2007 Student Research Conference:
20th Annual Student Research Conference

Interdisciplinary

From the Center of Asia to the Roof of the World: Throat Singing in Central Asian Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism
Ryan P. Littleton
Prof. Shirley McKamie, Faculty Mentor

Tuva, a republic in southern Siberia, is home to a musical tradition including khöömei, a style of singing known as “throat singing”; it involves the manipulation of overtones to produce two or more pitches. The variety of khoomei known as kargyraa features a very low pitch an octave below the actual vibrations of the vocal cords, generated with special manipulations of the throat. Fascinatingly, the Tuvan throat-singing style bears many striking similarities to chanting found in Tibetan Buddhism. A possible explanation is that Buddhist practice in Tibet has had much influence from ancient Bon shamanism—an indigenous religion resembling Siberian shamanism found in Tuva. Moreover, both traditions have survived suppression by occupying communist governments. In sum, these stylistic, religious and social connections imply a deeply rooted throat-singing tradition found not only in Tuva, but also carried into Tibetan Buddhism from shamanistic practices long predating the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet.

Keywords: Tuva, Tibet, khöömei, throat-singing, shamanism, Buddhism, Bon

Topic(s):Interdisciplinary

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 38-1
Location: OP 2210
Time: 1:15 pm

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