Photo: Aidyn Sedip

This article continues our series of “Travel Notes” by the folk musician and journalist Maria Kirilova. Maria kindly suggested writing travel notes for during a trip to Tuva this year for the celebration of Shagaa – the Tuvan New Year. Maria will share her insights about the sternly beautiful winter of Tuva, how the Tuvinians survive in the -40 degree frosts, how the Shagaa is celebrated, and what is sung in the winter folk songs.

Author: Maria Kirilova

The 17 February continued to feel celebratory. At midday we again came to the Centre of Asia monument to take part in filming the video for Shagaa, which is for everyone in the world celebrating the Lunar New Year. This time, instead of Vivaldi and Rossini, one could hear Tuvan music and people came in Tuvan national costumes. Some rented their clothes from the nearby tourist centre, but many came in their own wear. Seeing the vibrantly colourful dresses on the background of reflective white snow made me want to greet to the whole world over with this wonderful celebration. We assembled on the steps leading to the monument, and after some minor practice, having heard the official part of the greeting in two languages, we managed to shout “Kurai Kurai Kurai!” in sync. Kurai can be translated as “let all things be good, lucky, happy and anyway in just the way we want to them to!”

While my photographer Julia Kuskova was taking 3D panorama shots, some national dresses freed up and we were offered to try them on. This was a bullet point on my list, and I was delighted to cross it off.  For the first time, we saw people in a hurry in Tuva, but we were here taking photos and trying on costumes for as long as we wanted to. We looked incredible in dresses elaborately embroidered with all sorts of colours and decorations. It was a shame to dress down, but we had to go forth on our mission to buy souvenirs for our friends! Having filled our bags with all that we needed, I finally met my pen pal! My friend was extremely helpful in the run up to the trip, answering all my questions and finding everything out, I felt rather indebted. We went to a really cool live music place, the very atmospheric “Tuvan Rock Club”, which did not have a sign above the door, but a very steep spiral staircase, which led to a basement room with a performance area like you’d see in a jazz bar. It is here that “Hotel Kal” from Krasnoyarsk played, accompanied by the local band “Malyshok”, whose sax player I will never forget. Apart from jazz classics, Hotel Kal performed their own songs but both sets, it seemed, were awaited by the audience. Hotel Kal is a distinguished band in Krasnoyarsk.

After the concert, we had a sit down with the musicians, which was certainly my cup of tea! The drummer from Hartyga, Naiys Dulush, joined us there. He must have lost count of how many times he had performed at this bar.

A taxi drove us away from the place I have grown to call home during my short stay. These days passed like the ones in all our lives, when it feels like we’ve arrived at the family abode and we don’t want the day to end, trying to stop time with every thought… I am completely enamoured by the hospitality of Tuva.

Always with you,


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Written by valpapyn