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Alash Ensemble

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Biography

The musicians of Alash are Nachyn Choodu, Ayan-ool Sam, Ayan Shirizhik, and Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, all of whom were trained in traditional Tuvan music since childhood. Bady-Dorzhu Ondar and Ayan-ool Sam both studied with master throat singer Kongar-ool Ondar at the Republic School for the Arts in Kyzyl.

In 1999, when the young musicians were students at the Kyzyl Arts College, they started a group called Changy-Xaya that became the resident traditional ensemble at the school. At the same time, however, they were learning harmony, theory, staff notation and western classical music. They began to incorporate non-traditional elements and instruments that mesh well with the sound and feel of traditional Tuvan music. They use old instruments such as the murgu, shoor, and limpi (wind instruments) that are not frequently played in Tuva today, as well as distinctly western instruments such as the guitar and accordion.

The outgrowth of this musical exploration is the ensemble Alash, which is named for the Alash River that flows through the musicians’ home region of Tuva. Kongar-ool Ondar is the artistic director, and he has played a key role in the development of the ensemble.

In 2004, Alash won first prize at the International “Xoomei” (throat singing) Symposium” competition. In 2005, ensemble member Bady-Dorzhu Ondar was named the best male singer at the Ustuu-Khuree festival. In 2007, Alash member Bady-Dorzhu Ondar was named People’s Xöömeizhi (throat singer) of the Republic of Tuva, the youngest person ever to receive this prestigious award.

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