TRY THE IMPOSSIBLE - SUN RA
IN TUVA, SIBERIA AT THE USTUU-HUREE FESTIVAL WITH THE SUN RA ARKESTRA
UNDER THE DIRECTION OF MARSHALL ALLEN
It is the luxury of the HOTEL MÖNGÜLEK suite in KYZYL, REPUBLIC
OF TUVA in Siberia / Central Asia with running cold water and some last
days without, it is this place that makes me sensitive for the paradise
that is lost or won –
Let me tell you about the history that THE SUN RA ARKESTRA under the
direction of Maestro MARSHALL ALLEN wrote in Tuva...
THE SIBERIAN JOURNEY
It sounds somewhat like a miracle when IGOR DULUSH, the organizer of
the USTUU-HUREE FESTIVAL is walking across the vast plaza between the
Parliament building and the Theatre, a large bag over his shoulder with
one million rubles inside (One million rubles is worth 200 apartments
or 20’000 meals – equivalent to 33’000 $) – feeling
like a millionaire and feeling like a poor man – walking past the
white Asian architecture, along an alley in the shadow of the trees, turning
left at the corner, walking into the bank and is stuck, stuck with one
million rubles since the bank denies any transfer to the USA, where the
money is badly needed to buy the musicians’ tickets to fly…..
To Copenhagen… to Moscow… to Krasnoyarsk… to Kyzyl
the capital of the Russian Republic of Tuva…. 48 hours of travel
– someone said and 12 hours difference in time zone. Getting out
of this miniature plane with all the baggage in the rear piled up into
the bright light of a splendid morning and the open arms of Igor. Snap
shots taken by the Tuvinian Television on the spot and the first words
of welcome and thanks are spoken. How does it feel? – To take a
deep breath of clean air - to walk on solid ground after all that Flying
– to embrace the dear friend knowing that another DREAM COMES TRUE
It feels superb to greet all the musicians waiting at the Ministry of
Culture, few familiar faces and some belonging to the voice on the phone...
Shaking hands, taking pictures and then being offered a hot meal –
soup, rice, meat and salad. We then jumped on a bus and were escorted
by a police car, blocking the crossings for us and guiding us on the road
First stop at an OVAA – a Shamanistic sacred place where stones
are piled around branches decorated with the wishful pieces of platted
cloth, the CHALAMA. Adding a stone, leaving some coins so the journey
will be successful.
Second stop at a Buddhist memorial site indicating the visit of the DALAI
LAMA XIV on September 20tth 1992. Climbing the hill where the view embraces
the valley of the stream YENISEY and the surrounding hills in the soft
glow of the hot white sky afternoon.
Third stop at one of these small restaurant places along the road, offering
the beloved and tasty noodle soup with sheep meat, bread and milk-tea
to the people driving by. An asphalted band stretches in the middle of
the road, leaving broad sides to plain earth and cut weeds.
Big red letters that grew out of nowhere: ЧАДАНА
– CHADANA, the small town built mainly out of wood and spread over
the land. The Buddhist monastery offered hospitality to the USTUU-HUREE
Festival that expanded around the brick stone building with Asian style
curved roofs – continuing the swing of the form.
The biggest and lovely decorated yurt was erected for the Afro-American
musicians of The Sun Ra Arkestra (including military surveillance). The
yurt is the nomad’s home that can be mounted and dismounted in short
time and taken with the sheep heard to the summer or winter camp. It is
a circular tent like building with a wooden skeleton structure, a felt
cover and a cover of rainproof cloth, wrapped around and fixed with strings.
The very top stays open most of the time and airs the inside. In winter
a steel tube ascending from a simple stove peaks through the top grid
that is held by a wooden circle which itself is resting on poles spreading
like rays which themselves are tied to the diagonal structured circular
grid about 1.70 high and about 6 meters in diameter. The yurt was approximately
2.70 meters of height in the center.
The yurt is said to possess harmonic energy because of its circular form
and its structured space. It represents the directions of the sky and
indicates the time – the sun marks the hours and the moon shines
into the equilibrated room. The carved entrance door is in the south.
Upon entering the shoes are taken off. Thick carpets lay on the inside
grassy ground. A bed in the west, a bed in the east, covered with colorful
silk sheets. In the north and next to the entrance are some small cupboards
where things and nourishments can be stored. In the Tuvinian tradition
men and women share the yurt and live in large family groups together.
The west is reserved for the men, the east for the women. This is the
summary of the lecture by two Buddhist monks who came to the yurt to welcome
But awe some of the Sun Ra musicians considered it to be a strictly male
tent and not adequate for the white woman to share the space with them…
But awe after all that traveling, summer heat and sweat, there was but
little water to wash only the face and hands… But awe the toilets
were a shithouse with no water and the male side was real bad... But then
sleep took over and some of the musicians fell out on the beds and floor...
When I explained this difficult situation to Igor and asked whether I
could move out, he said that there was no other place for me to stay since
it is the Tuvinian way to live together but never apart and he added:
CULTURE SHOCK and smiled – That was the key word for all irritation.
It was not the usual star classed hotel single room with a large bed but
a kingly yurt in immediate contact with the earth and a life style based
on community and collaboration. And even the toilet was basically hygienic
and certainly less polluting than the western water model… And the
next day the RUSSIAN BAGNA was heated and we enjoyed the sauna and the
facility to shower and wash with hot water taken from the wood heated
stove and cold water stored in a bathtub mixed in an enamel basin!
