Round the World in 80 Sounds: Five Tuvan Throat Singing Videos

Musicians like rapper T-Pain might have popularized the use of auto-tune in pop music, but he’s actually not the first to alter his voice in pursuit of a good tune. In fact, a tribe of nomadic herdsmen from Tuva, a province in the furthest wilds of Russia, have been practicing a curious form of vocal chord manipulation called throat singing as far back as anyone can remember.

This unique style of crooning, also known as overtone singing, is a practice in which the singer plays with the vocal chords, resulting in a sound that covers as many as four distinct notes at the same time. To put this in perspective, your average pop star can only sing in one. How’s that for amazing? This style of singing is actually used by a variety of cultures around the world, from Sardinia in Italy to the Inuit tribes of Canada to peoples of South Africa. But it is the people of Tuva, a small province in Southern Siberia, who have gained the greatest fame for their talent with this one-of-a-kind vocal skill.

Why did this strange form of music develop? And what does it sound like? Join us as Gadling’s new music feature Round the World in 80 Sounds takes a look at five of the best Tuvan Throat Singing videos. Keep reading below…

What is Tuvan Throat Singing?
It’s believed that the strange singing style of the Tuvans is a result of their land’s unique geography. The vast windswept terrain of Southern Siberia is endless in its size and its beauty. Thus Tuvan Throat Singing is the product of these two unique factors. On one hand, the residents of this environment needed their voices to carry long distances – the singing accomplishes this, providing the greatest possible reach.

One the other hand, the Tuvans are believers in Animism, a belief system strongly rooted in nature as the source of religion. Throat Singing draws inspiration from these Animist beliefs, using voices to symbolize the forces of nature, from the winds to the water to the animals that inhabit the Tuvans’ wild homeland.

What does it sound like?
Tuvan throat singing is composed of four main sounds: the Khorekteer (chest voice), the Khoomeii (wind swirling among rocks), Sygyt (birds whistling) and Kargyraa (howling winds). Rather than trying to explain what they sound like, the best way to understand is watch. Here’s five of our favorite Tuvan Throat Singers in action.

#1 – TV feature on Throat Singing

The following travel segment provides a good video introduction to the background, history and sounds of Throat Singing.

#2 – Kongar-ol Ondar on David Letterman
Singer Kongar-ol Ondar is regarded as one of the style’s most famous practitioners, often appearing on Western TV shows to perform. Here’s a clip of Ondar from 1999 on David Letterman:

#3 – The many tones of Throat Singing
Watch as this Throat Singer performs a few of the many different tones involved in the practice. You’ll hear the remarkable range of highs, lows and growls that this style can encompass:

#4 – Live performance of “Sygyt
In this live performance of Throat Singing from the Philadelphia Folk Festival, we see artist Huun Huur Tu as he demonstrates the style Sygyt, or “whistling,” mentioned above. The rhythm and tone is hypnotic and mesmerizing to hear:

#5 – Two Throat Singers Along an Icy River
Watch these two Tuvans as they howl away, set against the backdrop of an swift-moving river choked with chunks of ice. Much like the art of Tuvan Throat Singing it’s at once starkly beautiful, and wildly exotic:

Round the World in 80 Sounds – Latintronica

Welcome back to Gadling’s newest weekly series on music, Round the World in 80 Sounds. Europe and North America are not the only place for great dance music these days. Increasingly music fans, DJ’s and dancers the world over are looking south of the border to the dynamic and growing electronic music scenes in countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. The forward-thinking sounds coming from these countries are strongly rooted in traditions of the past, blending local folk music styles with modern instruments and techniques to create a distinctly modern hybrid. It’s an energetic, fun and authentic musical experience any curious traveler will want to check out on your next visit.

The genre of electronic music began in American cities like Detroit and Chicago in the 80’s, springing to life as the Disco scene began to fade. Ever since, the music has been a fixture in the North American and European nightlife scenes. But it’s taken longer for the music to take root in the rest of the world. Only in the last 10 years have home-grown electronic music scenes started to blossom in regions like Asia, Africa and particularly in Latin America. In Argentina, a style called Digital Cumbia has risen to the fore, while in Mexico bands like Nortec Collective infuse traditional Mexican Norteño music with modern style. Meanwhile in Brazil, a slew of artists like Gui Borrato are bringing electronic music to a growing army of fans.

