1. Yrlaazhyyly (Let's Sing)
This song refers to the tradition of Oitulaash, where Tuvan youth from neighboring herding camps meet in the moonlight to sing, improvising lyrics that are often flirtatious. The "box" refers to a bayan (accordion).
Late tonight when it's nice and cool,
Let's go out and have some fun.
Let's go sing for the hale and hearty
Guys and girls all around.
Hey friend, where's that box
That sings with our friends?
Bring it along.
Here's to the hale and hearty guys and girls!
Come on, let's sing!
2. My Throat, the Ediski
The ediski is a hunter's call made from grass. Xððmei is the Tuvan word for throat singing.
The black crane's early cry covers the cuckoo's call.
My throat, like the ediski, warms my friends' hearts.
My horse-head igil shakes its head and whinnies.
I am the bearer of my ancestors' song, xððmei.
3. Ediskileer Angchy-la Men
I'm a hunter, calling with my ediski in the forest.
If I saddle up and head out, I'll come back with a deer.
I'm a hunter, a hunter of forest animals.
If I ride out, I'll come back with one across the saddle.
Sighting my steel gun among the birches,
I'm quite the crack shot.
4. Ondar Girls
The Ondars are one of the major clans of Tuva, traditionally from the Xemchik river valley regions of Süt‑Xðl and Chððn-Xemchik. They are well known for their artistic talents and their feistiness.
In the forest at the river bend,
The spruces are beautiful because they're ever-green.
Oh, how I've come to love life at the river bend,
With the sweet daughter of the Ondars, my dearest friend.
Get me to the Ondars and quickly, my yellow roan.
Get me to my friend, the middle daughter of the Ondars.
Instrumental piece featuring Tuvan jaw harps (xomustar) made by masster harp maker Oleg Xomushku, whose family name means "maker of jaw harps."
6. Xðngnüm Bile Salyp Berein
My xöömei comes from my soul.
My sygyt whistles like the winds.
To all people I sing my kargyraa.
7. Tractor Drivin' Woman
Traditional melody with lyrics by Stepan Saryg-ool. This type of theme was popular in Tuva in the early to mid-20th century.
Honey, ever since I got a good look at you,
I've been stretched out like a lasso thinkin' of you.
When I first saw you plowin' a field on your tractor,
Your clothes were oily and smelled like gas,
But your face was shining like the sun.
I've fallen in love with you and only you, and that's the truth.
How 'bout we join our fates and live together in one place?
8. Kosh-oi and Torgalyg
Melody by A.B. Chyrgal-ool, lyrics by Stepan Saryg-ool
Kosh-oi and Torgalyg are two rivers which the poet compares to two sisters wearing beautiful clothes.
Like two girls walking hand in hand,
Look how lovely are Kosh-oi and Torgalyg,
Two rivers like sisters in beautiful clothes,
Grains and pastures as their ornaments.
Blessings to the devoted people
Whose toil beautifies our native land.
9. Sygyt in the Style of Maxim Dakpai
Maxim Dakpai (1921-1999) was a renowned throat singer from the village of Iyme in Tuva.
Bai-Taiga is a revered mountain in the far west of Tuva. This song is dedicated to the mountain and the spirits which inhabit it.
Bai-Taiga, whose slopes descend and descend from on high,
With your lofty head and steppes at your waist,
O my taiga, bountiful master spirit.
O my taiga, whose slopes go on and on,
With your lofty shoulders,
The wealthy stayed at your hem and never moved on.
11. The Reindeer Herder's Song
The reindeer herders of Tozhu, in northeast Tuva, are a distinct people who speak their own dialect, live in bark or hide tepees rather than yurts, and are great hunters.
I don't get stuck in the taiga,
I don't get caught in the rapids.
I'm a reindeer herder and a tireless hunter.
When we hunt sables, we cut through the rough.
My animals stay strong when we're on the move.
In this glorious land, fragrant with herbs and grass,
I'm a herder of reindeer, the most amazing animal.
12. Murgu Solo
The murgu is a fipple overtone flute with no holes, made from the stalk of the angelica plant.
Buura ("bull camel") Mountain is the highest mountain in the Ulug-Xem region of Tuva. It is encircled by two branches of a stream called Demir-Sug ("metal water"). It is said that on top of the mountain sits the rusting frame of a great metal raft.
O Buura, Bull Camel Mountain,
Confined by the waters of Demir-Sug,
O Buura, the fierce bull camel,
Penned by the waters of Demi-Sug—
If I could just hide out on top of Buura mountain,
If I could just blaze a path on my bay roan horse,
If I could just look out from the high top of Buura,
If I could just take off on my long-mained roan!
Executive Producer: Sean Quirk
Recorded and mixed by Richard Battaglia at VixMix, Nashville, TN
Mastered by Jim DeMain of Yes Master Studios, Nashville, TN
Cover: detail from "Song of Shambhala" (1943) by Nicholas Roerich, courtesy of State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow
Cover photo of Alash by Johanna Kovitz
Photos of individual Alash musicians by Peter Hasslebach