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Biography

Vladimir Karuev (Russian: Владимир Каруев) is the national jangartschi. He was born on the way home from exile in Siberia in 1957. His Russian name is Vladimir Karuev, but when he was born, his mother gave him the Kalmyk name Okna Tsagan Zam (Kalmyk: Окна Цаhан Зам, Russian: Окна Цаган Зам). Tsagan Zam means The White Road, in a free translation means something like “The way to freedom”, Okna is his father’s name.

For several years he has devoted himself to preserving Kalmyk epics by rooting it in the culture. This has led him to practice different techniques of overtone singing from Mongolia, Tuva and Tibet.

When he was a young boy he dreamed that an old man told him to sing the Djangar, but he did not want to sing, however strange forces pushed him. He started to sing parts of the Djangar epic only for friends.

Then in 1987 he started to sing in public and in 1990, on the anniversary of Djangar, he received the title of National Kalmyk Djangartschi. Then he was invited to a festival in Paris, it was the start of many concerts in Western Europe and Russia, later followed concerts in Japan, India and the USA.

The ‘Djangar’ is a centuries old heroic story, a source of ancient wisdom, the singers of this epic are called ‘Djangartschi’. Most of the energy of Tsagan Zam is devoted to bring the old culture and traditions back to the people. In the summer he organizes camp holidays for Kalmyk children on the steppe at Godschur. Here they learn about the Djangar and the old nearly forgotten culture and traditions, but also their own Kalmyk language, old sports like bowing, spear throwing, wrestling and horse riding.

Vladimir Karuev says how he got interested in folklore: "Once I felt a kind of blood call, as if an invisible force drove me to start collecting tales of my predecessors. I used to have dreams about my forefathers, retelling me our national folk tales. I began to visit villages and settlements and then perform folk tales, or what we call jengre tales. For me jengre is amazing wealth about which many of my compatriots have forgot".

He recently founded a cultural village at Godjur (80km North of Elista) where he raises horses and tries to collect and bring back to life various aspects of Kalmyk culture. Thanks to Karuev young Kalmyk people are studying national tales and mastering the guttural singing technique. Last year Kalmykia's folk tales performed by Vladimir Karuev were put on the UNESCO list of the world's cultural treasures.

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