There are so many incredible sounding instruments that we have encountered on our travels, yet there is nothing quite like the human voice for it’s range, diversity and uniqueness. From Tuvan throat singing practised amongst nomadic Mongolian farmers to the South Indian art of vocal percussion called Konnakol, every culture, people group and religion uses their vocal chords to produce singing. In some communities, it is so much a part of life that everyone participates, ie. Central African pygmies where everyone is an incredible vocalist and is able to sing complex yodeling.
A wonderful tradition of singing that many people associate with Switzerland although there are many forms that have been traced back to Georgia, Persia, Central Asia and Central Africa. In Appenzell, they come in two forms: the Zäuerli and Ruggusseli yodels. The Ruggusseli is thought to be a sadder yodel due to being sung in minor keys.
We have been out in Spain and read about this regional style of flamenco from rural Malaga in the local paper. With a more elaborate rhythm section of hand claps, castanets, finger cymbals and tambourine, it gives a subtle Arabic feel to the music. I have heard this started as a very old style of folk song, that has over the years been adopted into the flamenco tradition. Verdailes is the name for the olive grown in this area of Andalucia – more info.
Another interesting podcast (thanks Kathryn O’Neil) from the World Service about flamenco music being revived as a form of protest during the economic crisis in Spain.
This incredible overtone singing started in the small republic of Tuva, a Siberian republic on the border of Mongolia and is known as throat singing (xöömei in Tuvan). Tuvan throat singers can produce two, three and sometimes even four pitches simultaneously. This ancient style of singing is accompanied by horse hooves, bull testicles (yes, you heard me correctly – a percussion instrument!) and horse hair fiddle. Read More
We had a great morning recording on the island of Hawai’i – we met Lokelani Dahl and she shared with us a few Hawaiian Oli (chants). The Hawaiian language was not written down until the 1820’s and so before this time there way of preserving history was through the use of songs, chants, and poems. Read More
Here’s a wonderful vocal technique that originated in rural farming communities in Tennessee where eephers would imitate the sounds of their hogs and turkeys. This Appalachian equivalent of the “beat box” vocal style was apparently around in the 1880’s, 100 years before hip-hop became popular in modern music. In 1963, singer Joe Perkins had a minor hit with “Little Eeefin’ Annie,” featuring Jimmie Riddle, the acknowledged master of this genre.
I have been reading a wonderful book written in the 1950’2 called “People of the Deer” by Farley Mowat who as a young man spent time with the Ihalmiut people in the Barrens – what is now the Canadian Arctic. Farley also wrote the short story The Snow Walker which later became a wonderful film.
The Inuit’s “throat singing” is a singing technique almost exclusively practised by women. (Unique in nature compared to the other 2 throat singing styles – Khöömei, from Mongolia and a style called eefing used by the Xhosa people in South Africa. Here are some video clips explaining a little of how the Inuit use this expression.