Gifts of the Sygytchy-Sons: Tethering Melodies to Land, Kin, and Life Energy at the Khoomei Ovaa, Tyva Republic

Beahrs R. O.

ASIAN MUSIC, vol.52, no.2, pp.72-107, 2021 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 52 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Title of Journal : ASIAN MUSIC
  • Page Numbers: pp.72-107


This article examines community stewardship of khoomei, kargyraa, and sygyt (all commonly called "throat-singing") and musical pilgrimage to the -Khoomei Ovaa (cairn) from 2011 to 2018 in the Tyva Republic, part of the Russian Federation. More generally, this article traces the revitalization of land-based gift exchanges in -Altai and Sayan Mountain ecologies of Inner Asia through mutual entanglements of land, kin, and life energy (khei-a't). Following my teachers, I suggest a horse herder's tethering post (baglaash) as a model for musical stewardship in Tyva and discuss the obligations expected of guests and hosts in musical gift exchanges. I foreground envoicement (-unneshtirer) and attunement (khoonnei) as central aspects of the khoomeizhi's sonic-musical craft and explore the responsibilities entailed in using and sharing melodies for particular purposes. In so doing, I offer a reparative approach to reconciling disjunctures in historic consciousness and traumatic heritage across shared homelands in postsocialist Inner Asia and beyond.