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A documentary by Wolfgang Hamm (Running time: 45 minutes)


At the 'back of beyond', or to be precise, in the geographical center of Asia, between Seberia and Mongolia, lies the Republic of Tuva. For centuries, the country had been largely isolated from the outside world behind the mountain ranges surrounding it. We would know nothing about Tuva, if it were not for that strange kind of singing! The Tuvinians, who speak a Turcic language, elicit from their vocal chords overtone singing, called khomei after the Tuvinian word for throat, has delighted world music audiences in Europe, the USA and Japan. The composer and musicologist Wolfgang Hamm visited Tuva three times in order to study the secrets of khomei at first hand in this country of nomads. After extensive researches and producing a CD (which won the 1994 German record critics prize), his fourth journey was devoted to make a documentary film. By the use of this medium, he hopes to help a wider public understand why overtone singing is so widespread and deeply rooted in Tuva. Is it the nomad's close ties to nature, the spiritual world of the shamans, or the influence of Tibetan Buddhism from which khomei draws its inspiration. The film combines the wideness and beauty of the magnificent landscape with the everyday life of the nomads in the solitude of the steppe and remote mountain valleys, the sounds of nature and animals with the overtone singing of tuvinian "masters" and the tones of 'horsehead' fiddles and Jews harps; the film gives an idea something of the 'cultural revival' in Tuva today after the collapse of the Soviet Union, without ignoring the negative aspects of the 'Russification' of Tuva and the economic problems in the present time.