The story of Yat-Kha ( a kind of memories but not yet actually).
Probably everything started not in Europe, Moscow or even Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg) but much earlier inTuva, in its capital - Kyzyl. Beginning of 80s – that is the time of my first music experiments in mixing Tuvan traditional music with rock. At those years I worked in ensemble “Ayan” (Tuvan State Philarmony) and studied at music college. Certain role had a meeting Alexander Bapa, Aldyn-ool Sevek, Kan-ool Mongush, Arabai-ool Khertek and many others who was experts in Tuvan traditional music. And of course the influence of rock and friends provided me cannot be overestimated. Unfortunately nothing of those home made and amateur recordings are remained.
1989 – I lived in Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg) as a free professional man and have recorded first cassette album “The Spectre of Coming Disaster” at small studio of Yasha Kilin who became a soundman of this album too. All instruments I overdubbed myself on stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder. In two songs we used drum machine. Some songs from this album were composed after reading a book of Oriental traditions and philosophy plus some “social” as was said at that time.
Later in record library of Sverdlovsk Conservatory my friend Ildar Gainanov has made a kind of studio where we added few more songs. Now I have digitized this cassette.
Individual thanks to Tuvan student diaspora of that time for moral and pecuniary support. It was very united association: Sholban, Yurii and larisa Kara-ool, Vadim Kyzyl-ool, Robert Dorzhu, Bolta Ondar, Yurii Charash-ool, Nikolai Sambu and many others.
At spring of 1990 I have sent this record to 1st International Music Contest “Voice of Asia” in Almaty, Kazakhstan and passed through to final part. Because I didn’t have a good quality phonogram we used a phantasy. Alexander Bapa (formed guitarist of “Ayan”, the founder and first producer of Huun Huurtuu) has invented one thing - lyrics from one Tuvan traditional song was put on blues-ish melody and sung in throat singing style “kargyraa” to the accompaniment of just knife and grindstone.
An impression on Medeo Stadium was tremendous. The phonogram of other song Buddha Maitreya was recorded just before the final part in one studio in Almaty.
At this contest I have met Artemy Troitsky (journalist and modern music guru in USSR and Russia) who was jury member and then has played important role in Yat-Kha’s evolution; Evgeniy Kolbyshev – an organizer of “Rock-Asia” and “Rock-Pereferia” festival in Barnaul where I played later. Also I met Peter Jenner (who was manager of Pink Floyd, Billy Bragg and many others), Joe Boyd (first producer of Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention and others, a writer now), Hanna Goryachkovska (Crammed Disc) etc. I met many remarkable musicians and journalists from Russia and outgoing at that time USSR, for example: Daler Nazarov (Tadjikistan), drum and percussion virtuoso Rishad Shafi (Turkmenistan), Yakutian rockers Tolya “Boss” Bosikov with band “Serge” and group “Choron”.
There was first (in absentia then) contact with Brian Eno through his wife as I got Brian Eno Special Prize from her arms. It were portable Sony Professional recorder and condenser stereo microphone Sony. Afterword in future these things were proved useful to my work.
By the way, other Tuvan band “The Center of Asia” got there 1st Prize but received nothing.
1990. Autumn - I participated at festival “Rock-Asia” where I was invited by Evgeniy Kolbyshev after met him in Almaty. Why do I recall this? Besides acquaintances with many Siberian rock-musicians like “Cholbon” from Sakha-Yakutia there was our first public performance with Evgeniy Tkachev (feat. our friend Sergei Sokolnikov)
To this festival by my recommendation was invited other band from Tuva “Biosintez” (the leader and co-founder Vrezh Meloyan) where Evgeniy and Sergei were played at that time. This project started indeed at the flat of Sergei “Serega” Sokolnikov in Kyzyl during almost all-night parties and jams. Exactly there and then we became friends with Evgeniy “Rasputin” Tkachev and Serega Sokolnikov.
In 1991 I have performed at “Interweek” festival in Novosibirsk and met Ivan Sokolovskiy – electronic composer and producer from Moscow (Nochnoi Prospect, Soft Animals, Tsentr).
In 1992 we recorded and released album “Yat-Kha. Antropophagia” (General Records/Moscow). There was also a cassette version under the name “Khan Party”.
That was first time when the name “Yat-Kha” has appeared.
After CD was released there were many club concerts and TV and radio shows in Moscow and St.-Petersburg including supporting acts to such famous Russian bands at those days as Technologia, Bravo etc.
