Photo Of Ayarkhaan

From Russia

The seldom-heard sounds of the Arctic Circle

Chances are that you'll have never heard of the Sakha (or Yakutia) Republic, let alone be able to stick a pin in its general direction on the world map. It's a republic towards the far end of Siberia, a landmass that, despite being only slightly smaller than India, is home to less than a million inhabitants. This sparse population is quite possibly why its traditional music is heading towards extinction - and that's where Ayarkhaan come in. An all-woman vocal group championed by the late world music guru Charlie Gillett, the trio are hopelessly devoted to reviving these endangered sounds. As well as their striking, sometimes otherworldly voices, all three also play the khomus, a local variant of the jew's harp that's both louder and can operate over three octaves. In Ayarkhaan's hands, the instrument can be decidedly trance-inducing, almost electronic-sounding. And it will deliver you to wind-whipped, ice-crested lands somewhere far, far east of here.

(Biography written the by Nige Tassell)


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