There was not really time to rest – curious faces appeared in the
entrance of the yurt (guarded by soldiers) and whoever stepped outside
of the Arkestra members was surrounded by a flock of natives wanting to
shoot the ultimate pictures, the press was asking questions – like
what is your message to the young people of Tuva? – It was MUSIC,
mainly Sun Ra’s and Marshall Allen’s music played by a Creator’s
The WELCOME CEREMONY was celebrated by most beautiful young women in
shining silk dresses and flower like hats presenting a cup of milk tea
to each of the guests offering it together with a green or a blue scarf
– the green referring to the richness of the summer, the blue to
the universe and the spiritual powers…
Soon it was time for the CARNIVAL – the procession around and across
Chadana. The Buddhist monks were leading the procession followed by the
political representatives and the Buddhist ritual masks: Several Buddha
masks in rose, blue and brown with the third eye vertically open on the
forehead – the sign of enlightenment, then the white old man representing
the god of fertility and the master of the earth and the water and finely
a bird’s mask and a deer’s mask, referring to the power of
The procession was continued by the drum, bell and rhythm section and
the many musicians some with their instruments and wearing their traditional
clothing. In regular intervals long monotone sounds were heard from some
wind instruments. A truck turned into a movable stage accompanied the
Carnival. Whenever the procession stopped, some of the young Tuvinian
musicians performed on the truck for the many curious participants…
THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE USTUU-HUREE FESTIVAL
The opening ceremony of the festival was celebrated following the welcome
greetings of the Vice President of the Republic, the Minister of Culture,
the Major of Chadana and the Director of the Festival. A praying Buddha
statue was revealed on stage – it was so beautiful to watch, the
sedative red of the clothes of the monks and the radiant gold of the Buddha
statue, the smoke of the incense accompanied by the repetitive chanting
of the prayers.
Then abundant RAIN fell. This was interpreted as a positive affirmation
of the spirits towards the ceremony and the rain was not expected to cease
soon… Therefore all music programs were delayed to the next day
in the early afternoon…
УСТУУ - ХУРЭЭ
THE USTUU-HUREE RUIN
It took some 10 minutes drive from the festival site to reach the majestic
ruins of the temple Ustuu-Huree whose inhabitants were prosecuted and
killed and the temple itself was destroyed to his ground walls during
When I arrived the Buddhist Ceremony had already started. In the inner
space on a table a picture of the present Dalai Lama was erected, in front
of it several cups with spiced milk, confect, ruble notes and coins, and
at the back wall all kind of poles and strings with colorful CHALAMA and
prayer flags. People started queuing up to dip the ring finger of the
right hand into the milk and wet the forehead and the hair with it. A
donation was also left and many knotted their prayer flag, sometimes with
hopeful words written on the cloth on top of some other wishes….
The juniper incense was still in the air and people surrounded the ruins
clockwise touching the bare stone, mostly at the corners. I discovered
several small fissures with a coin in it...
FATE IN A PLEASANT MOOD
CAN CHANGE YOUR DESTENY
YOUR DESTINY IS IN THE HANDS OF FATE
AND ALL YOU GOT TO DO TO CHANGE YOUR DESTENY
AND FATE IS IN A PLEASANT MOOD
CHANGE YOUR DESTENY…
SUN RA & HIS ARKESTRA – LOVE
IN OUTER SPACE , Leo Records CD LR L54
THE USTUU-HUREE FESTIVAL
Is dedicated to the Ustuu-Huree Temple and contributes to the resurrection
of the old Buddhist temple of the early 15th century…
The Festival hosted many young musicians and music students from Tuva.
It was astonishing to hear all the young talents, schooled in the tradition
of throat and overtone singing and in the play of their native instruments.
Citing Mr. Zoya Kyrgys, Director of International Scientific Center “Khoomey”
in Kyzyl, I would like to give you some information on the various instruments:
IGIL (horse violin) is a double-stringed bowed musical
instrument mentioned repeatedly in the heroic epics, songs, legends, and
tales of Tuvan nation. Timbre of the Igil resembles a human voice and
its juicy velvet sometimes with nasal twang sonority is quieter. The order
BYZAANCHY is a four stringed bowed musical instrument
wide spread both in the past and at present. Strings are tuned in pairs
on quint and timber is more harsh and creaky then Igil. Both instruments,
Igil and Byzaanchy, are inseparable companions of many singers, performers,
storytellers and throat singers.
DOSHPULUUR is a double stringed plucked musical instrument.
It was wide spread before and one could see it in almost all yurts. Timbre
of sounding is velvet, chamber and soft. This instrument is the most popular
among the performers of the throat singing.
CHANZY is a three stringed musical instrument that
is spread in Central-Asian region. Strings are sinew and the wooden body
is covered with snakeskin. Sound is loud and extracted by plucking of
the right hand. It is especially popular among the performers of throat
CHADAGAN (10-stringed zither) is a many stringed musical instrument and
one of the most spread ancient instruments. It is often mentioned in many
heroic epics, legends, tales and folk songs of Tuvan people. The order
is quint and timbre is strong and bright. It is used usually as an accompaniment
Anna Iridekova, student of State Lyceum of Republic Tuva provides further
DEMIR-HOMUS (metal Jew’s harp) is a small metal
mouth harp that is called "chaaktary" in Tuva, which literally
means the cheeks with the tongue in the middle. There is a special case
that protects the fragile tongue from harm.