Possibly the turning-point was our performance at WOMEX (World Music Expo) in Berlin in 1993 where I met Lu Edmonds, famous musician (3Mustafa3, The Damned, Pil, Shrieckbeck, Mekons, Wilco Brothers etc) and one of forefather of World Music. Later he became first producer, co-manager and bassist of new Yat-Kha.
Also I met Anu Laakonnen who was a director of Global Music Center at that time. GMC became our first record label on West and Anu – co-producer and co-manager of our album Yenisei Punk. These two have played the vital part in Yat-Kha’s way.
1993 - The break with Sokolovsky was by moral substance and stylistic motives.
In same year I invited Aleksei Saaia to play morin-huur ( actually he is multi-instrumentalist and got nice high voice). We played as a duet at various festivals and forums in Berlin and Potsdam. For example we played a session together with Ai-Tal (Yakutia) and one bill concert with Russian stars Lube. Also we did co-operations with German musicians Sangit (didjeridoo, vocal) and even recorded few meditative tunes in kirh (German church). The sound and atmosphere of that record were tremendous and cosmic but unfortunately we lost this record. Hopefully Sangit still keeps it.
Evgeniy Tkachov began permanently play in Yat-Kha in 1995 though he had to go with us to Helsinki to play at WOMAD (World of Musicians, Artists and Dancers) but didn’t get his passport in time. Lu Edmonds has replaced Zhenya on drums. (I got a cassette copy of that concert).
In this festival we met British band Trans Global Underground and Natasha Atlas, Wimme from Lapland. Later TGU made remix of our song “Dyngyldai” from “Dalai Beldiri” album. After the festival we started recording of “Yenisei Punk” in Global Music Center studio. Kari Hakala and Martijn Fenrig were our soundmen.
However as a trio (Albert, Aleksei and Evgeniy) we played couple times at “Internedelya” (Inerweek) festival in Novoseibirsk.
1995 - Our first International CD “Yenisi Punk”(Global Music Center) has released and went straight away on 2nd position at European World Music Charts. We began to tour a lot in Europe but mainly in small and underground clubs. But sometime we played at big World Music festivals like SFINKS in Belgium (thanks to Patrick de Groot) and big venues too. As I remember one of our first tour was in Germany together with British band Shrieckbeck (Lu played there on darbuka, jumbush and saz). Sometimes, when Lu couldn’t go with as, we did tours in acoustic (Albert on acoustic guitar, yatkha and vocal, Aleksei on morinhuur and backing-vocal and Zhenya on dungur) like for example in Italy in 1995.
There was one problem with promoters who couldn’t classify our music for long to sell us easier. They said we are too loud for ethnic and not loud enough for rock and even some of them advised us how to sound and what to change. Luckily with the time all these questions fell off, we went through and played what we wanted. The sizes of venues began increased.
Also we did duet with just Evgeniy Tkachov – guitar and drums. It was on “Tabyk” festival in Yakutsk. Alekesi Saaia didn’t come by his illness.
1995-1997 were very busy in terms of tours, meetings and contacts of various natures. Such one is meeting with Gerd Conradt – German film director –who later made a documentary “Dyngyldai” and clip about us. The shooting was in Hong Kong and Tuva in 1996. In 1997 this film and video clip took first place at MIDEM festival in Cannes, France in category low budget.
1996 - My friend Moscow journalist Leonid Zakharov has sent a copy of “Yenisei Punk” to contest “Pop and Rock music in East” organized by Radio France International. After sometime we got a letter that we won Grand Jury Prize and invited to take part in Gala concert in Bucharest, Romania. What we done successfully after Istanbul, Turkey where we played at International Jazz Festival.
1997 - Yenisei Punk CD was released in Japan with bonus tracks “Kozhamyk” and “Doshpuluruum” where voice and morinhuur was recorded by Kan-ool Mongush, the father of Sholban.
Music from “Yenisei Punk” was almost fully used as a soundtrack in Japanese movie “The Heart After Dark” (by Ryuhei Kitamura). It was released in 1998.
In 1997 I was in Helsinki and started just myseld to record new material wich was called later “Dalai Beldiri”. That was in Global Music Center studio again. Later we got a contract and a budget for recording from BMG Classics. To continue the work I invited to Finland Evgeniy Tkachov and Aldyn-ool Sevek who replaced early died Kan-ool Mongush. With him I recorded just some working material and music for radio play “Balykchi bagai-ool” (by tale of Ekaterina Tanova). You can hear his voice and morinhuur on re-mastered version of Yenisei Punk. Even I could say that Aldyn-ool was taken to band by the nuncupation of Kan-ool. Aleksei Saaia has missed this recording session because his illness (again).
