Sainko Namchalak, a native of Tuva – one of the performers in the On the Rug Oriental Music Festival – brought a unique style of singing and music to Moscow, a sound she referred to as "virtual reality." And while her style wasn’t familiar to most of the audience, she seemed to capture listeners with her passionate performance.
Tuva is a Siberian region of Russia near the border with Mongolia, with a rich ethnic heritage of music and culture. The proximity of China also adds to the Tuvan cultural mix. According to writer Kira Van Deusen, Tuvan music was "never intended as a concert activity to entertain or enlighten – it was a spiritual practice designed to help a human being relate with all of nature, both physical and spiritual."
Whatever the spiritual reasons behind it, Namchalak’s music is lovely, combining ancient vocal techniques with more modern styles. Few of the words could actually be understood, mainly presented as chants and unusual sounds. Most of the performance was in a quiet, relaxed mood, but there were moments of emotional outbursts to emphasize her passions, such as protesting the injustices of the world. She sang in the English, Russian and Tuvan languages.
Namchalak says she is inspired by life and that her style of singing is the best way for her to express herself. While conversing, you cannot truly convey to others what you want to say and how you feel, but when singing, emotions take over and you just let go, said Namchalak, who first performed 10 years ago when she was 26.
She appeared to perform with complete ease, sometimes seated with her legs crossed, sometimes kneeling down and sometimes standing.
The music that accompanied her, performed on traditional and nontraditional instruments, was played with a passion that allowed the band to create the feel of the deep forest, with trickling rain sounds and Namchalak’s cheerful bird-chirping and voice-echoes. The group of five consisted of Mikhail Zhukov, who played a multitude of percussion instruments with flair and confidence; Casper David Sacker of France on acoustic guitar; Paolino Dalla Porta of Milan on bass guitar; and Russia’s Sergei Sedykh on double-bass.
Namchalak, who now lives in Milan, said it was the first time she had performed with Zhukov and Sedykh, who had replaced members of her Milan-based band who could not make the trip to Russia.
The singer has two albums – "Stepmother City" and "Life at the City Garden" – which she recorded with the Moscow Composers’ Orchestra.
Namchalak said she felt comfortable in Moscow and that it was not her first time here, having previously studied in the city.