What is khoomei?:
Khoomei is an imitative vocal technique and a special art of overtone singing which can be accompanied by various musical instruments. It is exceptional because in some types of khoomei the singer produces two musical tones simultaneously. One of these tones is a low sustained drone, the other a high-toned melody.
The tone is produced by forcing the air from the lungs in a controlled way while altering the position of the tongue, soft palate and epiglottis and changing the shape of the oral cavity to form the tone. In some types of khoomei, the tone is additionally formed by contracting and expanding the throat and stomach muscles to improve the clarity of the tone. This breathing technique of overtone singing is particularly demanding on the vocal chords, larynx and diaphragm. A good khoomei singer sings without moving his lips.
There are three types of khoomei singing:1) Isgeree khoomei (whistling khoomei)
This type of khoomei singing is subdivided into four groups according to technique:
Chooloin khoomei (throat khoomei)
In throat khoomei the inhaled air is forced out at high pressure by the stomach muscles. The tone is produced with the aid of the tongue and roof of the mouth. The contraction and expansion of the larynx play an important role in this type of khoomei singing.
Zeedshnii khoomei (chest khoomei)
The breath is held in the chest. When the tongue is bent upwards in the rear part of the roof of the mouth, the air is forced out at high pressure through the mouth and nose.
Gedesnii davchar zochilttoi khoomei
Gedesnii davchar zochilttoi khoomei (khoomei with simultaneous involvement of the stomach muscles to form the tone). The technique for this type of khoomei is easier in comparison to the other types. The laminar air flow is altered by sudden expansion and contraction of the stomach muscles which form the tone melodically. The Tuvans are particularly skilled at this type of khoomei singing.
Chamriin khoomei (khoomei)
This technique is similar to chest khoomei but the tone only comes from the nose.
2) Charchiraa khoomei (humming and croaking khoomei)
Charchiraa khoomei is the original type of khoomei singing. This type differs from the others due to its particular technique and magnificent and emotional melody. With Charchiraa khoomei it is possible to sing epic songs and hymns of praise and even imitate the sounds of various animals. Charchiraa khoomei is subdivided into:
Davchar zochilttoi charchiraa (simultaneous involvement of the stomach and larynx muscles in forming the tone) The peculiarity of this type of khoomei is that the stomach and throat muscles, as well as the tongue and oral cavity are used to contribute equally to ornament the tone as the air escapes. At the same time, less pressure is used to expel the air than in the other types of khoomei.
Dan zochittoi-Charchiraa (only contraction and expansion of the larynx) This technique is suitable for singing hymns of praise and epic songs. The air is forced out under very high pressure from the stomach through the narrow contracted throat to the palate.
3) Schachaa khoomei (compressing khoomei)
Schachaa khoomei is a separate type of khoomei singing. The tone is formed by vibrating movements of the throat muscles and additionally by the oral cavity, whereby the tongue and the palate play an important role. This technique is particularly suitable for singing songs with a faster rhythm.