It is used in solo performances or as an accompaniment for singing and
it is characterized by a deep melodiousness. The performer can improvise
reproducing the sounds of forest and its dwellers.
In ancient times there were two young people loving each other passionately.
But the girl's father made her to marry another man. And her beloved boy
went crazy. He made the Demir-homus and performed very sad and lyrical
melodies. He forgot about eating and drinking and just kept on playing.
One day, feeling most desperate he jumped from a very high rock and died.
When the girl knew about it she followed his example. Since then Demir-homus
became the symbol of all lovers.
LIMBY is a wind instrument. Limby is a pipe made
of bamboo. The pipe is closed in the upper part with a wooden block. There
are from 7 to 11 holes on the body. Each pipe has a different number of
holes, and different size. Only men are allowed to play this instrument.
It is connected with Tibetan believes and its name originated from Tibetan
There is another music instrument called the SHOOR. It consists of two
flutes – the yin and yang flute – one is larger and longer.
Each flute is a hollow pipe, made of willow wood or more recently made
of metal, open at both ends and having 5 holes. Its sound is compared
to the KARGYRAA, the low tone throat singing style.
TRADITIONAL THROAT SINGING
Tuvinian music is often expressed by KHOOMEY - throat singing that is
a special use of the vocal cords. There are at least five different styles:
KHOOMEY consists of two tones – tone and overtone
that is sung at the same time. It is a style said to be used to put the
children to sleep.
SYGYT consists of a slightly pressed double tone
in the upper register, sounding like the flow of a melodious flute.
KARGYRAA is expressed by guttural voluminous low
BORBANNADYR is a pronounced tremolo – the rolling
voice reminding of the gurgling sound of flowing water.
EZENGILEER plays on the nasal sounds of ng-gü.
CHYLANDYK is a mixture of Sygyt and Kargyraa.
Each throat singer has his own very individual style that he perfectly
controls and also a profound knowledge of many traditional songs that
are passed on vocally from generation to generation. Throat singing was
originally a male domain. At the Ustuu-Huree Festival also women and young
female students were performing throat and overtone singing and were playing
traditional instruments to a great perfection – although the winners
in the discipline of throat singing were males, namely the members of
the band ALASH.
All Tuvinian musicians were dressed up in beautiful silk clothes and
wore hats with the intertwined knot without beginning and end that symbolizes
Next to the Buddhist temple the sheltered stage was erected and equipped
with all the quality light and sound equipment that became kind of standard
on music festivals. In contrast to the classical music that still is being
played in excellent sound amplifying architecture, most non-classical
music is nowadays amplified and thus adds to the original sound of the
instrument the amplified quality. The acoustic quality of the sound is
altered and it somehow looses its warmth and natural color. On the other
hand the open-air situation was quite attractive and allowed several thousand
people of all ages to take a live interest in the festival and the international
The public was most amazing – not only that it was a nice crowd
but also that there was no limit of age: mothers brought their babies
and children, and there were also many faces showing the signs of a long
life. EVERYBODY CAME. The most beautiful thing about the public was to
see all these curious children who were listening with big eyes and open
mouth to the familiar or unusual sound of the music… Unlike in western
societies where children are forcefully excluded from music, the Tuvinian
girls and boys got an exquisite chance to hear, see and learn!
THE NATIONAL / INTERNATIONAL MUSICIANS AND BANDS
In consequence Tuvinian people brought forward excellent musicians of
And the Festival was the opportunity to provide them with the necessary
ambiance for their talents.
Few are known in the European or American jazz context – among them
the band HUUN-HUUR-TU and the female overtone and throat singer SAINKHO
NAMTCHYLAK whose extraordinary voice got known thanks to the German bass
player and improviser PETER KOWALD†. And it was also Sainkho Namtchylak
who invited me in 2002 to Tuva and thus helped to establish the necessary
bindings to realize the Tuva Project.
The first formation to play was the National Orchestra from the capital
– ORKESTR NARODNYKH INSTRUMENTOV KYZYL – enchanting young
musicians who were precise in time, performing national treasures of music.
Some of the songs were interpreted again and again by the many groups
that followed and with the repetitions the melodies sunk into my mind,
sounding like the beat of the galloping horse hoofs on the steppe, or
the rhythm of the rising and descending mountain chains surrounding the
location, or the puzzling play of light reflections on the river Yenisei.
And the music told a story of joy, a meandering tale of sounds reaching
far out while my eyes were caught in the sparkling gowns and the flower
like hats of summer blossom elegance. Dancers came on stage with oversized
hats and masks - GRUPPA «ÉNE-SAJ» KYZYL – to
frighten the evil spirits to make them leave...
It was gorgeous. And when the security boundaries finely fell and the
public nearly boarded the stage with enthusiasm, the festival was perfect!
Musicians came from near and far, so JORMA TAPIO and his energetic free
jazz band from Finland GRUPPA «KASKI», or the celebrated avant-garde
GRUPPA «NEW A» from SAMARA, or ANDREJ RUDENKO from KAZAN who
had lived two years in Ireland... or the rock group TEATR «BOLNO
DALEKO» from the UKRAINA who traveled for several days to arrive
at the festival, or the wonderful flutist improviser HELEN BLEDSOE from
GERMANY and also from Germany HERBY WAGNER who performed his meditative
music inside the Buddhist temple, mostly unnoticed from the crowd... or
the young band «ARMAN» from KAZAKHSTAN and the stars of electric
music the GRUPPA «AJAN» from KYZYL.
