About Alash
Bady-Dorzhu Ondar
Ayan-ool Sam
Ayan Shirizhik
Sean Quirk
vocals, igil, doshpuluur, guitar, bayan
vocals, doshpuluur, igil, xomus, guitar
vocals, kengirge, shynggyrash, shoor, murgu
manager, interpreter

ALASH ensemble is a trio of master throat singers (xöömeizhi) from Tuva, a tiny republic in the heart of Inner Asia. The ancient art of throat singing (xöömei) developed among the nomadic herdsmen of this region. Alash remains grounded in this tradition while expanding its musical vocabulary with new ideas from the West.

Alash River, Tuva

Alash River, Tuva  © Konstantin Mikhailov

Name: The ensemble is named for the Alash River, which runs through the northwestern region of Tuva. The Alash River has also inspired a couple of Tuvan songs which carry its name.

Background: All members of Alash were trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood, first learning from their families, and later becoming students of master throat singers. In 1999, as students at Kyzyl Arts College, they formed a group called Changy-Xaya and soon became the resident traditional ensemble on campus. At the same time they learned about western music, practiced on hybrid Tuvan-European instruments, and listened to new trends coming out of America.


Under the guidance of Kongar-ool Ondar (best known to western audiences for his role in the film Genghis Blues), Alash began to forge a new musical identity. They introduced the guitar and sometimes even the Russian bayan (accordion) into their arrangements, alongside their traditional Tuvan instruments. They experimented with new harmonies and song structures. The effect is an intriguing mixture of old and new.

Influences: The musicians are inspired by the music of their grandparents, great-grandparents, and the great musicians of Tuva and Central Asia. At the same time they are influenced by such western artists as Sun Ra and Jimi Hendrix. Yet the Alash musicians never sacrifice the integrity of their heritage in an effort to make their music more hip for an American audience. Rather they look for contemporary ideas that mesh well with the sound and feel of traditional Tuvan music.

Alash in America & Beyond: Alash's inaugural U.S. tour was sponsored in 2006 by the Open World Leadership program of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Washington Post described their music as “utterly stunning,” quipping that after the performance “audience members picked their jaws up off the floor.” Since then, Alash has returned to the U.S. every year, playing to enthusiastic audiences and presenting workshops to students of all ages (brochure for Alash's K-12 workshops). Alash is now in high demand internationally, performing in concert halls and festivals in Europe and Asia as well as North and South America.

Alash in Whitefish Bay, WI, 2006

Alash's first U.S. tour (2006).  Left to right: Kongar-ool Ondar (mentor), Mai-ool Sedip, Bady-Dorzhu Ondar,
Ayan-ool Sam, Ayan Shirizhik, Sean Quirk (manager/interpreter).  Photo by John O'Hara, Whitefish Bay Herald.

Collaborations: Members of Alash enjoy working across musical genres. They have collaborated with such diverse musicians as the innovative jazz ensemble Sun Ra Arkestra, the bluegrass/fusion/jazz band Béla Fleck and Flecktones (whose Grammy-winning holiday CD “Jingle All the Way” features Alash as guest artists), the virtuoso beatboxer Shodekeh, and the pioneering classical chamber music group Fifth House Ensemble. Alash was part of composer Austin Wintory's "global jam band" which recorded the soundtrack for the videogame The Pathless. Most recently, Alash's Bady-Dorzhu Ondar collaborated with Shodekeh's Embody project to record the album Embodiments, bringing the American hip hop vibe into the performance of original Tuvan music.

Alash with Fifth House Ensemble

Alash and Chicago's Fifth House Ensemble collaborated in a cross-cultural project called Sonic Meditations (2018-2019).

Embodiments musicians

The musicians who created Embodiments—Tuvan music meets hip hop—recorded live in 2019, album released in 2022.

Awards: The Alash ensemble and its individual members have consistently won top honors in throat singing competitions. The ensemble was awarded first prize in Tuva's International Xöömei Symposium competition in 2004. At the Fifth International Xöömei Symposium in 2008, all three Alash musicians swept the top prizes for individual throat singing. In 2007, Alash member Bady-Dorzhu Ondar became the youngest person ever to be named People's Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva, a highly prestigious honor. The other members of Alash were subsequently awarded the same title. Even Alash's American manager, Sean Quirk, was named Merited Artist of Tuva for his advocacy of Tuvan music and culture.

Former Members of Alash:
Sergei Sotpa
Mai-ool Sedip
Nachyn Choodu

See Media page for articles about Alash and Kongar-ool Ondar.

Alash's U.S. tours are sponsored by Juniper Green, LLC.