Mongolian Throat Singing: Cultural Music You Should Try Listening To

I Wish I have Heard This Type of Cultural Music Sooner

My music tastes for the last 20+ years have been pretty vanilla and light. I have listened to every contemporary music played on major radio stations. I have listened to a bit of metal and punk here and there. Throw in a bit of classical music, and that’s pretty much how my music taste was like.

However, shortly after I’ve graduated I found throat singing. I was going through YouTube when I saw a Mongolian man singing in the YouTube video’s thumbnail. I was curious. I clicked on the video and it went from there.

Upon listening to the music, I was blown away by how the Mongolian man can throat sing so well. From there, I started delving further into the music genre.

What Is Throat Singing?

According to Folkways, this is what throat singing means:

“Throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat’s resonance characteristics. By precise movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, velum, and larynx, throat-singers produce unique harmonies using only their bodies. Throat-singing is most identified with parts of Central Asia, but it is also practiced in northern Canada and South Africa where the technique takes on different styles and meanings.”

Smithsonian Folkways Recording

There are 3 kinds of throat singing: Tuva, Inuit, and Xhosa throat singing.

However, the one that I chanced upon and got me into the whole thing was Tuvan throat singing. Tuvan throat singing is from the rural region of Russia, northwest of the Mongolian border. The Mongolians call these kinds of throat singing “Khöömei”.

It is mostly sung by men traditionally. When they do throat singing, the singer will use a form of circular breathing that allows them to sustain multiple notes for a very long time. A lot of Tuvan throat singers are taught the art from a very young age.

Since that it’s traditionally a male-dominated art, you wouldn’t see a lot of women in this line of art. It’s a cultural belief that the women who practice throat singing are taboo. This is because they have a belief that throat singing women will suffer from infertility. However, that belief is gradually abandoned and ignored. You can see more and more women practicing the art.

How Do You Throat Sing?

Video via Batzorig Vaanchig

I personally have no idea how to do throat singing as I am not a musically inclined person. However, I am aware that there are people who are interested in this art. They will take throat-singing lessons or try to learn themselves. I’ve found a couple of sites that teach people how to do throat singing too!

Mind you, if you are into trying throat singing for yourself, please do it moderately. If you are reckless in practicing the art, it can damage your vocal cords and endanger your body. If you choose to dabble in throat singing, make sure that you read this first before going into it.

Known Tuvan Throat Singers

Video via Tonio Delafuente

Here are some known Tuvan throat singers if you are intrigued by this art.

An “Acquired Taste”

Throat singing is perhaps not a very widely known type of singing or genre. Even if people know about it, throat singing may not be liked by everybody. In some sense, I can say it’s an acquired taste in the music industry.

When I first discovered Tuvan Throat Singing I was unsure how I feel about it. However, it gradually grow on me and it’s found its way into my personal music lists. I didn’t regret discovering it. I actually like the type of music too.

Lydia is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Author: Lydia

A little bit of a dreamer and a foodie, but definitely a geek at heart!