The Alash ensemble, a throat singing band from Tuva

Mongol-Tuvan throat singing, the main technique of which is known as khoomei (Tuvan: хөөмей, romanized: xöömej, Mongolian: хөөмий; ᠬᠦᠭᠡᠮᠡᠢ, romanized: khöömii,[1] Russian: хоомей, Chinese: 呼麦, pinyin: hūmài), is a style of singing practiced by people in Tuva and Mongolia. It is noted for including overtone singing. In 2009, it was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. The term hömey / kömey means throat and larynx in different Turkic languages.[2][3][4] That could be borrowed from Mongolian khooloi, which means throat as well, driven from Proto-Mongolian word *koɣul-aj.[5]


In Tuvan [throat singing], the performer hums a fundamental pitch and—simultaneously—manipulates the overtones that belong to that fundamental pitch, creating a melody.[6] The history of Tuvan throat singing reaches far back. Many male herders can throat sing, but women have begun to practice the technique as well. The popularity of throat singing among Tuvans seems to have arisen as a result of geographic location and culture. The open landscape of Tuva allows for the sounds to carry a great distance. Ethnomusicologists studying throat singing in these areas mark khoomei as an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism still practiced today. Often, singers travel far into the countryside looking for the right river, or go up to the steppes of the mountainside to create the proper environment for throat singing.[7]

The animistic world view of this region identifies the spirituality of objects in nature, not just in their shape or location, but in their sound as well.[8]

Ordinarily, melodies are created by isolating the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th partial in accordance with the harmonic series. Thus, if the fundamental frequency were C3, the overtones would be G5, B♭5, C6, D6, E6, G6, A6. However, it is possible to reach as low as the 2nd and also way above the 16th.[citation needed] The fundamental pitch is typically around E and G below middle C, and this affects the range of partials the singer can reach, with higher partials more easily reached on lower notes, and vice versa.

An illustration of the harmonic series in musical notation. The numbers above the harmonic indicate the number of cents difference from equal temperament (rounded to the nearest cent). Blue notes are flat and red notes are sharp.

The people of Tuva have a wide range of throat singing vocalizations, and were the pioneers of six pitch harmonics.[9] There are several different classification schemes for Tuvan throat singing. In one, the three basic styles are khoomei, kargyraa and sygyt, while the sub-styles include borbangnadyr, chylandyk, dumchuktaar, ezengileer and kanzyp. In another, there are five basic styles: khoomei, sygyt, kargyraa, borbangnadyr and ezengileer. The substyles include chylandyk, despeng borbang, opei khoomei, buga khoomei, kanzyp, khovu kargyraazy, kozhagar kargyraazy, dag kargyraazy, Oidupaa kargyraazy, uyangylaar, damyraktaar, kishteer, serlennedyr and byrlannadyr.[10] These schemes all use Tuvan terminology.


Khorekteer refers to the "chest voice". This is the voice that throat singers use when using khoomei, kargyraa, or any other harmonic-inducing style. The term can also be used to refer to all styles of Tuvan throat singing, much like khoomei. It can also refer to the feeling of chest resonance or pressure that one experiences when throat singing. Khorekteer is often used as a launching pad into the khoomei, sygyt, or kargyraa styles of throat singing.


The most popular style of throat singing is known as khoomei (or khöömei, in Cyrillic: хөөмей). Khoomei is traditionally a softer sounding style, with the fundamental (or drone) usually in the low-mid to midrange of the singer's normal voice. In this style, usually two or three harmonics can be heard between one and two octaves above the fundamental. In khoomei, the abdomen is fairly relaxed, and there is less tension on the larynx than in other styles. Pitch is manipulated through a combination of movements of the lips, throat, tongue or jaw.

Singing in this style gives the impression of wind swirling among rocks.[11]

The term khoomei is also used as a generic term to designate all throat singing techniques in this region.


