Think you know the range of the human voice and what it can do? Unless you’ve heard throat singing, you’re wrong! A trio called Bai Terek Ensemble have become popular on YouTube, recording and uploading videos demonstrating throat singing in rustic locations in the Altai Mountains.
The Altai is a vast mountain range in the area where China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia meet. The trio comprises Danil Danzheev, Ezendey Balbin and Aian Enchinov and not only are they masters of throat singing, they are also accomplished musicians. They specialise in traditional instruments from the Altai region.
They include the tovshuur, a two or three-stringed lute, the ikili, a two-stringed instrument played with a bow and the khomus, a jaw harp.
The name Bai-Terek means poplar, and just as a tree has roots in the ground, the trunk above and leaves in the sky, their voices span three ranges. The ranges are karkyraa, the lowest range, khöömii in the middle and sygyt, the upper. Danil Danzheev and Ezendey Balbin have mastered all three ranges and Aian Enchinov sings karkyraa.
In one video the boys sing a song named Altaydyn Alkyzhy or Blessing to Altai. At the beginning of the video, the ensemble starts to make animal noises, their horse sounds are so realistic that if you close your eyes it’s truly impossible to tell the difference. They also make sounds of wind and water that take you straight to the plains of Mongolia with the ensemble. It’s truly amazing to hear.
As impressive as those sounds are though it’s when they begin to sing that your jaw drops. Traditional singing is normally divided into head singing and chest singing. These terms aren’t accurate as all singing comes from the larynx, but head singing refers to higher, thinner sounds and chest singing refers to lower, thicker sounds.
Throat singing, on the other hand, uses the voice in an entirely different way. According to Encylopedia Brittanica, “throat-singing, also called overtone-singing, a range of singing styles in which a single vocalist sounds more than one pitch simultaneously by reinforcing certain harmonics (overtones and undertones) of the fundamental pitch.” What this means is that even though there is only one person singing you can hear multiple tones.
It’s an incredible sound, and when you hear not one master throat singer but three, it’s like no sound you’ve ever heard. It’s no wonder that the videos Bai-Terek have uploaded to the Russian YouTube channel VEK are so popular. Their Blessing to Altai video has been viewed 2.6 million times and it isn’t even the most popular one.
Another awesome video from three years ago has received over 12.3 million views and 467,000 likes. One commenter explains perfectly why these videos are so popular, “It feels like you’re riding on a galloping horse while streaming cross the wide plateau with sunset in your background. It’s so magical!” Music is so evocative that when done well it transports you to another place entirely and Bai-Terek are the masters of it. Be sure to listen to both videos now.