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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter seeks to distinguish musician Valeriy Kechilovich Mongush’s vocal gifts of xöömei, kargyraa, and sygyt from the so-called throat-singing or overtone singing practices that have circulated internationally (especially since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991) and become dissociated from local meanings and values in the Tyva Republic. In particular, the author is concerned that the global awareness of these practices has focused on the “acoustic facts” of voice production to the exclusion of the histories and responsibilities that these gifts carry—the knowledge of where these practices originate, what they mean, how their history reflects a changing and sometimes repressive political landscape, the intentionality of voicing as action, and the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of voicing song as a social practice. The chapter asks what Valeriy is doing—both real and imagined—when he is doing xöömei, kargyraa, or sygyt. What stories does he tell himself and others? How do his vocal practices reflect a changing political landscape? And what, in Valeriy’s estimation, should practitioners of these “three main techniques” (üsh kol xevir) do in order to understand them as vocal gifts and use them with a sense of purpose, care, and respect for local traditions? The author poses these questions and Valeriy answers with more stories, told from his own perspective.

Keywords: ethnomusicology, local traditions, nomadism, overtone singing, politics of voice, post-Soviet Russia, shamanism, singing technique, throat-singing, Tyva Republic

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