ONDAR: ECHOES OF TUVA

ONDAR: ECHOES OF TUVA
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Ralph Leighton ONDAR is a master throat-singer from the Russian Republic of Tuva, in Southern Siberia — a land ringed by mountains with centuries-old traditions that involve acoustic and spiritual interactions with the environment. Through his radiant presence and mesmerizing singing, which shines with harmonic overtones, Ondar causes listeners to stop and rethink possibilities, including how many notes the human voice can produce simultaneously. Tuva was rediscovered by the late physicist and adventurer Richard FEYNMAN, who collected the engaging, exotic stamps from that tiny country during the 1930s. When Tuva disappeared from the map, Feynman noticed — and wondered what happened to that lost land. In a dinner conversation with his friend Ralph Leighton, Feynman posed a question that became a quest: “Whatever Happened to Tannu Tuva?” The attempt by the pair to find out more about the mysterious country and to reach its tiny capital Kyzyl is chronicled in Leighton’s book “Tuva or Bust!” — and was also the subject of the 1989 BBC/NOVA documentary “Last Journey of a Genius” by Christopher Sykes that has inspired many people over the years, among them Roko and Adrian Belic — who saw the film on PBS and resolved to contact Leighton and try to reach Tuva themselves. In the meantime, Leighton had discovered a blues singer, Paul Pena, who had independently discovered Tuvan throat-singing, and used his blues background to teach himself that esoteric art form — so sucessfully that he was invited by Ondar to perform at the triennial throat-singing festival held in Tuva in 1995. That journey was documented in the film Genghis Blues, which received an Oscar nomination in 2000. ONDAR’s impact continues: he has been invited by the Tournament of Roses to ride in the 2013 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, and will be seen by millions.

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