When Namgar Lhasaranova sings the song of her people, her voice carries. It is easy to imagine it stretching across the vast plains, from where stems the Buryat-Mongolian tradition embodied in her songs. But the music she plays with her team — and will now be presenting to an international audience — also transcends her roots. “We have an international family with different roots. I am a woman from a distant remote place, a village, the daughter of shepherds, and I grew up on folk songs. My husband Eugenii is a city guy who grew up on the music of the Beatles and rock bands. We had a different upbringing and paths of life that were far from each other, but at some point we ended up in the same team,” she says over email.
This weekend, Namgar will join 18 other musical acts from different continents, to play at the online music festival Culturas 360. The festival is a collaboration between 14 music festivals located in different parts of the world, in an attempt to give musicians an online platform in the wake of the pandemic. Participating festivals include India’s IndiEarth Xchange, Mozambique Music Meeting, Cuba’s Havana International Jazz Festival and USA’s Concert of Colours, among others. This will be its second edition, the maiden one having been in 2020.
Among the lineup is Indian artiste Imran Khan, a Hindustani classical musician from Rajasthan’s Sikar Gharana. Imran, who is no stranger to world music or global platforms, says over a phone call from Mumbai, “I have played at IndiEarth and other festivals in Chennai in the past. In the pandemic era, this is a good way to reach out to people till things open up. This lineup includes musicians I have never heard before; I am looking forward to their performances. It is almost a coming together of music from around the globe.”
The sounds — most of which are blended with world music or other musical traditions — range from Afro-Peruvian to Balkan, and are brought forth by musicians who are well-versed in both tradition and experimentation. Most of the performers are also music researchers or teachers, and many have multiple international tours under their belts. They see their music as a means of telling the stories of their people, and bringing their culture forth to the rest of the world.
For instance, Namgar has this to say about her music: “Like by other peoples around the world, folk culture of the Buryat people is represented by numerous genres: epic legends (uligers), lyric rituals, dance songs (round dance yohor), wedding and hunting praises (magtaals). Many ancient types of Buryat music are associated with hunting and cattle-breeding practice (playing on duck calls, spell of the female sheep), with rituals of worship of tengri (heavenly deities) and ancestral spirits, rituals of shamanism (shaman invocations).
“Also due to the Nature, climate and dialect diversity in Baikal region (Western Buryats) and Trans-Baikal region (Eastern Buryats) the genres of these songs differ greatly in melismatic and melody. For example, the songs of the steppe (Eastern) Buryats present the beauty of simple melody, whereas the songs of Western Buryat songs are complex and rich with beautiful melismatic, an abundance of ornamentation,” she continues, “Being a steppe person, where we sing loudly, to cover the entire steppe breadth, it was quite difficult for me to learn melismas and vocal decorations of Western Buryat melodies.”
The variety of music on offer at Culturas 360 also means that there will be a number of curious musical instruments to listen to. But for Mozambique’s Lenna Bahule, her greatest instrument is her voice.”Mozambique is a country that is still very much connected to its Nature, its cycles and therefore its primary sounds. So vocal music is the essence of all the other sounds and music and compositions that make this country so widely dynamic and multiple. It’s exactly what I love the most about it.”
Lenna does, however, wish to highlight a few other instruments. “I play the calabash in a bin. In Guinea-Bissau it’s called Tina. It is also known in Senegal and Mali, but played differently. I have a special love for this instrument as it reminds me of the womb of the woman and its power to bring life. I also use water, as an element and as a sound, as well as the mafahlawane, which is a footwear kind of shaker. This one is from Swaziland but its way of using is very common in many cultures in Africa and abroad.” “And,” she concludes, “I use my body and my voice as my main traditional instruments.”
For details and to view the performances, visit www.culturas360.com.