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Alash Ensemble at the Central Library

Tuvan and groovin’: Trio puts modern spin on traditional throat singing

More than just a pretty throat: The guys from Alash Ensemble want their audiences to know that they do more than just sing several notes at once.
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Alash Ensemble is more than just a pretty voice.

The musical group, which hails from Tuva — a tiny republic in East Siberia that is part of the Russian Federation — might be known for its traditional throat singing style, but its manager wants the world to know that it is much more than that.

“The singing is just one part of the musical whole,” said Sean Quirk, the band’s manager and interpreter. “It’s a deep and varied musical experience, not just vocal technique.”

In addition to being experts in the multi-note throat singing that was developed by nomadic herdsman in their home region, the three members all also play a variety of instruments, including the doshpuluur (a lute), the shoor (a type of flute), and the kengirge (a goat-skin drum).

The members of the trio started playing and singing together when they were in college in the Tuvan capital of Kyzyl. All of them studied under throat singing legend Kongar-ol Ondar, and have since gained plenty of fame on their own, touring to the United States 16 times since the mid-aughts.

In past passes through Brooklyn, the trio played at Barbes in Park Slope and the now-defunct Zebulon in Williamsburg. This time, it will play at the Central Library, in a free concert on April 17.

Some of the songs Alash plays are traditional dirges that have been passed down through generations. But others are pieces the band members have written themselves, often influenced by the American musicians they have toured with, such as the Sun Ra Arkestra and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

“Tradition is a thing that is alive and not static,” said Quirk. “The music is an organic, natural result of these three young men who are rooted in their traditions and being exposed to all this incredible world music.”

Alash Ensemble at Central Library, Dweck Center [10 Grand Army Plaza between Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 230–2100, www.bklynpubliclibrary.org]. April 17 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
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