Sygyt (in Cyrillic: сыгыт), literally 'whistling', has a midrange fundamental and is characterized by strong, flute-like or rather piercing harmonics, reminiscent of whistling. Also described[according to whom?] as an imitation of the gentle breezes of summer, the songs of birds, the ideal sound for the harmonics is called Чистый звук—Russian for clear sound.

To perform sygyt, the tongue rises and seals around the gums, just behind the teeth. A small hole is left back behind the molars, either on the left or right side. The sound is then directed between the teeth to the front of the mouth. The lips form a bell-like shape, usually with an "ee" vowel, and the sound is directed through this small opening. Pitch is manipulated exactly the same way as in khoomei style.[12]


The more deep-sounding style of throat singing is known as kargyraa (in Cyrillic: каргыраа). Kargyraa has a deep, almost growling sound to it and is technically related to Sardinian bass singing in Cantu a tenore choirs. It uses both the vocal and the vestibular folds (also known as "false vocal cords") simultaneously, creating two connected sources of sound.

By constricting the larynx, the vestibular folds can be brought together (adducted) and, under certain conditions, vibrate. It can produce an undertone exactly half the frequency of the fundamental produced by the vocal folds. Therefore, for each second vibration of the vocal folds, the vestibular fold completes a whole vibration cycle. While the larynx generates such rich sound, the mouth cavity may be shaped, just like in the manipulation of vowels, to select some particular harmonics, resulting in a sound that may be perceived as having different pitches simultaneously.

This vocal mechanism has been elucidated and shown to be the same as in Sardinian bassu, which is one of the four voices of Sardinian canto a tenore choirs. It is also similar to the chant practiced in Tibet by the Gyuto monastery and other Buddhist orders, even though the technique is very different. In beatboxing, the kargyraa sound is known as Throat Bass.[13][14][15][16]

There are two types of kargyraa: dag (mountain) and xovu (steppe). The Dag style is deeper, while xovu is raspier and sung at a higher pitch with more throat tension and less chest resonance.[17][18] There are also the distinctive kargyraa styles of Vladimir Oidupaa and Albert Kuvezin, the latter also bearing the name kanzat. This is sometimes described[according to whom?] as the howling winds of winter or the plaintive cries of a mother camel after losing her calf.

Effects and other styles

Of the following list, two effects that commonly employed in the khoomei, sygyt and kargyraa styles: Borbangnadyr and Ezengileer.

Women in Tuvan throat singing

A member of Tyva Kyzy

There were a few female throat singers in Tuva's history, though it was believed a woman performing throat singing could cause infertility.[20] Choldak-Kara Oyun, the mother of the famous throat singer Soruktu Kyrgys and grandmother of the husband of famous Tuvan actress Kara-Kys Namzatovna Munzuk, throat sang throughout her life while milking her cows, singing lullabies to her children and sometimes while she was drinking Tuvan araga (fermented milk alcohol). Close relatives of famous singers, like Khunashtaar-ool's niece (in the 1960s) and Kombu's daughter (in the 1940s or 1950s), performed khoomei (throat singing) in public more than once. The wife of the throat singing shaman Bilek-ool from Manchurek, Aldinsova Tortoyavna, said that she has always sung khoomei "because it was innate to [her] from birth". She could not resist singing khoomei after she got married and had children, and sang khoomei in public in the 1950s and 1960s. But her sister, who also sang khoomei as a girl, gave up when others repeatedly reminded her of the supposed dangers.

Valentina Salchak performed throat singing in public in 1979. Valentina Chuldum from Mongun-Taiga (1960 – Autumn 2002) toured European countries as a throat singer in the early 1990s. With the start of the International Symposium of Khoomei women could sing publicly there.

