Whether it is the astonishing 'khoomei' vocal techniques or the daring blend of modern and ancient instrumentation, you know it when you hear it. There's no other band like them...
When Yat-Kha first emerged in 1991 at the 'Voice of Asia Festival' in Alma-Aty, Kazakhstan, Brian Eno was sufficiently astonished and impressed to invent a 'Special Prize' for Albert Kuvezin's unique ultra-bass 'kanzat' throat singing.
Yat-Kha started out in the hyper-industrial Siberian steel-belt city of Boris Yeltsin's then home-town of Sverdlovsk, where Albert Kuvezin, leader of Yat-Kha, taking a holiday from the attentions of the KGB and ideology department of the Tuvan Communist Party, found himself in the middle of a perestroika/glasnost-induced spring-thaw punk rock explosion. Home-made bands across the Siberian hinterlandm with their acerbic lyrics and free-thinking attitudes, were beginning to transform the grim Soviet music scene. Albert's contribution was a cassette 'Priznak Gryedushibyedi', the only copy of which he has lost.
On his return to Tuva, Albert started getting involved with many other young Tuvans interested in rock music, throat-singing and Tuvan music and went on to found 'Kungurtug' (the rockier version of what is now 'Huun-Huur-Tu') which featured Alexander Bapa and his brother Sayan Bapa plus top khoomei singers Kaiga-ool Khovalyg and Aldyn-ool Sevek. After a while, feeling a bit trapped inside what he felt was too much of a 'folkloric' style, Albert decided to hide in Moscow for a few years and see what might happen. He then made a CD, 'Antropofagia', an experimental electro-Tuvan project with Russian avant-keyboardist Andrei Sokolovsky.
At the same time he was getting more and more involved in exploring the borders between Tuvan traditional music, instruments and western rock electricity with Tuvans. After a performance in Berlin in 1992, various small festivals were quick to recognise that Yat-Kha were a bit different. The 'Potsdammer Abkommen', 'Sfinks' and other progressive festivals brought Albert over to Europe but it was not until 'WOMAD@Helsinki' (the line-up of which included Jah Wobble, Transglobal Underground, Natacha Atlas, Shriekback and Wimme) organised by GMC Helsinki that a recording was made.
This was the 1995 CD 'Yenisei-Punk' which was recorded with two microphones and a 1" tape machine in GMC's 'global mobile' studio with help from Kari Hakala and Martijn Fernig. This CD had Alexei Saaia on morinhuur and (normal) voice. Much to everyone's surprise this CD went into the World Music Charts Europe and won various prizes. The CD was re-mastered and re-released by GMC in 1999 with two extra tracks featuring Kan-ool Mongush on morinhuur and voice. But tough times meant the band scraped along as their 'impure' style of music confused many.
As Albert was being evicted from his Moscow flat their UK producer/manager/engineer/driver/temporary bassist Lu Edmonds (who now plays with Billy Bragg & The Blokes, The Mekons, Shriekback and has done time with The Damned, PiL and 3M3 amongst others) landed the band a surprise record deal. Yat-Kha signed in 1998 to Wicklow Records - brainchild of The Chieftains pipe-player Paddy Moloney - and the CD 'Dalai Beldiri' came out.
With their daring blend of old and new instrumentation, Yat-Kha have since pushed Tuvan music even further, building up a strong following across many different audiences and appearing at folk festivals, improv jazz sessions, sweaty punk rock clubs, new age events, WOMADs, children's festivals and classical concert halls. They have also got to the top of the World Music Charts Europe and have won many awards, from the RFI 'Decouvertes', and 'Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik' to Tower Records' top 10 'Weird 99'.
Yat-Kha have pushed out another frontier with their unique and stunning live soundtrack performance to the 1928 Soviet classic 'Storm over Asia' by the genius formalist director Vsevolod Pudovkin.
Now a 5-piece band - founder Albert is joined by young 'Khoomeiji' Radik Tiuliush (with Aldyn-ool Sevek and Alexei Saaia resting at home in the mountains on paternity leave) and Tuvan musicians Zhenya Tkachov (percussion), Mahmoud Skripaltschchikov (bass) and 21-year old Sailyk Ommun singing the high female style common also to Mongolia.
Their new CD 'Aldyn Dashka', like the previous, mines the rick musical and vocal traditions of the Tuvan, Khakass and Mongolian nomad peoples, whilst at the same time reaching out from one of the most remote parts of the planet to modern life, electricity and other cultures. Yat-Kha is planning to put the new CD out on their own label (pending any licensing deals) as well as a live CD recorded at a gig at the Clara Vale Complex in Gateshead in June 2000.
The project that is Yat-Kha continues to develop...
More info http://www.yat-kha.com.
[The above text is taken from the November 2000 tour programme produced by CMN Tours. Reproduced without permission.]
© P Hetherington 2000-2005.
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