Alash Ensemble

All members of Alash were trained in traditional Tuvan music from childhood, first learning from their families, and later becoming students of master throat singers. In 1999, as students at Kyzyl Arts College, they formed a group called Changy-Xaya. They practiced in the damp college basement on Kochetovo Street, and soon became the resident traditional ensemble on campus. At the same time they learned about western music, practiced on hybrid Tuvan-European instruments, and listened to new trends coming out of America.

The ensemble is named for the Alash River, which runs through the northwestern region of Tuva. The Alash River has also inspired a couple of Tuvan songs which carry its name. Alash's inaugural U.S. tour was sponsored in 2006 by the Open World Leadership program of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Washington Post described their music as “utterly stunning,” quipping that after the performance “audience members picked their jaws up off the floor.” Since then, Alash has returned to the U.S. every year, playing to enthusiastic audiences and presenting workshops to students of all ages. Alash is now in high demand internationally, performing in concert halls and major festivals in Europe and Asia as well as North America.

Both the Alash ensemble and individual members have consistently won top honors in throat singing competitions. The ensemble was awarded first prize in Tuva's International Xöömei Symposium competition in 2004. At the Fifth International Xöömei Symposium in 2008, three Alash musicians swept the top prizes for individual throat singing, and the fourth took top honors for his duet performance with his wife. In 2007, Alash member Bady-Dorzhu Ondar was named People's Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva, the youngest person ever to receive this prestigious award. Alash member Ayan Shirizhik was named a Merited Artist of Tuva in 2009, and Alash member Ayan-ool Sam was named People's Xöömeizhi of the Republic of Tuva in 2015. Even Alash's American manager, Sean Quirk, was named a Merited Artist of Tuva for his contribution to Tuvan culture. In addition, Quirk and all Alash members play in the Tuvan National Orchestra, which has won both first prize and grand prize in the All-Russia National Orchestra and Ensemble Competition.

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