Alash - Selection from Liner Notes
I'd encourage any listener to this album to listen to it a few or several times before being tempted to delve into the liner notes. While there is something nice about knowing what people are singing about in a language you don't understand, you'll also often be surprised what connections your mind can make when you are not as focused on the words. When I first encountered Tuvan music in 1999, it was a dubbed copy of a Huun-Huur-Tu album with no liner notes. I made up a story in my head for every song on that album. Eight years later, having become intimately familiar with the language and the music and the place, I am both amused and amazed by the particular accuracies and inaccuracies of my flights of imagination. Of course, understanding the words brings a whole new layer of appreciation of the musician's art, and for that reason I have translated almost all the songs on the album and included them in the liner notes.
Tuvan music gets the listener into an almost visual mode of listening, or if not that, there is very often the experience of being touched somewhere deeply. The particular nature of course, of the multiphonic singing styles known collectively as xöömei or (throat singing), immediately separates the music from other music more familiar to western ears. This is only the beginning, however. Throat-singing is considered by Tuvan musicians simultaneously as a vocal and an instrumental performance. For example, singing in the style of xöömei is considered to ascribe to the same aesthetic as performance on the igil. Tuvan music possesses a sonic perception or aesthetic that is entirely its own, and this aesthetic is simultaneously unusual and appealing to our unfamiliar ears.
While the final judgment must be left to each individual listener, Alash stands out among the many bright individual talents I have heard in three and a half years living and working in Tuva alongside Tuvan musicians. Alash represents the best and brightest ensemble of their generation. Treading in the footsteps of Marzhymal Ondar, Xunashtar-ool Oorzhak, Kaigal-ool Xovalyg, Sayan Bapa, Kongar-ool Ondar, and most importantly, of their own grandparents, they are poised to bring Tuvan music to a new level. They are firmly rooted in the foundations of Tuvan musical thought, and yet are eagerly and rapidly processing the information they are receiving through exposure to musicians of all kinds.
- Sean Quirk
A note on the translations -
The Tuvan language is written in Cyrillic characters at this time in history, and so the Tuvan words presented below are transliterated. The letter 'x' is at all times taken to mean a sound from a slightly more breathy 'h' to the 'ch' in Scottish loch. Certain other letters have been transliterated not according to a fixed letter-for-letter scheme but rather so that the English-speaking reader might comfortably pronounce the word. The letter 'y' represents in most cases an unrounded back vowel similar to the 'e' in Midwestern her. The translations are for the most part an attempt to convey the sense and meaning of the song, at the expense of internal consonance, assonance, alliteration and other features present in the original.
The river Alash is located in the west of Tuva, forming one of the main tributaries of the Xemchik. The name comes from the Tuvan word alazhylannyr, 'whispering' in the non-verbal sense. The text illustrates a common Tuvan motive of alliteration.
Agyp batkan Alazhymga
Arbai taraa taraan bolza
Anai kara ezhikeining
Aalynga chetken bolza
If only I could sow some barley
By the flowing Alash
If only I could make it to the aal
Of that sweet little darlin'!
Kyrlang batkan Alazhymga
Kyzyl taraa taraan bolza
Kara chazhyn suibaan bolza
If only I could sow some wheat
By the rapids of Alash
If only I could caress the black tresses
Of that laughing little darlin'!
Chaptyp batkan Alazhymga
Chinge taraa taraan bolza
Charash kara ezhikeining
Chaagyn orta oshkaan bolza
If only I could sow some chinge taraa
By the smooth-flowing waters of Alash
If only I could plant a kiss
On the cheek of that pretty darlin!
Sula batkan Alazhymga
Sula taraa taraan bolza
Sula changnaan ezhikeining
Suurunga chetken bolza
If only I could plant some sula
By the lazy flowing Alash
If only I could get to the village
Of that flirtatious little darling!
Dazhyp batkan Alazhymga
Taraa chemim tarap aldym
Duzhuksanchig ol bir xeige
Kanchap duzha bergenim ol?
I've planted my grains
By the side of the rising Alash
How did I ever end up
With this terribly attractive lass?
Executive Producer: Sean Quirk
Recorded, Edited, Mixed and Mastered by Noah Hirt-Manheimer at Enchanted Garden Studios
Design: Lucas McCann