Lu Edmonds was sound producer but we were permanently current by nice BMG men – John Voightman and Ian Menzies (Aldyn-ool called him “Canadian radio”because Ian was always talking). May be because of this “Dalai Beldiri” has happened not so ours, not so “Yat-Kha-ish”. But what tours and venues were in USA and Canada then when CD was released there in 1999 on Wicklow Records (daughter enterprise of BMG).
During North American tour in Toronto, Canada we began recording of our next album “Aldyn Dashka” in Gas Station studio. But overdubbing, mixing and mastering we done later in London at Wolf studio. Producer - Lu Edmonds.
In 1999 was our US tour together with legendary Irish band “The Chieftans” (7 times winner of Grammy). Its leader Paddy Malony was the chief of Wicklow Records which was specially set up for World Music and later was closed. That was “A” - class level tour. All venues are like Carnegy Hall. Saaia didn’t come on tour (was sick again?).
“Aldyn Dashka was released in 2000 on our own label “Yat-Kha Recordings” (London, UK).
In beginning of 2000 Aldyn-ool Sevek hasn’t appeared in time in Kyzyl before our big International tour and we had urgently to find replacement. In addition I wanted to refresh our sound. Thus young talented and ambitious musicians have come to Yat-Kha: Mikhail “Mahmud’ Skripaltschikov (bass), Sailyk Ommun (vocal and yatkha) and then later Radik Tulush (vocal and igil).
Since that time Aldyn-ool Sevek didn’t play in Yat-Kha anymore. Aleksei Saai has left band in the end of 2000.
1998-2005 were very busy years by numerous tours, concerts and travel. We played on such big festivals like Roskilde (Denmark), Glastonbury (UK), Reading (UK), WOMAD (on Canaries, Scicily and in UK ) and many others which I can’t remember now. Also there were tours and concerts with Oyster Band, Asian Dub Foundation and others.
A little about film-project “Storm over Asia”. It was made in 1928 by Great Russian director Vsevolod Pudovkin (based on novel of Lev Novokshenov, scenario is by Osip Brik).
Of course, I saw it in my childhood but in 1998 video producer and camera man Marek Pytel has visited Tuva to do our promo shooting. He brought me VHS cassette with this film. Soundtrack was performed by one American symphony and was absolutely “out of theme”. I didn’t like it very much and told to Marek. He simply replied: “Why should we try to play it our self?”
In 2000 in London he arranged our first show with “Storm over Asia” in small theater “Horse Hospital”. (It was really horse hospital in old days). He has done huge work to find and collect full uncensored version of this film, to make subtitles and to find stories, digitalization and promotion…
By initiative of Lu Edmonds there was made translation of subtitles on 36 languages of world. Then later we recorded studio version of soundtrack but it doesn’t pass the atmosphere of live performance, of course. Now DVD is almost ready to out.
We have showed “Storm over Asia” few times in Europe (UK, Italy, France, Germany and Norway) and done a tour with it in USA. That time Zhenya Tkachov couldn’t go there because of his passport and most of shows with the film “Mahmud” played on drums. But remarkable drummer Steve Gulding (friends of Lu) played our concerts.
By the way, we flew from Europe to USA on September, 11th night by Lufthansa flight and had to land in New York at 11th morning. Instead we woke up on Newfoundland, Canada and sat in plane whole day. At evening we got Canadian visas and were moved to Gardner city. Because of that event we spent one week on this island living in school gymnasium. Thanks to local people who took care of us – there were about 6000 people and 200 airplanes landed from Europe.
Finally everything solved and we flew via New York to Chicago where spent few days waiting for our soundman Martijn Fernig and tour manager Stuart Cohen. They had to drive from California where our tour should start before. May be one day in my memoirs I will return to this case.
2001 - We released own bootleg “Live in Europe 2001” where was material recorded by our soundman Jerry Melchers in such countries like France, Switzerland, Estonia and other, during our long European tour.
In 2002 we began record next album “Tuva.Rock” which was released on Yat-Kha Recordings in 2003. Recording session was in Black Box studio in nice French country side. Studio is runned by one American man Ian Burgess who collects old tube and valve equipment and amps including such Soviet things as “Sovtek”. All material we recorded on old analog tape -machine Studer ( soundman Jerry with technical support by Peter Diemel) but mixing and mastering were in Moles Stuido Bath (in ancient time there were mineral springs which still exist and Roman bathes -“termas”). This album was mixed and produced by Paul Corkett – famous in alternative music by works Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and others.
