Music for the soul(and for light bodies) by Roberto Gatti

Sainkho Namchylak
Naked Spirit

Her business card is called "Time out" and it’s an album reserved for friends and fierce fans, for only 500 copies have been releases. It practically can not be found in a common record store. Despite all, Sainkho Namchylak the great musician from Tuva which has invented and produced this record alone, with the fundamental contribution of some excellent muscovite musicians, finds it equally fundamental. Two reasons make this album fundamental, fist because it marks her return to the spotlight, after a hideous disease (brain tumor to be precise), discovered by chance, seemed to have condemned her.
Secondly, for the album’s subtitle literally reads "Seven songs for Tuva," this is enough to demonstrate that after years of vocal experimentation the bonds that tie her to her land of origin, squeezed between Mongolia and Siberia, are still strong.


Today Sainkho is here, relaxed and smiling, ready to answer all types of questions, and to reaffirm the concept clearly stated in the footnotes on the album’s jacket, "I hope that my people will finally be able to understand that I am an artist of the world, and that the music I make does not have boundaries, neither geographic, nor of genre, or style. For mine is essentially a message of love."

Let us start from "Time out," Mrs. Namchylak, it is an album of "pure" songs, thus very strange for those used to hearing you duet with Evan Parker’s saxophone or with Peter Kowald’s double bass …
"I’m sure. But you see, after a good seven years completely dedicated to vocal experimentation I find it right to take a step back. Or maybe, who knows, a step forward, since my actual intention was to insert in the body of the songs all that I had learned from my experimentation. In fact lately I am studying very simple things, mostly operas and songbooks by many modern authors, Beatles included. I can not deny that this "discovery" has helped me a lot, especially in fighting the inevitable after disease depression. In short, it made me happy."

You have started your career as a folk singer, what pushed you, at a certain point to undertake the road of experimentation?
"The bitter discovery that in reality there was no place for my voice in the folk world. I was too cultured, too ductile and withdrawn for the liking of the common people. So, about ten years ago, as I was telling you, I started expanding my parameters. While doing this I was lucky enough to run into extraordinary musicians like Parker and Kowald, people that make of their music a reason to exist, and do not make compromises of any sort. I learned a lot from them, and for this reason, today I am ready to return to my roots, enriching them with all that I have learned along the way…"

In reality, the traditional form of chanting in your country the so called "throat chanting" starts to be known in from us. It wasn’t by chance that an extraordinary vocalist such as Demetrio Stratos, whom prematurely disappeared in 1979, had used it as parameters of reference for his vocal art …
"Many have told me this, unfortunately I have not been able to hear Demetrio, neither live nor from his albums, but I hope to be able to do it soon. Anyway, Tuva’s vocal patrimony is absolutely extraordinary; it’s a pleasure to see that a growing number of artists is being seriously influenced by it …"

Can you tell us, in a few words, what this patrimony consists of?
"With great pleasure. In Tuva’s throat singing there are essentially two main streams, the "daily light songs" and the "cult music". The first stream is composed of lyric songs intimately tied with the love of nature and by "work songs", which are similar to the homologous songs of the African-American folk tradition, and make working more acceptable and harmonious. In fact, the goal of work songs is to create a strong enough bond with the animals, sheep, donkeys, yaks and other such pack animals…"

And what is "cult music" instead?
"It’s a much more ritual type of music, more sacred, if you’d rather. Within it are "greeting songs" or songs for the spirit (that of men and also nature), shamanic songs, simple melodies which are to be repeated "ad libitum" like real mantra, and at last "lamanistic" songs, which refer to Buddha and to the hundreds of Bodhisattvas which populate our region. Personally I must say that the songs belonging to the cult music are those which give me the most gratification, because when I sing them I try to create a connection between Earth and Sky.

Even if you don’t live in Tuva any longer? "Certainly. Now I live in Vienna and I an a member of the "Austrian Composers Society," but I can assure you that the spirit can be elevated in any part of the world, even in the most industrialized and wretched. One must just want it."


Peter Gabriel was absolutly right when many years ago, he said that " all the new interesting stuff comes from the borders of the Empire"; and that includes all the countries of the world which are not dominated by rock, yet, though they could be, because of their possibilities - economical, cultural and technological. We have to witness this hypothesis, talking about Tuva: this is a tiny little ex-soviet republic, 4000 meters high from sea-level between Siberia and Mongolia.We are able to talk about this unknown country becouse we know Sainkho Namtchylak: she's a 40 years old lady singer, very talented, who ranges from all the melodic lines to the extrem ones, such as the sciamanic, sacred or "nature-oriented".

In her voice we can find birds singing, together with the sounds of the cicadas, the "throat singing", the hypnotic psalmody of the Buddist mantras, sound experimentation, the joy of an uncontamined modern music. There's a grace that leaves breathless and speachless, because words will never fully describe her sublime art. That's the reason why you have to listen to this unbelieveble record.