According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Throat singing is “a range of singing styles in which a single vocalist sounds more than one pitch simultaneously by reinforcing certain harmonics (overtones and undertones) of the fundamental pitch. In some styles, harmonic melodies are sounded above a fundamental vocal drone.”
Throat singing was organically called overtone singing in Western literature. Then it was later called throat-singing (a translation of the Mongolian term höömei). It’s a beautiful style of singing that shows the versatility and range of the human voice not to mention our love and admiration of variety.
“Throat-singing necessitates activating different combinations of muscles to manipulate the resonating chambers of the vocal tract under sustained pressurized airflow from the stomach and chest. As with operatic singing, the technique requires years of training to master,” reads the Britannica Encyclopedia.
“Every time that we use our voice, we have a fundamental frequency,” Aaron Johnson, a speech and language pathologist at New York University’s Voice Center explains to PRI that throat singers have an amazing grasp of the sounds produced and further intensifying those sounds.
“They’re making adjustments within the tube above the larynx, a little above the vocal folds, which is the back of the throat and the space in the mouth. And by adjusting the lips and the height of the larynx, which is where the vocal folds are, and changing the tongue position, they can then resonate and amplify that harmonic, which then again sounds as a separate pitch that’s happening.”
It’s a style of singing that’s used throughout the world and throughout different cultures including Mongolia, Russia (the republics of Khakassia, Tyva, Altay, and Buryatia), South Arica, Canada, China, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet.
Each of them has its own variations, styles and traditions. For example, western Mongolia styles are identified by parts of the body that is manipulated for the pitch and timbre of the throat singing such as the throat, palate, tongue, and so on. Western Khalkhas throat singing use rather deep bass without a distinct melody.
In many countries, unfortunately, it was forbidden during the first half of the 20th century in communist regimes, as well as throughout Canada. During periods of Canada’s darker history, Inuit performers were banned from performing by the church as a way to colonize the aboriginal culture.
Initially forbidden by the communist regimes of the first half of the 20th century on account of its ritual and ethnic associations and because it was considered a “backward” practice, throat-singing became re-established as a national art form during the 1980s in both Mongolia and Russia.
Across the world, this genre of music has been revived by younger generations, and older generations alike bringing the traditions forward again There are fantastic covers that combine the traditions of throat singing with modern songs.
This cover of Linkin Park’s “Numb” is a tribute to each member of the band and specifically Chester Bennington. With aspects of Tuvan throat singing, this song brings forward the power of Kuular’s voice with the power of Linkin Park’s Lyrics!
Combining Central Asian and Mongolian folk music with metal, Tengger Cavalry Official has created a new genre called Nomadic Metal! Taking the popular theme song to Game Of Thrones and presenting it as Nomadic Metal. It’s a chilling and beautifully haunting cover!
Coming from The Witcher franchise, is this amazing cover of “Silver for Monsters“. If you haven’t listened to the original, there’s the link! Using dombıra and throat singing, Akdeniz Erbaş brings a new level of magic to this magical franchise.
Brought to you by Ra Djan, this cover of “Firestarter” is leading more into the grunge side of throat singing. The original by Prodigy was quite edgy. Adding in Ra Djan’s throat singing added a whole new level of edge!
Combining Tanya Tagaq and Damian Abraham‘s amazing vocals into one single cover seems like it’s too good to be true. Trust me, it’s even better than you can imagine. Tanya Tagaq is a Canadian Inuk throat singer from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Damian Abraham is the punk vocalist for the band Fucked Up. Together they make this Iron Maiden cover of “Run To The Hills” beyond amazing. It’s dark, energetic and hauntingly beautiful!