Question: When did you start to try “crossover” projects? Why?
Huun-Huur-Tu: We started crossover projects from the very beginning of our international career. Our regular tours started in the USA in 1993. 1992-1993 were years of real explosion of the wide interest to Tuvan music. Our US “breakthrough” happened with significant help of known US musicians, with whom we made joint recordings in 1992-1993. It was Frank Zappa, who invited us to his home studio in Studio City and made recordings of our music with participation of Frank himself on guitar, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, L.Shankar, and Chieftains. It was an incredible cross-cultural experience. Because of Frank´s death this material has been never released…Another joint project was work with Ry Cooder for “Geronimo” movie soundtrack. Doing this work, we were surprised – how close is Tuvan culture to the culture of native Americans, so both we and American Indians started to believe that their predecessors migrated to American continent from Siberia. We also made several recordings with Kronos Quartet (later released in 2 CDs – “Night Prayers” and “Early Music”), and Mickey Hart – the drummer of Grateful Dead. Why we did all this in 1992-1993? First of all, all these American musicians, representing very different music directions, were eager to do something together with us. It was their initiative. We were proud to collaborate with them, we also were proud to be true “ambassadors” of unique Tuvan music.
Each folk music, instrument and music genre has different roots and its way to perform. How do you connect your music or yourself with the music or musicians from other cultures?
Huun-Huur-Tu: We have found an amazing thing – ethnic music gives a lot of natural space and common roots for harmonious collaboration. So, usually it is not necessary to work hard on finding special ways of “connection”. Genuine ethnic music is very natural way of communication between humans, or between human and nature. Regardless of “geography” of this music, we often find common ground and enjoy blending our traditions, improvising, etc. It happened many times – with Bulgarian and Russian traditional singers and instrumentalists, Greeks, Africans, Tibetans, Iranians, Celtic musicians …
You always collaborate with different musicians all over the world; do you think this kind of crossover projects brings your music something new? And how?
Huun-Huur-Tu: We do not thing that crossover projects really change our own music. But in these very projects our music definitely finds new ways, new colors – especially when some magic connection happens, and then it becomes more than just a sum of 2, 3 or 4 ethnic cultures, it becomes really new music.
What’s the key point of making a link between your music and other music / tradition and creation?
Huun-Huur-Tu: This questions relates to previous one. The key point is to exceed the level of just a “sum” of several cultures. The key point is to create a new quality, new music as a result of collaboration – when particular ethnic elements not just “co-exist” with each others, but “speak” to each other and find a way to create a perfect unity.
Some people think “crossover” is kind of mixing cultures, and take it negative. What’s your opinion? Could you please take some examples to explain it? (For example, the cooperation with Ross Daly, Chemirani Trio or Moscow Art Trio…)
Huun-Huur-Tu: Yes, mechanical “cultural mix” might lead to artificial, boring results. But you mention very important names for us – our project with Ross Daly and his Greek musicians and Chanirani Trio from Iran, as well as the joint project with Bulgarian Voices Angelite and Moscow Art Trio are perfect examples of our most successful collaborations, when the initiators and music leaders of collaborations (Ross Daly and Misha Alperin respectively) have managed to create real unity and harmony between all participants. As a result – in both cases joint music is far more than jut a “blend” of ethnic components, it´s rather self-sufficient new music, when different ethnic elements work for the common idea and enrich each other.