Ready to open your ears to one of Latin America’s most interesting musical trends? Keep reading below…Digital Cumbia in Argentina
Call it whatever you want – Electronic Cumbia, Digital Cumbia or just plain fun – the fact remains: a steady stream of good times and great music has been broadcasting from Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires now for several years. Centered around the city’s now-legendary Zizek Club, it’s a new musical movement based around Cumbia, a traditional South American musical style featuring strong rhythms and instruments like Claves, accordions and drums. Electronic Cumbia takes this traditional style to the next level, injecting it with synthesizers, hip-hop beats and gangster-style rhymes. Check out the video below and make sure to visit one of Zizek’s weekly parties the next time you make it to Buenos Aires.

Norteno and Mexican Techno
For Americans, Tijuana is not much more than a hedonistic border town. A place for those looking for a night of entertainment and cheap prescription drugs. But as it turns out, there’s a lot more going on south of the border these days, including a thriving music scene. A collection of DJ’s and producers call Tijuana home, tapping into Northern Mexico’s vast wealth of Norteno music for inspiration.

Norteño, a style of Mexican “polka” with lots of noisy horns and plenty of strong rhythms, has gotten a modern rework by Mexican electronic acts like Nortec Collective, who remake Norteño with a into a uniqeuly modern style. Along with Mexico City-based musician Mexican Institute of Sound, these artists are part of a growing electronic music movement based on Mexico. Check out this 2005 tribute to Tijuana by Nortec Collective:

Brazil’s Exploding Pop Scene
Of all the great music happening these days in Latin and South America, none is as dynamic as the exploding music scene in Brazil. Considering Brazil’s long and rich musical history, from Bossa Nova to Samba and Caetano Veloso, the current wave of innovation comes as no surprise.

Electro Rock bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) have earned consistent international attention, with their catchy, danceable rock sound. In the realm of dance music, Brazilian producer and DJ Gui Boratto has been rocking the international club scene since 2007. These Brazilian electronic music innovators take their cues less from traditional Brazilian sounds, instead applying a distinct Brazilian interpretation to the global music scenes abroad in Europe, North America and beyond. Have a listen to Boratto’s 2007 single, “Beautiful Life:”

Round the World in 80 Sounds: China’s rock star rising

Beijing, China is a noisy place. China’s capital and largest city treats visitors’ ears to an endless stream of sputtering cars, clanking construction cranes and chattering pedestrians. But amidst all this growth, you could be forgiven for missing one particularly surprising sound – the strumming of an electric guitar. It’s the sound of an Asian rock scene on the rise – a new crop of Chinese bands that’s taking the music world by storm.

Along with the increasingly middle-class trappings of China’s economic boom like cars, clothes and consumer goods, an altogether different China has loudly been exporting an unexpected new product: the culture of its burgeoning rock scene. At creative concert venues in Beijing like D-22, a homegrown Chinese rock and experimental music scene is in full bloom, with a range of innovative, creative new bands leading the way. For a country better-known for its authoritarian cultural politics, the rebellious notes of this new rock counter-culture seems unlikely. Yet this new breed of Chinese music manages to straddle the line of the rebellious and the musical, shying away from the political while pushing towards new frontiers of creativity.

Expecting this new wave of Chinese music to include loopy new-age vibes and traditional Chinese instruments? Think again. These bands are more likely to channel rock gods like The Ramones, Radiohead and Sonic Youth. Want to see what rock music looks like in the 21st Century? It’s not just American and European any more. This week in Gadling’s new series, Round the World in 80 Sounds, we’ll investigate four Chinese bands you need to check out now. Keep reading below for our favorites.Carsick Cars
First formed in 2005, Beijing’s Carsick Cars have risen to a status as one of Beijing’s biggest groups, becoming unofficial frontmen for Beijing’s buzzing rock movement. Fans have compared the Cars’ noisy, experimental punk sound to other innovative bands like Sonic Youth and New Zealand innovators The Clean. Their new album, released in June of 2009 is called You Can Listen, You Can Talk. In this clip, the team plays their hit song “Zong Nan Hai” during an appearance last year in New York City.

