This Week in Tuvan Uvulas

Huun Huur Tu

Sometimes cultural differences are a drag, like when millions of fundamentalist Muslims hate you because of some scribbled cartoons, or when we bomb the bejesus out of all manner of Muslims because their oil looks adorable to us. But there are also the cultural differences that evoke awe for the grand variety of human experience.

Take Tuvans: they've the same complement of hands, brains and larynxes as the rest of us and are bound by the same laws of vibratory physics, yet their "throat singing"—wherein they can simultaneously produce three distinct notes from a single throat—is unique enough to have deserved an article in Scientific American, different enough that it can sound otherworldly to western ears.

Yet Tuvans are more closely rooted to this world than most of us can claim to be, being nomadic folks from a remote Mongolia-bordering part of the former Soviet Union who spend much of their lives on horseback. Their music might initially sound like odd guttural noises and bird whistles, but it will soon transport you to where you can practically feel the horse's gait as it carries you over rolling grasslands. And despite the language and cultural barriers, you can tell that some of these guys are real characters. Musicians who've worked with the quartet tell me they're great to party with. Are you listening, Commie Girl?

Huun Huur Tu (it means Sun Propeller) is the premier throat-singing group, and they've been making rare trips to the U.S. since 1993. They typically play in opera houses and college halls, but this time the up-close-and-intimate San Juan Capistrano Regional Library Multicultural Arts Series managed to snag them for two dates this Sunday, and there ain't no nicer place to be.

Huun Huur Tu performs at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, La Sala Auditorium, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 248-7469. Sun., 6 & 8 p.m. $10; children under 12, $5. All ages.

 
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