Not to forget to mention NINI BANG and CHRISTINE FENTZ, the two young
lady singers and flute players from DENMARK who had toured with their
cheerful Viking music to the far east... or the traditional Russian choir
ANSAMBL «OKTAJ» from KYZYL.
GRUPPA «TYVA KYZY» from KYZYL is a beautiful women band.
CHODURAA TUMAT is leading the band and is strongly inspired by the Tuvinian
tradition. She also founded GRUPPA «TYVA KYZY – 2» KYZYL
which is a small orchestra of women student musicians. She will compose
a piece for the UNCOOL Festival 2006.
Present at the Festival was also KONGAR-OOL ONDAR, one of Tuva’s
master throat singers, founder of the one room museum of traditional Tuvinian
music instruments. He performed with the fantastic young band GRUPPA «ALASH»
from KYZYL. And ANATOLIJ KUULAR, throat singer, Byzaanchy and Homus player
and former member of the famous band HUUN-HUUR-TU showed his mastership
at the Festival as well.
About 40 bands, ensembles and orchestras were present, many of them from
the music school in Kyzyl. I would like to list here the bands I did not
ANDREJ OPEJ (BAJ-TAIGA), GRUPPA «SYRYNAL» KYZYL, GRUPPA «ADASHKYLAR»
OVJUR, VIA «CHINCHI-SAJ» CHELI-KHOLSKIJ KOZHUUN, GRUPPA «SYRYN»
OVJUR, BAJLAK MONGUSH (RSHI), ANSAMBL «OJNA» (RSHI), KVARTET
«NJUANS» ABAKAN, TRIO RSHI KYZYL, «AKUSTILESKAJA KRYSHCHA»
KRASNOJARSK, GRUPPA «SAJZYRAL» CHEDI-KHOL, GRUPPA «KOSHKUN
ARAT» KYZYL, GRUPPA «AMYRGA» KYZYL, GRUPPA «AZHYRBAS»
KYZYL, GRUPPA «CHELÉÉSH» CHADAN, GRUPPA «DUGAJ»,
GRUPPA «CHANGY-KHAJA» KYZYL, GRUPPA «MEZHEGEJ»
TANDY, GRUPPA «MOM» KYZYL, GRUPPA «KOSHKUN KHOGZHUM»
KYZYL, GRUPPA «GNILOROT» KYZYL, GRUPPA «SALGAL»
KYZYL, «CHADAANANYL SYZYRGAZY» CHADAN, GRUPPA «CHETVERTYJ
KVARTAL» KYZYL, OLEG KOLIADINTSEV - MOSCOW...
... And of course THE SUN RA ARKESTRA from USA under the direction of
MARSHALL ALLEN who joined the band in 1958 and never left it since! The
Sun Ra Arkestra was founded by SUN RA –
DEEP PURPLE AND SALT BLUE CLOUDS
IN A RAINBOW STAR LIT SKY
SUN RA WENT THERE WHEN HE LEFT THIS PLACE
IN A FLYING SAUCER THAT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
THE SECRET OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WAS
ABSTRACT MISTERY SONGS
SUN RA LEFT THEM WITH HIS ARKESTRA
AND THE SECRET SOURCES THAT ON THE PLANET STAY
HE SPOKE OF HELIOCENTRIC WORLDS AMONG THE PLANES OF SPACE
DISCIPLINES OF RA
AND THE FUTURE FIRE
AND THE ALIEN TOWER
HOW SO EVER HOW SO EVER HOW SO EVER
THEY ARE HERE TO STAY
MISTER MISTERY MISTER MISTERY MISTER MISTERY...
ART JENKINS poetry / MARSHALL ALLEN music
THE SUN RA ARKESTRA under the direction of Marshall Allen
- MUSIC FOR THE 21st CENTURY, El Ra Records 50322
The particularities of The Sun Ra Arkestra is their radiant appearance
in fantasy space suits and sparkling hats, the unforgettable swing which
makes you float with the music, the dances of the musicians when they
descend the stairs to bring the music to the public – A BETTER MUSIC
FOR A BETTER WORLD (Marshall Allen). The music is individually arranged
and evolves to perfect harmony and turbulent outbursts of flying sounds...
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE
ANYTHING YOUR HEART DESIRES
WILL COME TO YOU....
N. WASHINGTON and L. HARLET
sang ART JENKINS in his most tender voice to a smiling girl embedded
in his arms... Yeah, The Sun Ra Arkestra was the shining star of the Festival
and the public was dancing, waving their arms and clapping their hands.
WE TRAVEL THE SPACEWAYS FROM PLAET TO PLANET...
With this well known tune of Sun Ra and some cosmic hop the musicians
left one by one, leaving the melody suspended in the night.
The Festival area was populated with little kitchens, open fires and
stands where the public could buy all kind of food like PELMENI, SHASHLYK,
MILK-TEE or colorful wrapped CONFECT, but also traditional CLOTHES and
handmade souvenirs like the painted face of the MOUNTAIN SPIRIT on a piece
of bark. These structures were simply built, using just some wooden sticks
forming a room, the walls being made from cloth, each different from the
other, playful with colors and flowers or geometric patterns.
The musicians had their own restaurant – it reminded me of a Mediterranean
chalk whitened mono space with light tables and chairs and triangle folded
napkins in egg colored plastic holders. To the tasty meals, black tea
or white tea (with milk) was served and COMPOT, a delicious drink made
from boiled apples and dried raisins.
