Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yakutia: Epics and Improvisations

Here we are presented with the traditional epics and improvisations of the Yakuts, an indigenous people of Siberia. The album includes the recitation of epic poetry and ceremonial incantations as well as instrumental improvisations on fiddle and jaw harp. The music is reminiscent in some ways of other traditionally shamanic or nomadic cultures of the north, but also very individually rich.

The most striking thing about these recordings is the importance of timbre and harmonics. The vocalists draw on a number of different techniques that produce guttural growls, scratchy voices, multiphonics and harmonics, and yodeling. The extended improvisations on jaw harp produce a staggering array of sounds and harmonics, more then I have heard from recordings of any other cultural group, and the fiddle playing is jagged, rough, and harmonically rich, bringing to mind the scratching sawing of Tony Conrad more so then a traditional folk musician.

The only information I could find on this record is that Henri Lecomte recorded it for Buda Records sometime between 1994 and 1999. I was unable to track down any information on possible performers.

-Ryan Kirk


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