, and Tuva is now a member of the Russia|Russian Federation.

The Tuvan National Orchestra, formed in 2003, reflects Tuva's complex cultural history. It is groundbreaking in its use of traditional Tuvan instruments alongside classical Western instruments and Soviet-era "hybrid" instruments. It is also unusual in that the musicians sing as well as play instruments. The orchestra's repertoire often features the ancient art of Tuvan throat singing (xöömei), a remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. Conductor and Artistic Director Ayana Samiyaevna Mongush is perhaps the only person in the world who can arrange and score music for such an unusual combination of instruments and voices. The orchestra is extremely versatile, at times sounding more western, at times more Tuvan. Its unique renditions of traditional Tuvan songs are especially popular.

The orchestra has earned recognition throughout the Russian Federation. In 2005, just two years after its inception, it won one of the first prizes in the All-Russia Competition of Folk Orchestras and Ensembles, held in Saratov, Russia. The following year it competed in the newly configured All-Russia Competition of National Orchestras and Ensembles, held in Ulan-Ude (capital of the Buryatia|Republic of Buryatia, Russia), where it won the overall grand prize as well as a special prize for the most original program. It then performed in a two-day gala held in Moscow in 2008 to honor the regional winners.

Orchestra members include musicians known in the West for their throatsinging (members of the groups Chirgilchin, Tyva Kyzy, and Alash), Andrei Mongush (formerly of Huun Huur Tu), Ai-Xaan Oorzhak, Kang-Xuler Saaya, and Nikolai Damba, among others.

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