AI-TCHOUREK – MOON HEART
It was early afternoon I was meandering over the Festival campus. Out
of nowhere a strong whirling wind started to blow, chasing the dry earth.
To my surprise I could not detect any signs of a whether change in the
sky. But when I rubbed the dust out of my eyes, the Shaman AI-TCHOUREK
stood in front of me. She had just arrived by car from TOS DEER, one of
the Shaman centers in KYZYL. And then – the wind ceased as unexpected
as it had started.
I AM THE BROTHER OF THE WIND
I AM THE BROTHER OF THE WIND
WE ARE THE PATTERN FOR THE SPIRIT OF MAN
IF THE SPIRIT OF MAN IS STRONG
IT WILL BE AND DO AS I
AND MY BROTHER
ONLY FEW SPEAKS THAT I AM THE WIND
ONLY FEW SPEAKS THAT I AM THE BROTHER OF THE WIND
I THE WIND COME AND GO AS I CHOOSE
AND NONE CAN STOP ME
I THE WIND COME AND GO AS I CHOOSE
AND NONE CAN STOP ME
YOU CANNOT BREATHE WITHOUT THE WIND
YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE WIND
THE WIND IS THE AIR ALL AROUND YOU
IT CAN CRASH YOU IF IT WILL
WHAT COULD YOU DO TO DEFEND YOURSELF
SUN RA – SPACE IS THE PLACE, Film 1974
Shamanism was a natural part of the whole spiritual and cultural life
of the Tuvinian people. Like the Buddhist monks, also Shamans were persecuted
and forced to give up practicing their belief and profession during Soviet
Communism. Only recently thanks to the Perestroika, Shamans are again
allowed to practice their inherited knowledge and thus have founded various
Shamanistic centers where the ceremonies are celebrated, people are healed
and assisted in their needs and wishes.
The Shamans are the link between the WORLD of SPIRIT / NATURE and the
human beings. Their actions are directed to PURIFY, to SANCTIFY, to DIVINE,
to HEAL, to teach to SHARE, to receive ENERGY from the universe, to BALANCE
The Shamans use the ALGISH, the Shamanistic CHANT together with a regular
strong rhythm on the BUBEN – the large tambourine, sometimes decorated
with 9 times 3 knots in a row around the skin wrapped wooden rim or sometimes
with magic paintings on the drum membrane. The drum is beaten with a fur-covered
drumstick with ringing metals attached to it.
Their rites are highly artistic: involving MUSIC, DANCE, POETIC RECITATION,
RITUAL HEADGEAR and COSTUME made of cloth and various animal attributes
– like eagle feathers, bear claws, musk deer bones and teeth, furs
and horsehair – and the AEREN, the spirit puppet that sustains the
shamanistic work. Juniper ARTISH – a delicious smelling and purifying
incense – is regularly burnt during all ceremonies.
AI-TCHOUREK – MOON HEART has arrived in time to catch the last
day of concerts and she performed together with CHODURAA TUMAT and MARSHALL
ALLEN a very beautiful inspired piece of music using the DEMIR-HOMUS,
the metal Jew’s harp…
The concerts ended and the full moon was hovering over the mountain silhouette
– some musicians from east and west gathered around a fire, intonating
tunes to improvised poetry… Marshall and I walked over to one of
the open-air kitchens to get a bite. The landlady made us understand with
hands and mimics that she personally appreciated The Sun Ra Arkestra very
much and offered us a nice cup of hot milk tea – just the right
thing in this slightly chilly Siberian night before slipping between the
warm blanket and the mattress which were provided by numerous people of
TUVINIAN CULTURE: HORSE RACE, WRESTLING and ROPE DANCING
The Festival’s concept was to integrate besides traditional and
contemporary music, Buddhist ceremonies and Shamanistic rites also other
forms of Tuvinian culture, namely HORSE RACING, WRESTLING and ROPE DANCING
(at the Milk Lake that I missed).
The land is so vast that nobody worries about erecting a hippodrome.
The riders ride their horses without a saddle and just queue up in one
line – then the race starts and they gallop over the steppe, leaving
clouds of dust behind them. When one nearly lost them out of sight that’s
where the winner was determined – it was an elegant slender white
horse and his talented rider.
The day was extremely hot and the sun burned down on the spectators’
ring in which middle young men presented themselves, holding their arms
spread like eagles and clutching their naked thighs with a loud convincing
sound. Then they were called in pairs, the aim being to bring to fall
the adversary – who touches the ground first lost the fight…
Knoel Scott was proud to participate. He looked gorgeous in the large
boots, the blue slipper and the long green sleeves on his arms, showing
his well-built muscles and rocking while approaching a young man who looked
quite meager compared to him. But then, it only took a split second of
the well-calculated attack and Knoel stumbled over the other’s leg
and was on the ground… His heroic attempt was celebrated with an
THE TRAVEL TO THE MOUNTAINS AT THE MILK LAKE
We left some of the luggage at the Buddhist monastery and after the hurry
we were taken to a restaurant in town for breakfast/lunch, then stuffed
into buses and the journey began to the TAIGA – the mountains driving
northwest from Chadana.
At the district border the mayor of the Milk Lake district and some beautiful
traditionally dressed up girls welcomed us with milk tea and shiny blue
Then we went on, the asphalted road turned into a natural one, leading
through rivulets, woodland and along a wild mountainous valley. At the
riverside willows and birches were growing.
