The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Let Them Clear Their Throats

By Anthonia Akitunde in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 12, 2009 6:15PM

Members of throat-singing ensemble Alash. Courtesy of Alash's website.
Alash, masters of Tuvan throat singing and traditional instruments, will perform Wednesday at the University of Chicago's International House (1414 E. 59th) as part of its Global Voices Performing Arts Series.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday the four-man ensemble will perform their haunting singing technique which is often likened to a human bagpipe. A workshop will be available on Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. for those wanting to test their own throat singing abilities before seeing the pros in action.

The small south-central Asian country of Tuva has a rich history of throat singing, known as xöömei in Tuvan. Developed by Tuvan nomadic herdsman, throat singers can simultaneously sing upwards of four different pitches.

Alash's website gives a simple description of the mind-boggling process: "The singer starts with a low drone. Then, by subtle manipulations of his vocal tract and keen listening, he breaks up the sound, amplifying one or more overtones enough so that they can be heard as additional pitches while the drone continues at a lower volume. Despite what the term might suggest, throat singing does not strain the singer's throat."

The singing recreates the natural sounds of the outdoors and has only recently been transformed into a performing art. All of the singers in the ensemble have trained with master throat singers but enjoy mashing the traditional with western influences such as Jimi Hendrix and jazz.

For more information, call 773-288-1538. Kicking yourself because you can't make the concert? Tune in to WHPK 88.5 FM's "Music Around the World" this Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. to hear members of Alash. Stream it live on

[International House]