For “Tuva.Rock” I have wrote some songs in English for my first time. They have been kindly edited by Kerry Shaw.
Later this album was licensed by German label Plaene/West Park Music for some European countries.
In 2003 Sailyk Ommun and then Mikhail Skripaltschikov left the band. Theodore Henley Scipio has come to play a bass.
Radik Tulush left Yat-Kha in 2004.
In very end of 2004 in London we recorded our new album “Re-Covers” just for two weeks. Of course, almost all material I have prepared much earlier at home in Tuva. As you can see from the title we included to this album some old blues, country and rock tunes of various artists from different parts and times. Producers were Ben Mendelson (3Mustafa3, Billy Bragg etc.) and Justin Adams (guitarist at Robert Plant) – both famous not in World Music only.
“Re-Covers” CD was released in 2005 on Yat-Kha Recordings then later on Harmonia Mundi/World Village (USA) and Plaene/West Park Music (Germany). The title of this project is “Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha” because it is almost solo work.
In winter 2005 we have done Russian/Siberian tour as a trio: Albert, Evgeniy and Scipio. That was cool too. Sholban Mongush (the son of Kan-ool) has joined us in spring. In summer new bootleg “Live in Europe 2005” was out too.
In 2005-06 we were continuing tours in Europe and Eastern Asia.
In 2007-09 there were no International tours except for some festivals and short Siberian tours.
In 2008 Evgeniy Tkachov has released his own CD “opycham.s.t.i.h.i” on Moscow label “Sketis Music”. It includes spiritual poetry of Tuva Russian Old Believers of Upper Yenisei with sounds of nature from the same region and Zhenya’s drumming on djembe and dungur.
In autumn 2008 Albert recorded his new solo album “Poets and Lighthouses” on Jura Island which includes some songs he wrote on Japanese post-war poetry ( Kajima Shozo, Amano Tadashi, Kamimura Hajime, Yamamoto Taro). All these songs are in English. Plus two songs in Russian (lyrics by Kondrat Emelyanov) and one in Tuvan ( by Eduard Mizhit). Producer of album is Giles Perring.
In this record there were took parts such musicians like bassist Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction, Talk Talk, Beth Gibbons, Billy Bragg, Alain Bashung), multi-instrumentalist Lu Edmonds (The Mekons, PiL, The Damned, and Yat Kha), clarinet player Sarah Homer (Sarum Orchestra, Royal Shakespeare Company), extraordinary singer Melanie Pappenheim [made work for Jocelyn Pook and Murray Gold and for such movies like “Eyes Wide Shut”,”Gangs Of New York” and “Doctor Who”), Neil Cameron – Scottish bag-pipe and local whisky distiller.
All member of today’s Yat-Kha have own musical project and sometimes play in other bands.
To be continued…
1989 - The Spector of Disaster (Sverdlovsk) - cassette album.
1993 - Yat-Kha.Antropophagia (General Records/Moscow).
1995 - Yenisei Punk (Global Music Cenetr/Finland).
1998 - Dalai Beldiri (Wickow -BMG Classics/Canada-USA).
2000 - Aldyn Dashka(Yat-Kha Records/UK)
2001 - Live in Europe 2001 (Yat-Kha Records/UK)
2003 - Tuva.Rock (Yat-Kha Records/UK, Plaene/Germany).
2005 - Re-Covers (Yat-Kha Records/UK, World Village/USA)
2005 - Live in Europe 2005 (Yat-Kha Records/UK)
2010 - Live at Meltdown festival in London 2005 (Yat-Kha Records/Russia/Tuva)
2010 - Poets and Lighthouses (Yat-Kha Records)
2010 - The Ways Of Nomad (The Best Of...) (Yat-Kha Records/Sketis Music)
AWARDS and PRIZES:
1990 - Special Prize of Brian Eno at International Contest “Voice of Asia”, Almaty, Kazakhstan
1996 - Grand Jury Prize of Radio France International Contest “Pop and Rock a la East”
1997 - 1st prize for “Dyngyldai” video and documentary at MIDEM, Cannes, France in category Low Budget (director Gerd Conradt)
1999 - Prize of German music critics for originality
2002 - Prize for best club performance in Ethno-Music genre, Moscow
2002 - BBC Radio 3 Award in World Music in category Asia/Pasific
2007 - “Golden Iria” award in category “Legends of Siberian Ethno-Music» at festival “Sayan Ring”, Shushenskoye, Russia
2009 - “Golden Altai” award in category Best Singing at World Music Festival in Altai.