Next stop at a spiritual place where three rocks – one bigger than
the other – laid on a rock socket next to an OVAA. Now the men were
asked to carry each rock (or at least one of them) once around the socket
in order to get good fortune.
Luggage was unloaded, newly packed in the jeeps and smaller buses and
the journey was continued over hills, across larch woods. When we stopped
to admire the extending mountain chains in their melodic order vanishing
in the summer heat, I decided to walk to the top of the hill from where
I expected to see the lake.
What I saw was a picture out of a fairy tale – under the sprouting
green of a larch tree against the shelter of a rock wall a fancy saddled
brown horse with black mane and tail stood in the middle of a flock of
intensive ultramarine flowers spreading their blue butterfly like wings.
The horse raised his head and chewing the spicy grass he looked at my
The view from the top flew over the wood- and the marshland to the shining
bright lake that lay in SILENCE at the foot of the KYZYL TAIGA, the RED
Walking downhill with IOURI from the Samara Festival through the splendor
of the larch wood, sinking in the thick soft mossy ground so the movements
became somewhat like slow motion with a pronounced up, forward and down
rhythm. That was a glorious feeling! The wood was wild and untouched by
humans with an unknown variety of flowers and grasses and when we reached
the marshland at the lakeside the diversity of flowers and colors even
increased provoking a feeling of luck and happiness. I never saw such
natural beauty and I understood that it is the changing difference of
appearance and expression that makes the beauty – not the few monocultures
that became so prominent in the European land. Yeah! I was really blessed
to see the joyful richness of the biodiversity.
You can now also understand the respectful design of the upward curved
tip of the Tuvinian boots said to spare the plants while walking...
When I reached the track again a jeep came along and the people jumped
out, introduced themselves of being members of the medical staff, here
to guarantee our health and they offered me a cup of hot milk tea which
tasted so good after the walk and of course they took a picture with all
So I arrived at the camp – a wooden one room house, an inclined
yurt on the slope, a hut which turned out to be the kitchen with a fire
in front of it and tied to a larch tree a sheep was sadly waiting to be
slaughtered, many tents between the trees and some other fires where people
boiled water for tea or tried to dry their clothes and shoes. Just a sprinkle
of rain fell and at the wooden table bred, canned sardines and milk tea
was served for the newly arrivers who wished to wear Tuvinian boots in
order not to walk on the EDELWEISS (Leontopodium alpinum) that was growing
all over the place! The Edelweiss is a Siberian native flower, which immigrated
to Europe during the ice age and became the symbol of the Alps.
СУТ - ХОЛ – SÜT-KHOL
MILK LAKE about 1800 meters above sea level
Marshall Allen and myself took a walk to the lakeside being closely watched
by three people in a small boat, following us in short distance. Their
concern turned out to be justified: It seemed that the water trapped us.
In an attempt to return to the camp Marshall sunk into the swamp up to
his knees and when he pulled out his leg the sandal was missing…
So he got from Art Jenkins a pair of dry trousers and from the landlord
a pair of hand knitted rose colored socks, riding boots and a large sheep
skin coat to keep him perfectly warm in this rough mountainous climate.
The spirit of the Milk Lake is a young powerful woman. It is said not
to swim in the lake, and women should not even touch the lake, otherwise
one should expect bad fortune... This is why we could drink the water
out of the lake – it is balanced tasteful sound water.
The first night in the smaller yurt on an uneven and inclined ground
was cold, wet and the truck with the mattresses and blankets did not arrive
but the next morning. So we pealed out of layers of clothes and some sheets
and it was a relief to find the sun shining, warming the stiff limbs…
On a plateau nearby people started gathering for the Buddhist Ceremony.
The black kites drew in and flew their circles above the praying community.
The air was unpolluted clear. And there was this precious feeling of PEACE
Later, nomads brought their horses for the musicians to ride. The natives’
relationship between man and horse is very close. It is said that the
horse makes the choice of the rider. If it likes you, it serves you, if
not, you’ve got no chance. So some musicians got a chance to ride
a willing horse… It was YAHYA ABDOUL-MAJID to tell me that horseback
riding was his long longed for dream that fulfilled itself in this PARADISE,
way out from the noisy civilization of the cities.
Next day it was AI-TCHOUREK’s turn to prepare the ceremony. Together
with another Shaman lady she had erected a pyramidal structure of three
about 3m high larch stems and had decorated them with white ribbons. In
the center was a small stone circle, the beginning of an OVAA… since
people not only put coins and sweets there but also stones.
Nearby she made a pit for the fire that needed to be lit by the oldest
man. Rice, candies, confect, cookies, cigarettes were offered to the fire
and to the spirits who take up the gifts through the dancing smoke…
Ai-Tchourek played her drum and sang her shamanistic song ALGISH, stepping
in swinging movements around the fire.
Then she gave Marshall Allen a HOMUS, jaws harp in a beautifully carved
box and a special protection for the Sun Ra House, a little red bag with
rice and other spiritual materials in it and a bear’s claw attached
to it among colorful strings and pearls.
For me she had chosen a large bracelet of turquoise, lapis lazuli, jade
and unakit / epidot stones – all of them with a beneficial meaning.
