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Yat-Kha: Yenisei-Punk

AAJ Staff By

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Yat-Kha: Yenisei-Punk Just when you thought vocal music couldn't sink any lower, Yat-Kha drops one more rung. Quite honestly, Albert Kuvezin's singing on Yenisei-Punk is subterranean. His childhood performances in a youth choir in southern Siberia resulted in early forced—but temporary—retirement. It seemed nobody had much patience for Kuvezin's idiosyncrasies.

And that's precisely the point. Dig this. Kuvezin's approach to song draws from a nearly-extinct style called kanzat. It's deep, dark, and beautiful. Known as "throat singing" outside his home in the Republic of Tuva, the pitch dips deeper into the bass than anything you've ever heard. Powerful rumblings, still melodic in our usual sense, often reveal individual waves of sound as they echo from Kuvezin's throat. Now I've got a bass voice myself, but this guy has unbelievable control and versatility. A lifetime's practice, apparently—at least the part past puberty!

The Siberian quartet known as Yat-Kha was formed in part to showcase the vocalist's skill within the context of traditional Siberian music. His guitar playing draws heavily from folk and blues idioms, rooting itself firmly in simple harmonies and quite often dwelling in the realm of the drone. (Blues lovers take note: this one may be right up your alley.)

And while these tunes may represent traditional staples of Tuva culture, they undergo a radical reworking in the process. It's doubtful that "Kamgalanyr Kuzhu-Daa Bar" has ever received much in the way of dripping blues lines and concluding trumpet fanfares. The opener offers a unique perspective on the Communist state: "What a beautiful Soviet country/ because socialism won there." Odd? Most certainly, to our foreign ears.

In the end Yenisei-Punk is exactly what its title implies. It's a definitive personal statement, made without reservation or pretense. Punk. What a welcome surprise to see this 1995 record reissued—remastered with extra tracks—for Western audiences to fully appreciate.


Track Listing: Solun Chaagai Sovet Churtum; Karangailyg Kara Hovaa; Kaa-Khem; Kuu-La Khashtyn Baaryndan; Kamgalanyr Kuzhu-Daa Bar; Irik Chuduk; Chashpy-Khem; Kadarchy; Chok-La Kizhi Yry; Een Kurug Kagban-Na Men; Toorugtug Taiga; Kargyram.

Personnel: Albert Kuvezin: vocals, yat-kha, guitars, homus; Alexei Saaia: morinhoor, vocals, tngr, percussion; Akym: tngr; Anai-Haak: trumpet.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Global Music Centre | Style: Beyond Jazz


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