These are JPEG images from my trip to Tuva in June-July, 1995.


Tuva is located in Central Asia, just about as far from any ocean as any spot on the globe. It is over 80% mountainous, the highest point being Mongyn Taiga, at over 15,000 feet. Major ranges include the Altai mountains in the west, and the Sayan mountains in the east. The Yenisei River begins in Tuva with the confluence of the Kaa-Xem and the B'eg-Xem, which originates in Mongolia. It is one of the world's major river systems, and drains into the Arctic Ocean.

Some of these pictures are from a camping trip in Todja District, a mountainous region in Northeastern Tuva, covered with lakes, rivers, and the vast Siberian forest known as the Taiga. I flew to Toora-Xem with Sayan Bapa and other friends, camped for a few days, and took a riverboat back to Kyzyl.

The Confluence of the Rivers Kaa-Xem and B'eg-Xem forming the Yenisei. Kyzyl is just below and to the left of the confluence.

The town of Kaa-Xem (just east of Kyzyl, capital of Tuva).

The Mountain across the Yenisei from Kyzyl

Visiting the monument marking the "center of Asia"

Crossing a range of the Sayan mountains en route to Todja District in NE Tuva

Another view of the Sayans

The airport at Toora-Xem, Todja

View from atop a cliff in Todja

Moi, atop same cliff

A mountain view from a boat ride on the Kaa-Xem River

Another view from the Kaa-Xem

Inside the river boat



Scenes from Toora-Xem, Kyzyl, and Samagaltai (south-central Tuva, about 25 miles north of the border with Mongolia). Tuva has many sacred sites, considered to be spiritually significant. People decorate these sites with ribbons, pieces of cloth, string, money, shoes...just about anything gets left as an offering, or as a gesture of respect. There are numerous medicinal/sacred springs, called Arzhans, that people visit for their healing properties. These spots can be just about anywhere, and are marked by monuments ranging from piles of stones to the tipi-like structure below (a sacred site).

The home of my hosts in Toora-Xem, Maxim and Tatiana

Early morning in Toora-Xem, with cows in the road

Kids on the street in Kyzyl

A feast in a yurta near Samagaltai

Another yurta shot

Tuvan wrestlers doing the Eagle Dance

The high plain near Samagaltai

Tuvan Horsemen

A sacred site

Visiting an arzhan

Famous Tuvan statues in the National Museum, Kyzyl

The National Drama Theater in Kyzyl, site of the Khoomei Festival

My last morning in Tuva



My apologies for any missing or incorrect names.

Kakhassian Xai singer and sculptor, Vyacheslav Kuchenov

Sandak Chaff of Mongolia

5-year old kid (name unknown)

Mystery woman singer. Member of Ensemble ????



Early in my visit to Tuva, Kaigal-ool and Sayan took me to the far side of the Yenisei River and performed a mini-concert for Kathy Brown (Canadian overtone singer), Svetlana Osipova (my translator), and me. Kaigal-ool introduced us to Araka, a potent Tuvan liquor made from milk. Definately different!

An old shepard came along, tethered his horse, and sat with us. He seemed touched by these young musicians playing the old traditional songs, and with a tear and a smile began drumming his stomach in time with the music.

I've heard folks say that Khoomei sounds best in nature. It's true!

Mini-concert on the Yenisei 1

Mini-concert on the Yenisei 2, with Kaigal-ool, singing and playing igil. Other instrument is Sayan Bapa's Morin Khuur

After the symposium and Khoomei festival were over, there was a celebration held near the town of Samagaltai. I went with the guys from HHT, plus Maxim Sharposhnikov of Window to Europe, Dutch ethnomusicologist/overtone singer Mark van Tongeren, and Svetlana, the translator. On our return trip, we stopped at a mountain pass rest area for dinner. It turned out that we had only vegetables, no meat!

Now, this was ok with me, possibly the only vegetarian in Tuva, but not a welcome revelation for the Tuvans. Some tour buses from Abakan (in Kakhassia) stopped, and they had lots of food. Kaigal-ool struck a trade with the driver: in return for a few jars of meat dumplings, Kaigal-ool, Sayan, and Anatoli would perform for them.

A concert in the mountains (from left: Anatoli Kuular, byzanchi; Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, igil; Sayan Bapa, doshpulur).

Of course, this trip was essentially a cultural exchange; the Tuvans taught me khoomei, and I taught them about American Marxism:

Kaigal-ool Khovalyg learns about Marxism, Harpo Style.


Prof. Tran Quang Hai is a renowned researcher of many types of Harmonic Singing, a monster on the Viet-Namese jaw-harp, and is possibly the baddest spoon player on the planet. He served as Chairman of the Jury for the khoomei competition.

With Prof. Hai in Kyzyl