For each musician she had prepared the ARTISH – juniper twigs bound
together with colorful strings: violet of a sun set, rosy-red, turquoise-blue
and lemon yellow. The ArtIsh is meant to be lit in times of crisis and
would enhance the positive outcome…
The afternoon offered the performance of the ROPE DANCERS and Tuvinian
songs presented by various singers – among them a young lad from
Chicago who married in Tuva and lives there since, speaking fluently Russian
and Tuvinian and singing the KARGYRAA – deep melodic sounds from
FIRE OF FRIENDSHIP
With the dawn the FIRE OF FRIENDSHIP was prepared, using long stems of
larch trees and some branches, petrol was poured over them, because the
wood was quite wet from all the raining. But many international friends
were missing, taking a warming up rest in the yurt from a rather cool
day. Even Marshall didn’t want to leave the shelter of the yurt
and step out in the wet chilly night.
The fire was lit and in an explosive rush, the petrol was consumed and
the fire vanished leaving a little flame in the middle of the stack. Two
Tuvinian friends tried with much care to keep the little flame going and
expanding… Out of nowhere a lightning flashed, the thunder broke
loose hardly without delay, a second flash highlighted the scene, then
even before the next roar of the thunder was heard, rain pored down like
a flood, the track became slippery in a moment and we were running for
shelter across the wood up and down the hill to the yurt…
My hat, jacket, trousers and shoes were soaked, although some nice man
in a camouflage dress helped with a rag of a pelerine to keep the worst
away from us. Inside the yurt it was damp and dark and crowded. But in
the light of a torch I saw Marshall rescuing mattresses and luggage from
the rain that was falling through the roof exactly where his place was.
Finally someone came with plastic sheets to dam the leak. It worked. Marshall
said that with the tempest there was a strong wind stroke, it shook the
yurt so violently that he thought he would take off together with the
yurt, the luggage, the mattress, covers, cloths, instruments!
It was crowded in the yurt. We slept like sardines in a can. And when
the morning noodle soup was served, it still looked kind of rainy grey
outside. Someone came to tell the musicians to jam in the yurt with the
others. Then someone came to call us for Ai-Tchourek’s ceremony
for the sun. She blew her seashell that had a deep sound and we stood
in several half-circle rows, taking each other by the hand, stretching
the arms to the sky, making a joyful AAAAA…
Someone said that the calls were not going to help, one needed only to
see the meteorological map to know that we were in a depression…
HERBY WAGNER, the German musician suggested to sing the C sharp, the
sound of the sun which he could play on his SHRUTI BOX as a continuous
tone. So a very delicate improvisation evolved with all the musicians
who gathered in the yurt playing their instruments of all kind –
string, wind, reed, brass, percussion, and voice… It was an improvisation
on the sound of the sun under the sun-shaped construction of the yurt
and when the piece came to a suspended silence, the sun smiled in the
bright sky and white clouds disappeared behind the KYZYL TAIGA, the red
Next day we left – not in a hurry, but after having lunch at least
twice, taking a rest in the sun, taking a last round on a horse back,
memorizing the beautiful view over the Milk Lake to the bluish mountain
chains in the far distant where the clouds gathered and were dripping
over the woods and slopes.
I happened to walk with a small flock of musicians barefooted through
the swamp, feeling the fresh pure water on my feet like a superb massage.
Then we took a small path through the woods and had a break at a nomad’s
yurt. We were hosted with fresh delicate kind of cottage cheese, golden
butter and cream cheese, bread and milk tea. Then one of the goats was
slaughtered and in a wooden saucer boiled blood sausages, intestines,
heart and liver were served and also the fatty parts and the muscle flesh.
Fat is considered as specially precious and tasteful and it is an honor
to get it offered.
Then we were picked up by some bus and driven straight away to the PUBLIC
BATH in СУТ-АКСЫ – SYT-AKSY.
The bath was strictly divided into women and men side. Out of two huge
tubes hot and cold water was obtained and mixed in enamel basins. It felt
so nice to poor the warm water over head and shoulders and relax legs
and feet washing off the heat of the day.
The concert took place at the stadium of this village where Igor and
the best wrestlers are born – it was just a fairly large space rimmed
by wooden tribunes and as ground an irregular pattern of vegetation and
dusty earth. It was crowded and everybody wanted a picture shot with the
musicians coming from far away, now in their space costumes that sparkled
in the warm-colored rays of the sunset. And in the eyes of the many curious
children who sat packed next to each other reflected the joy and surprise
this music evoked.
The sun set and the glasses with Vodka were lifted to toast to the INTERNATIONAL
FRIENDSHIP and MUSIC accompanied with the finest dishes of Tuvinian cooking
and excellent hosting. The head of the SÜT-KHOL district and the
mayor of the village SÜT-AKSY let us all feel their warm welcome.
KNOEL SCOTT had a very personal speech telling about what he saw at the
MILK LAKE and what the shaman had confirmed to be a good and potent sign
for his future. It was dancing human shaped figures, beautifully moving,
hovering, gliding, drawing in over the water in circles, and as they vanished
a coyote showed up, turning into a horse, who himself turning into an
eagle, who then disappeared in the foggy sky.
RIDING INTO DAWN ON A BUS
The bus roared on the abandoned road, taking a stop from time to time,
some Vodka bottles passed, some snore, some hummed tune, some song, some
joke, some something and cigarettes at the stops. DAWN – the nights
in the northern summer are cool and irritatingly short. The orange line
drawn on the eastern horizon showed in the front bus window was sliding
into the blue velvet of the night sewed with blinking sparkling stars
in such an unknown density that diamonds would look pale in comparison!
