Interview with Alexander Kuular
Alexander won the New Star singing competition. He was a KVN star – a show where stand-up teams from across the country compete. His concerts are always sold out. A powerful energy resonates from his singing, which captivates audiences. He has his own and music and also reimagines classics in his work. Thankfully, Alexander found the time to give us an interview after one of his recording sessions at Buin Khan studios.
Tyva.me: Why did you decide to play music and what influenced your decision?
I started studying music a long time ago, grade one onwards I studied at a music school. Then finished a piano course, and there I became acquainted with the world of real music. Then I played KVN, eventually turning to throat singing.
Tyva.me: What are your favourite genres?
My creativity is a mix of ethnomusic and modern hits, pop-rock. I take inspiration by listening to these directions.
Tyva.me: Why did you choose throat singing?
Firstly, my grandfather and his brother are famous khoomeizhi (throat singers) in the Republic of Tyva. They travelled all over the world, performed throat singing, told people about it, so I continue in their footsteps. I adapt my work to the advent of new technologies, music trends, and so on.
Tyva.me: How hard is throat singing from a technical point of view?
It is not easy – the first steps are accompanied by unpleasant feelings. When playing songs, the throat muscle involved are that usually do not strain in everyday life. The feeling is like when you do a tough session at the gym after a month on the couch.
Tyva.me: What is your favourite performance format and what sort of feedback do you get?
In a club – it allows you to communicate with the audience, to dance. The concert format, where people have to sit, not so much. When the boundaries between the artist and the audience are erased, everyone gets the most possible pleasure.
Tyva.me: Do you find experimenting with different genres easy?
In 2013, I took songs from pop, alternative, rock and started working with them. It was not easy, because nobody had done this yet, I was afraid of the viewer, I did not know how they could react. Now I am working on a new project, because it is necessary to constantly develop my creativity. We also do a joint project with Buin Khan studio. Performing with dancers, even a shaman, produces a global, powerful effect.
Tyva.me: Have you every performed in front of people who have never heard throat singing before?
This happens often. The viewer is always fascinating, many are in a complete daze. These sounds are unusual, but at the same time, it seems subconsciously that you heard them somewhere. Guttural singing is a human imitation of the sounds of nature and animals. Everyone’s genetic memory, somewhere deep down has the sounds of thunder, birds, falling water. Everyone feels these sounds, but they do not understand why they get such sensations. This applies not only to the peoples of Siberia, but pretty much everyone.
Tuva.me: You are a semi-finalist of large-scale television projects, you performed in the KVN programs, so you know how to entertain. How do we increase the interest of young people in folk and national music?
I started with covers of famous songs, the first song “Rolling in the deep” received more than a million views on YouTube. After the release of the video, people from different parts of the world wrote to me and asked to tell about throat singing, and some even set out to visit us in Tyva. All means are good, television projects, singing covers, etc, the key elements are to surprise and attract attention.
Tyva.me: What are your goals? Will you perform in Tyva anytime soon?
Tyva is the place where I was born and raised, I come there every summer. I am happy to go there and speak. It is more difficult to perform in Tuva because the competition from other throat singers is tough – it is more difficult to surprise the viewer.
Tyva.me: How has throat singing changed your life?
At first, I was a screenwriter, I was writing scripts for television, entertainment shows, playing in KVN. When I came out from behind the scenes onto the stage, everything changed.
I have my own online master class, after the launch of which I got letters from people from every corner of our world. I realised that throat singing is a culture not limited to Siberia. I have a friend from Italy who has his own little school of throat singers! The peoples of the Arab countries have their own throat singing different from us: the performers imitate the roar of lions. Tuvans, Mongols imitate the sounds of camels. That is, the fauna they had to deal with. Maybe in the future I will study this question, write an academic paper or book… Who knows?