In a New York hotel room, Bapa Sayan is singing in a low guttural moan that sounds like gorillas gargling. He does this in a group called Huun Huur Tu from the Tuvan region of Siberia. Employing a technique called throat singing or overtone singing that’s similar to Tibetan monks, they can split a sound in their mouth into multiple overtones, yielding 2 or three separate melodies. Shifting up into a higher pitch range, Bapa Sayan creates multiple and ethereal shifting melodies, all from just his own voice.
Of all the overtone singing styles in the world, Tuvan throat singing is like the heavy metal of the technique.
Carmen Rizzo: Yes. [laughs] I was like, I was like, just petrified.
Carmen Rizzo is a producer and programmer who has worked with artists like Niyaz and Lal Meri. Walking through his lounge and meeting room in Hollywood, walls that aren’t covered with tapestries are hung with photos, gold records and posters of projects he’s worked on like Coldplay, Alannis Morrisette and Seal. On Eternal, his approach to Huun Huur Tu is part electronica, part ambient and part textural soundscaping. And that gutteral Tuvan style wasn’t quite what he wanted to highlight when he agreed to soup up some recordings they had made.
Carmen Rizzo: Yeah. I purposely, in this record, steered away from the Tuvan style singing, and if you know their past records it was more of that. On this, I tried to feature them more as singers, as opposed to just the throat singing, because I was a little turned off by that, in the beginning because I thought, “I’ve got to be able to play this record, for my fans and for anyone.” and I know, this sort of Tuvan singing can sort of turn people off.
In his studio, Rizzo took the Tuvan’s music, put it into his computer and began working with it the way he’d work with a pop song.
Carmen Rizzo: I had to pick certain songs, and chop them down and rearrange them, which was not easy, because there was no click, some songs were not to a grid, out of time, even the tuning, it was a technical nightmare. I have to say. [laughs]
Purists may grimace at Carmen Rizzo’s manipulations, but Bapa Sayan says he was happy with the outcome.
Bapa Sayan: It was a good space around our music, with our music, not around it, with it.
Since the recording, Carmen and Huun Huur Tu have performed concerts in Russia and America combining Carmen’s electronics and live orchestra with Huun Huur Tu. Their album is called Eternal on Electrofone Music. This has been an Echo Location.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))