Tyva Kyzy (Тыва Кызы, pronounced [tɯˈva kɯˈzɯ]) (Daughters of Tuva, in Tuvan language), founded in 1998, is an all-female folk ensemble performing Tuvan throat singing, under the direction of Choduraa Tumat. It is the first and only women's group in Tuva that performs all styles of Tuvan throat singing.[21]

In popular culture

Igor Kөshkendey of Chirgilchin
A performance of The Hu at Rock im Park 2019

MP3 audio examples

See also


  1. ^ "Mongolian etymology : Query result". Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  2. ^ "Hoomey".
  3. ^ "Doğadan gelen ses: Türk gırtlak müziği". (in Turkish). 12 February 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  4. ^ Malkoç, Tülün; Çeli̇k, Sibel (2020-09-15). "TUVA TÜRKLERİ'NDE HÖÖMEY SÖYLEME BİÇİMİ". Avrasya Uluslararası Araştırmalar Dergisi (in Turkish). 8 (23): 58–74. doi:10.33692/avrasyad.735271. hdl:11424/259944. ISSN 2147-2610.
  5. ^ "Proto-Mongolian Throat Meaning". Retrieved 2021-06-09.
  6. ^ Aksenov, A. N. (1973). "Tuvan Folk Music". Asian Music. 4 (2): 7–18. doi:10.2307/833827. JSTOR 833827.
  7. ^ Slobin, Mark (1992). "Review: [Untitled]". Ethnomusicology. 36 (3, Special Issue: Music and the Public Interest). University of Illinois Press: 444–446. doi:10.2307/851883. JSTOR 851883.
  8. ^ Levin, Theodore (2006). When Rivers and Mountains Sing. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34715-7.
  9. ^ Levin, Theodore C.; Edgerton, Michael E. (September 1999). "The Throat Singers of Tuva". Scientific American. 281 (3): 80–87. Bibcode:1999SciAm.281c..80L. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0999-80. JSTOR 26058408. PMID 10467751.
  10. ^ "International Scientific Centre 'Khoomei'". Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  11. ^ "Video demonstrating khomeii style".
  12. ^ Unknown.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Throat Bass". HUMAN BEATBOX. 2017-03-22. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  14. ^ Leonardo., Fuks (1999). From air to music : acoustical, physiological and perceptual aspects of reed wind instrument playing and vocal-ventricular fold phonation. KTH (Royal Institute of Technology). OCLC 44025655.
  15. ^ Fuks, L; Hammarberg, B; Sundberg, J (1998). "A self-sustained vocal-ventricular phonation mode: acoustical, aerodynamic and glottographic evidences". KTH TMH-QPSR (3). Stockholm: 49–59.
  16. ^ Lindestad, P. A.; Sodersten, M.; Merker, B.; Granqvist, S. (March 2001). "Voice source characteristics in Mongolian throat singing studied with high-speed imaging technique, acoustic spectra, and inverse filtering". Journal of Voice. 15 (1): 78–85. doi:10.1016/S0892-1997(01)00008-X. ISSN 0892-1997.
  17. ^ Alden-ool Sevek (1995). "Dag (Muntain)Kargyraa". (MOV video).
  18. ^ Kaigal-ool. "Orphan's Lament". (MOV video). "Kaigal-ool sings his heart out in several khoomei styles."
  19. ^ "An excellent example of Borbangnadyr".
  20. ^ "".
  21. ^ "TYVAKYZY.COM".
  22. ^ Oyun, Dina (14 June 2009). "Daughter of Nobel laureate Richard Feynman is visiting Tuva". Tuva Online. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  23. ^ "Batzorig Vaanchig".
  24. ^ "Steppe change: how Mongolian rock band the Hu conquered the world". The Guardian. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  25. ^ "The Hu: Mongolian Folk-Metal Sensations Aim to Conquer the World". Revolver. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  26. ^ Mercante, Alyssa (19 November 2019). "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order just made a Mongolian rock band canon". gamesradar. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  27. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Interview With The Hu". YouTube.
  28. ^ "How Mongolian Band the HU Made a Song for 'Star Wars' in an Alien Language". 18 February 2020.
  29. ^ Mickens, Noah. "Soriah Post-world shaman". Oregon Music News. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
Bibliography and further reading