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Instrumentally, the music is even more basic: It's made using homemade lutes and fiddles, as well as drums and whistles designed to imitate the sounds of the environment. "They're very handy with the instruments," Levin says. "It's part of their culture to not only play them but to make them and to repair them."
The earthiness of the music is appropriate given the still-primitive character of Tuva, a place where every man is a skilled horseman and shamanism is practiced openly. Even the band's name evokes the sacredness of nature. "'Huun-Huur Tu' means, literally, 'sun propeller,'" Levin says. "It's the idea of the sun rays going through clouds and refracting."
But while tradition remains an active ingredient in Huun-Huur Tu's music, the band doesn't shy away from embracing outside influences. "We're adding more instruments to what we do," Khovalyg says. "For instance, our percussionist is now playing an Indian tabla in one of the pieces. There were some Scottish musicians who played Northumbrian small pipes and harp on our new record that just came out [Where Young Grass Grows]. We've also done a collaboration with a Bulgarian women's choir, so we're exploring."
"I would say that their development is really two-pronged," Levin adds. "One is trying to move forward to look at how their music and musical style connects with the contemporary musical world, and on the other side, they're looking back into the tradition and trying to draw out of the past and see what's been preserved in different parts of that region."
Huun-Huur Tu travels nine months out of every twelve these days, but each return home brings new inspiration. "We go out to the steppe--the grasslands," Khovalyg says. "And we play, we walk, we fish, we ride horses. We listen."
Huun-Huur Tu. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 25, Boulder Theater, 2030 14th Street, Boulder, $10-$16, 303-786-7030.
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