For an American, when one hears the words “Folk Music” it is easy to think of some of the greats like Cat Stevens, Doc Watson, and Emmylou Harris. Today, we add names like Huun-Huur-Tu and Alash Ensemble to that list. Central Asian Folk Music has been around longer than its American counterpart and that means there has been a lot of refining of this pleasant and humbly epic sound. Often speaking of similar themes like we would hear in American Folk, Central Asian Folk talks about the life of living in the plains, the beauty of nature, and the human experience. Here is one of my favorite examples:
I’ll leave the lyrical translation below the video, but I invite you to listen to it with open ears and try and explore its meaning for yourself without reference before jumping to the lyrics.
Note: Alash refers to the Alash River in Tuva. Tuva is a Russian Republic in East Siberia
If only I could plant some sula
By the lazy flowing Alash,
If only I could get to the village
Of that flirtatious little darling!
I've planted my grains
By the side of the rising Alash.
How did I ever end up
With this terribly attractive lass?
If only I could sow some barley
By the flowing Alash,
If only I could make it to the aal
Of that sweet little darlin'!
If only I could sow some wheat
By the rapids of Alash,
If only I could caress the black tresses
Of that laughing little darlin'!
If only I could sow some chinge taraa
By the smooth-flowing waters of Alash,
If only I could plant a kiss
On the cheek of that pretty darlin!
Translation provided by: https://www.alashensemble.com/AlashStudioLinerNotes.htm
Humanity, even in something that may seem so foreign, is always present. We long for companionship, for happiness, for the opportunity to live out our dreams. All of this can be felt without even knowing the words and that is one of the reasons I have such a fondness for this music. It is a shining example of how far emotion can be carried with just sound. Here is an example of another of my favorites and one that taps into the pride of the culture of singing in this style:
When I was much younger I would hear my late grandfather listen to CD after CD of Scottish bagpipers. The sound was nauseating to me. I thought, “How could anyone listen to such a shrill and terrible sound? Who would ever think that this could be regarded as REAL music?” Which is what many say about Tuvan Throat singing. Both are certainly different sounds that may not be for everyone. However, what I see now versus when I was a child is that music and self expression take many different forms. Self expression in itself can hold so much beauty, and once you can appreciate that in others you can enjoy it for yourself.
Tuvan Throat singing and Central Asian Folk music speaks to me the same way that bagpipes spoke to my grandfather. To this day I still can’t stand the sounds of bagpipes but I still listen to this music to experience the expression from a culture foreign to me. Not to sound high and mighty, but I can now understand it all on a different level. That level is one that I invite you to join me on. Music can serve many different purposes in life, and I wholeheartedly think that opening yourself up to new sounds will open you up to new experiences. If you’re having trouble with that, let this music be a place to start.
Listen to our Central Asain Folk Music Playlist Below
Robert Mayper’s goal is to spotlight the hottest and most unique artistic talent there is. He has years of experience curating music, producing online content, and being a radio host. As the founder of Taste Music, he is always scouring the music scene to find the top undiscovered and established artists worth knowing about. If you want to have your art spotlighted on Taste Music, reach out to him at email@example.com