P.K. 14
Another of the Chinese rock scene’s elder statesmen, P.K. 14 have been making music together since way back in 1997. Though they are associated with the Beijing scene, the band originally hails from Nanjing. Much like the Carsick Cars, P.K. 14’s music has been described as an artful blend of Post-Punk, tinged with a hint of Motown, and plenty of raw energy thrown in for good measure. The group’s infectious melodies led Time Magazine to name P.K. 14 one of Asia’s Best Bands. Forget Asia – these guys sound great anywhere. The clip below is a song called “Behind All Ruptures:”

Originally started as a side project of Carsick Cars members Li Qing and bass player Levi, Snapline has quickly evolved into a tight little band in its own right. Indebted to the dark, synthesizer-and-guitar-based sounds of bands like The Cure and Joy Division, Snapline’s live performances have been rumored to walk a line between brilliant and completely baffling. Here’s Snapline performing their track “Hey Jenny:”

Though P.K. 14 might have been formed earlier, Chinese band Joyside has earned its reputation as China’s most influential rock and roll band. Formed in 2001 in a bar on the outskirts of Beijing, Joyside has gone on to release five albums and get featured in a documentary on the Chinese music scene called “Wasted Orient.” Their punk-tinged sound references favorites like The Stooges, Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls. Here’s the band playing “Baby in Shadow:”

Noisy? Angry? Indie? Beijing’s growing rock scene is that and much more. With continued international attention at festivals like South by Southwest, these promising bands look ready to move beyond being just another trend in the Far East. The future looks increasingly bright for the rising stars of China’s rock underground.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read previous Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.

Round the World in 80 Sounds: What’s World Music?

What is World Music? How has such a bland, vague term come to describe the rich and divergent music of thousands of cultures, from sub-Saharan Gnawa to Colombian Cumbia and Tuvan Throat Singing? For too long, it’s been the descriptor anywhere we buy or hear international music, from record stores to digital outlets like iTunes, relegating hundreds of diverse artists to a single heap because of their “otherness.” In fact, World Music is a Western term describing music outside the traditional “pop music canon:” the familiar American and European bands that long-dominated our radios and laptops. But World Music is on its way out: a hunger for the varied sounds from around the globe is rising to take its place.

The term “World Music” is a relatively recent phenomenon. Coined by a musicologist by the name of Robert E. Brown in the 1960’s, it was created to describe styles of ethnic or folk music found in more remote corners of the globe. World Music actually worked OK for much of the last 50 years, as long as the Western World remained the center of economic, political and cultural force. In the 20th Century, the West dominated the global airwaves, with icons like Michael Jackson and The Beatles winning hearts and record players from Bogota to Beijing. But by the end of the 90’s, it was clear the term was increasingly irrelevant.

As we push into the 21st Century, the Western dominance of the global music scene has waned. A new global musical consciousness springs up in its place, driven by the power of a global economy and music distribution systems where digital files and streaming videos are the norm. The hot sounds of 2010 don’t just come from New York and London – instead, rhythms ricochet across the globe, from Angola to Argentina and to Angkor Wat, finding eager listeners and receptive audiences in the farthest corners of our planet. It’s not just that music lovers are just discovering new global favorites, it’s also having a profound impact on what we listen to at home. The DNA of this global music phenomenon has worked its way into the music of our favorite singers and bands, from M.I.A. to Shakira to Vampire Weekend.

The global phenomenon of music is also tied to travel. Wherever we go, music permeates our consciousness, buzzing from tinny taxi radios, echoing off the chambers of metro tunnels and pumping from giant speakers. But alluring as it may be, discovering global music can also be confusing and intimidating. There are enough countries, artists and weird musical genres to make your head spin. What’s a traveling music-lover to do?

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Gadling called “Round the World in 80 Sounds.” The phenomena of global travel and music are inextricably intertwined. Each Thursday over the course of the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at some of the world’s most fascinating music personalities, emerging musical trends and musically inclined destinations. We’ll introduce you to new styles of music you haven’t heard, and help you to take a fresh look at some of your old favorites with a global eye. What qualifies as World Music in 2010? Everything and nothing, it seems, all at once. Prepare to take a journey into the fascinating world of music today as we head Round the World in 80 Sounds.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read future Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.