34th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 14-17 October, 2021

Sainkho Namtchylak – Kazuhisa Uchihashi


Sainkho Namtchylak – voice, lyrics
Kazuhisa Uchihashi – g, daxophone

These musicians have been boiling in a pot of improvised music for more than three decades and belong to its global elite. The penchant for experimentation, the search for unconventional means of expression brought them together on stage with many avant-garde luminaries.

Both improvisers are already known to the Vilnius Jazz audience: Namtchylak has appeared here many times with various partners, and Uchihashi performed with Japanese vocalist Tenko in 2009.

Sainkho Namtchylak began her professional career as a folklore singer. Born in a secluded village on the Tuvan/Mongolian border, she adopted local folklore traditions from her grandmother, who sang lullabies for her as a child.

Various cultural influences collide in Tuva, from Mongolian and Buryatian traditions to the mores of ethnic minorities of Siberia and the nomadic ethnic groups of the Urals. All of these had impact on Namtchylak’s vocal. She studied first at the University of Kyzyl (the capital of Tuva), then at the Gnesins Institute in Moscow, but at the same time delved into the secrets of singing and vocal techniques of Siberian shamans.

“No one would know Tuva if it were not for Sainkho,” said cult performer Peter Gabriel. Namtchylak popularized Tuvan and Central Asian music and overtone throat singing far beyond her homeland. She is dubbed the national hero of Tuva and “the foremost woman from the Steppes”, and her art is equated with vocal shamanism.

When the musician left her first ensemble, the Tuva State Folklore Ensemble Sayani, and joined the Moscow experimental trio Tri-O her vocal talents shone with new colours. Namtchylak began to combine the old vocal techniques and modern sound producing methods, tradition and avant-garde. The vocalist kept refining this manner after moving to Europe and settling first in Austria, and later in Great Britain and Germany.

Critics call Namtchylak “stage chameleon” and “singer with thousand voices” because of the seven-octave range and the vocal effects she is capable of producing. Her arsenal of sounds is astounding, from operatic soprano colours and soulful crooning to birdlike squawks. She is being compared to Zap Mama and Patti Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Hagen.

While living in the West, Namtchylak travels extensively and proliferates her discography. It amounts to more than half a hundred important albums. The vocalist has participated in all major world jazz festivals. She shares her experience in throat singing master classes, in workshops of modern and traditional vocal techniques, and produces festivals and concerts.

In addition, improviser is involved as an artist – she illustrates her own albums, organizes exhibitions and happenings in art galleries. Furthermore, she has published two books of poetry.

In Lithuania, Namtchylak has teamed up with foreign colleagues and with local improvisers such as Vladimir Chekasin, Vladimir Tarasov, Juozas Milašius, Vytautas Pilibavičius, Andrė Pabarčiūtė and Tomas Dobrovolskis.

Kazuhisa Uchihashi is not only a resourceful musician, but also an educator and a music producer. He started playing guitar in the rock bands of his native Osaka at the age of 12, later studied jazz and became interested in improvised music.

The musician experimented with a wide variety of audio instruments and innovations to expand the possibilities of the electric guitar. In 1998, he added to his instrumental arsenal the exotic daxophone invented by the eccentric German guitarist and composer Hans Reichel. The daxophone is played by stroking, fretting and otherwise touching narrow strips of wood with a bow.

In 1990, Uchihashi founded his main group, the powerful rock-oriented band Altered States, which is active to this day. For more than 30 years, he has collaborated with the Japanese theatre group Ishinha. The musician is also known as a member of Otomo Yoshihide’s Ground Zero.

He has participated in hundreds of music festivals on various continents, teamed up with great number of coryphées, including Hans Reichel, Fred Frith, Tom Cora, Ned Rothenberg, Peter Brötzman, Derek Bailey, Samm Bennett, Steve Beresford, Elliott Sharp, Leo Smith, Bobby Previte, Stomu Takeishi, Chris Cutler, Satoko Fujii, Wayne Horvitz, Han Bennink, Kazutoki Umezu, Andy Moor, Mark Feldman, Phill Minton, Steve Coleman, Joelle Leandre, Aki Takase, Peter Kowald, and Gerry Hemingway.

Uchihashi shares his experience with young people in master classes “New Music Action” he organizes in Japan, Austria, England, Norway, Poland, Singapore and Thailand. He has set up his own record label and has founded the new music festival Beyond Innocence. Uchihashi composes film soundtracks, music for theatre and dance performances.

The musician settled in Vienna in 2007 and has been residing in Berlin since 2012.

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