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Kongar-ol Ondar

Biography

This singer from the mysterious, mountainous region of Tuva (in Central Asia) mesmerizes audiences with his otherworldly vocal tones. Employing Tuvan Throat Singing techniques, he simultaneously produces a low gargling groan and a high-pitched quivering overtone. Ondar comments that this ancient form of singing "is inspired by the beautiful landscape of Tuva, which is full of sounds" from birds, livestock, streams, and the howling of wind across the plains. This cultural legacy is, he says, "is the immortal part of ourselves." He formed his first traditional ensemble in the mid-1980s, when indigenous musical expression was discouraged in the Soviet Republics. Ultimately Ondar came to the attention of outsiders as the Soviet Union collapsed; he's since performed with the Kronos Quartet, Ry Cooder, Mickey Hart, Frank Zappa, and the Chieftains. Perhaps his most interesting performances are those with blind blues musician Paul Pena, the subject of the film Genghis Blues, which also features Ondar.
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