Unusual new sounds from the Republic of Altai! New Asia, the ensemble around singer and instrumentalist Dobrynya Satin, comes from southwestern Siberia. The region borders Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. A land of ice-cold rivers, snow-covered peaks and barren steppes, as New Asia describe their homeland. The music of the region is characterised by throat singing and numerous traditional instruments. Epic heroic tales are still alive in Altai today, as are shamanic rituals accompanied by chants and tambourine sounds.
"Chorchoc", the title of the debut album by the five musicians of New Asia, can be translated as "fairy tales" or "legends from ancient times". The band feels particularly rooted in Siberian, Central Asian and Mongolian musical styles. New Asia play traditional musical instruments of the Altai Republic.
These include the topshuur, a two-stringed lute. Since time immemorial, it has accompanied the tales told by storytellers about the exploits of great warriors. But the topshuur is also used as an accompanying instrument for meditative and even funny songs. The fact that it sometimes plays the role of a "background instrument" is considered more of a distinction: when people converse to these sounds, it is considered a form of spiritual self-improvement in Altai.
The ikili is a two-stringed musical instrument played by stroking the strings. The neck and the lute-shaped soundbox are made of a solid piece of pine or larch. Legend has it that the strings come from the hair of the fastest horses! The sound is reminiscent of the whistling of the wind over the steppe. For centuries, people in Altai have believed that the ikili has magical powers. The instrument is said to be able to calm the spirits of the taiga.
The long flute shoor comes from the tradition of the Turkic community living in Altai. Playing this flute means communicating with nature, New Asia write in the lovingly designed booklet of their debut album. The sound is reminiscent of natural phenomena: rain, wind, nocturnal animal sounds and birdsong.
In the album songs, too, New Asia attach great importance to the rich musical tradition of their homeland: the track "Topshuur" is a homage to the indispensable instrument of every storyteller from Altai. Heaven, earth and the underworld meet here. "Shunu Warrior" is reminiscent of a great war hero of the 17th century: the people love the man who had extraordinary powers and was also clever and wise! In contrast, the airy "Konokrad" is about the adventures of a horse thief. In "Derevenskie Tancy", New Asia bow to the cheerful tradition of rural wedding dances.
Новая Азия (New Asia) - Топшуур (Topshur)
Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Dobrynya Satin / New Asia (unknown/website).