KYZYL – THE RED CAPITAL
We picked up our luggage from the Temple in Chadana and arrived with
the new day in KYZYL at the Hotel MONGÜLEK. Mongülek means “white”
in Tuvinian, white as the MONGÜLEK TAIGA, the White Mountains –
referring to the white colored rock. White is the color of the SPIRITS
and a white way is an open way evolving smoothly into the future...
In front of the Hotel MONGÜLEK was a blue sheltered bar that opened
early and stayed open long enough to satisfy the guest’s need. Later
in the day there would be also a couple of young folks grilling SHASHLIK
on a charcoal fire, serving it with sliced onions, soft white bread and
ketchup upon request – that’s the TUVINIAN FAST FOOD.
The shaman center TOS DEER (meaning nine skies) hosted us with traditional
food – such as boiled sheep, special cheese, double cream, rice
or noodles with meat, some cucumber, tomato and carrot salads, cookies
and sweets, and of course milk-tea or powder coffee.
TOS DEER is situated at the river YENISEI and composed of a main wooden
building and two yurts – one for the family in charge of the domestic
works and cooking, one for the guests. In front of the building was a
large OVAA decorated with many colorful CHALAMA hanging from several branches
and strings between the branches. Next to the Ovaa a circular fireplace
was situated where the ritual fires are celebrated and next to it you
found a ritual circle made out of 9 poles – 9 the number of the
skies – which were connected with each other by Chalama decorated
THE STONE CIRCLE
With the celebration of the GREEN LEAVES – the summer ritual celebrated
with the appearance of the siege of the growing moon in the evening sky
– AI-TCHOUREK together with the shamans of the center transformed
the OVAA into a STONE CERCLE using the 9 poles as outer delimitation and
burying the branches with the CHALAMA under it.
During the ritual all the AEREN, the magic puppets were seated on the
stone circle. The shaman gathered, AI-TCHOUREK lit her pipe and smoked
for the spirits, she then did benedict some ritual objects, people gave
her together with special wishes for others and themselves, she dipped
it in milk in a wooden bowl, speaking words of wisdom over it and hand
it back. She would also spread the milk with a large wooden spoon over
the stone circle, into the sky – for the moon, the stars and the
The fire was lit, the hip part of the sheep, looking like a face bearing
horns and being stuffed with rice, butter, cookies, colorful sweets was
placed in the fire while the drumming and singing of the ALGISH filled
the air. People were sitting on trunks closely next to each other, hands
folded and minds meandering in good thoughts, following the flying movements
of the shamans, the fire, the upcoming wind, listening to the sounds and
meaning of the chants, the rhythms of the drums which reflected the individual
player in its pace and intonation, but was merging with the others into
a song, a melody, a wish, a future.
We were given some fresh crumbling cheese to strew into the fire and
onto the stone circle. THE MOON WAS RISING dancing as a brilliant siege
over the river, meandering color from mother pearl to night blue twilight
in the changing reflection of the water.
As the shamans danced by behind our backs, a couple of strokes with the
shamans’ whip hit our shoulders – it did not hurt but was
strong enough to feel the potential power. The fire devoured the gifted
food completely, the drumming and chanting ceased and AI-TCHOUREK gave
a speech in her strong voice leaving no doubt about her message in this
beautiful poetic language sounding like a gurgling rivulet, like the galloping
of horses, like the song of the wind...
SPACE IS THE PLACE...
The last concert of THE SUN RA ARKESTRA and most of the Festival musicians
was in the stadium of KYZYL where the festival stage was rebuilt. In the
evening several thousand people gathered and the tribune was packed –
again many young people and children. The evening was mild, the amplified
sound overwhelming and the music opening minds and hearts – as Igor
said: What no government was able to do in 50 years of regime the Sun
Ra Arkestra was – the joy of a future perspective –
SPACE IS THE PLACE, YEAH SPACE IS THE PLACE
... And with another cosmic hop they left Kyzyl and Tuva but probably
to be invited back in the near future, renewing the friendship, which
started to sprout...
LAST GLANCE OVER THE RIVER YENISEI
It was early in the morning, when we left the guest yurt of TOS DEER
- where we had gathered for my farewell, all of us eager to build a world
of MUSIC and PEACE. I gave a last glance through the willow branches to
the river YENISEI – the Mother of Siberia – that reflected
the awaking colors of the sky and these are the words of the tune that
crossed my mind....
LOVE IN ITS SPLENDOUR
REACHES OUT TO A LOVER LIKE ME AGAIN
SUNRISE IN LOVE LOVE LOVE EVER LASTING
LOVE EVER LASTING
SPEAKS TO ME IN METAPHYSICAL HARMONIES
WE MOVE TO CELESTIAL RHYTHMS RARE
UP WORD AND OUT WORD TO DELIGHT IN THE MYSTERIES
FOR THE WORLD TO SEE
IN OUTER SPACE
LOVE FOR EVERY FACE
I thank Marshall Allen and the musicians of The Sun Ra Arkestra to have
followed the call for Siberia, for Tuva and the Ustuu-Huree Festival and
I thank Igor Dulush, the Tuvinian TV, the interpreters and the festival
crew for their great help and support. I am grateful to all musicians
for their inspired music and I express my special thanks to The Government
of the Republic of Tuva, especially to the Ministry of Culture for their
most precious financial support and the generous care!
BE YOUR WAY WHITE!
Cornelia Müller la ciaf