CD Review: Alash
This 2nd effort by the group is fine collection of 16 tracks which combines Tuvan standards such as Ene-Sai (recorded by HHT as Ancestors) and Dynggyldai; demonstrations of khoomei styles such as borbangnadyr, ezengileer; more modern, upbeat arrangements as in Oitulaash Xeveri; and a beautifully sung and accompanied, slow take of Daam Dozü, a traditional song of the Saryglars (Yellows), one of the major Tuvan clans.
Daam Dozu is one of my favorites; others include an original arrangement by Alash, Subudai, written by Bady-Dorzhu and Tuvan instrument builder Sergei Sotpa, named for Chingis Khan's famed Tuvan general. The surprisingly soft, melodic and sentimental piece offers a beautiful close to the cd. Also, Ayan Shirizhik offers a lovely, delicate rendition of the "rolling" borbangnadyr.
There is no shortage of Tuvan musicians or singers these days; in fact the number of individuals and groups performing is nothing short of astonishing for a republic of such tiny population (a bit over 300,000 with perhaps three quarters ethnic Tuvans) and there are many singers with very impressive throat-singing technique. But good technique alone doesn't make for good music. Alash succeeds because because they have beautiful emotional voices, with tones and expressiveness that match their vocal gymnastics. Together with good instrumental skills, and a maturing musical vision, this makes for a fine listening experience, indeed!
The cd also comes with a very nicely done booklet, with notes by manager/producer Sean Quirk. Sean (who begin his throat-singing journey as my student in the late '90s, and now lives in Tuva; hey, I'm proud, can you blame me?) includes insightful background info, as well as English transliterations and translations of all the lyrical pieces (gotta love that!).
The cd's only weakness, and a minor one at that is the recorded sound. It's not bad, but the mix and choice of reverbs, etc., could use some improvement. But it's a minor quirk (pun intended); anyways, they can easily learn to fix such production issues next time. Fortunately, it's easier to improve production niggles than weak music, and these lads have the musical goods and then some.
At the first light of Dawn
I sit and gaze from the heights of
Above me I can feel
The shadow of Subudai
With two hands stretched
To the divine eternal Sky
Blessing my homeland
10,000 soldiers were praying
Thousand of years come and go
Endlessly rolling forward
Many generations come and go
The legacy continues unbroken
In the last rays of the setting sun
It seems to me at that moment
That Subudai's shadow remains
Playing and flickering like a mirage
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