Sound Journey: Tuva & khöömei



Valeriy Mongush teaching at Lake Chagytai, 2018. Photo credit: Ariel Dukat





This tour shows you the many different faces of the Republic of Tuva, a little gem hidden behind mountain ranges and dense forests in South Siberia. Due to its isolation from the rest of Siberia and Russia, it is unusually rich in its culture, music, spiritual life and nature. You get a complete experience of all these facets, which we believe is better than just a musical tour. You will learn how all the different aspects of present-day Tuva are intertwined in sections of the tour.


We first drive through beautiful scenery and past several landmarks to the mountains and lakes of the Süt-Khöl (‘milk lake’) in West Tuva. We get deeply immersed in the beauty of Tuvan nature and learn about the deeper relationships Tuvans have with it through their spiritual traditions, like animism and shamanism. Mark will give those who like some of his trademark, unusual voice classes to prepare you for throat singing lessons later on.


Our stay is somewhat primitive and after several days we return to the city, where we join the Day of the Republic, among other things, and explore the urban of this city of 100.000+ souls.


The next few days are about music, and in particular khöömei, with classes, meeting instrument makers who sell instruments, and the celebration of the Day of Khöömei, starting with a shamanic ritual. We will stay in two lovely yurt camps outside the city.


To finish, we undertake a one-day walk in the area that has helped preserve Tuvas many unique features. This is the huge Ergaki mountain range between the endless flowing plains of Siberia and Tuva, shielding Tuvan from Russia and connecting it strongly to Mongolia. after a good night rest and a last banya, we return to the civilised world and head for the airplanes or trains that bring us home.







Choduraa Tumat is a professional, traditional musician and music teacher since the mid 1990s. She studied music in Kyzyl (Tuva) and Ulan-Ude (Buryatia). She masters nearly all styles of Tuvan throat-singing and plays various traditional instruments: doshpuluur, chadagan, khomus, igil. She is also a lecturer at the Kyzyl Pedagogical School. In 1998 she brought together a number of enthusiastic young ladies in order to make an all-women group of essentially Tuvan music and an ambition to break the age-old taboo on women singing with throat techniques: Tyva Kyzy. In 2018 the group celebrated its 20 years jubilee with a very succseful world tour and the CD recording or a new CD. That same year, Mrs. Tumat was the first and so far the only female throat singer to receive the honorary title Peoples Throat Singer of the Republic of Tuva from the president.


Mark van Tongeren is a Dutch sound explorer and ethnomusicologist with a deep interest in the synergy of arts, sciences and contemplative traditions. He has over 25 years of experience in theatre-, music- and dance productions and holds a PhD from Leiden University’s Academy of Creative of Performing Arts. He began doing fieldwork in Tuva and writing about its rich musical traditions in 1993. He is best known for his cross-over work in traditional, contemporary and experimental vocal techniques and performing arts, in particular Tuvan throat singing/khöömei and other kinds of overtone singing.


With help from many others, Mark van Tongeren and Choduraa Tumat offer a varied, intensive Tuva experience. The aim is to connect as much as possible with indigenous culture and musicians and to travel responsibly, reducing the impact on the environment. This entails some inconveniences, for example, a lack of certain basic needs travellers may be used to for other destinations.


We will mostly have to share accomodation, sometimes sleeping with four people in a yurt. To deal with the hygiene situation (like a lack of shower or bath) we provide banyas at no extra cost wherever possible, whenever you like.


We believe this tour is not your usual touristic visit. We hope it will be a great learning experience, as you travel with several teachers, with an indigenous Tuvan or scholarly background. We all speak three or more languages, like Tuvan, Russian, English, Nederlands and 中文, so that we should be able to handle all well, almost all – your questions about Tuva.






The tour is designed to accommodate travellers from the Asian region and Europe, arriving and departing at different times but the same dates, in towns north of Tuva. There are convenient connections from Beijing to Krasnoyarsk, as well as from Europe through Moscow to Abakan or even straight into Kyzyl. We pick you up on August 9 and bring you back to your airport on August 22, to catch a flight that evening or the next morning. Extensions are possible upon request.


We will have a more detailed program as we proceed with our preparations. But the itinerary is never written in stone: the program must be flexible, because things often change at the last moment in Tuva/Siberia. We have experience to come up with alternatives, and cannot take responsibility for every detail by the time you book.


Being surprised is part of the adventure of a trip into Siberia a journey you may make only once in your lifetime (though there is a core group of fanatic travellers who come back again and again; Marks first visit was in 1993).






– local transport from Abakan or Krasnoyarsk to/from Tuva by minibus

– usually we include the trip from Asian cities, because of the trouble and high price of obtaining tickets into Siberia on your own. We will inform you as soon as we have all the data.

– all transport in Tuva

– twin accomodation, family accomodation in some places (single upon request; this is not possible everywhere)

– all meals

– concerts and presentations mentioned in the text

– workshops on Tuvan music

– shamanic ritual and classes

– banya’s (Russian style steambath), where available



Expect the following extra expenses:

– visa cost, and invitation letter for visa

– medical, travel, cancellation insurance (usually you need to buy extra insurance)

– extra drinks during meals; snacks

– personal expenses

– tips or small presents to locals involved in the tour are always appreciated

– we can help you reduce CO2 offset for your flight through Greenseat



If you consider to join and you have certain meal preferences let us know on the form. The diet of Tuva is basically meat and fish and not all wishes may be possible to fulfill locally, but we can try to organise it. Hosts and cooks have usually done good jobs to counterbalance the sometimes very meaty menus with great alternatives.





Like all of you, we are following the news about the virus and are aware of the current risks of international travel, particularly in Asia. Here in Taiwan, an isolated island more managable than the mainlaind, the situation is very different from China and well under control. As of February 9 there are 18 confirmed cases. The general public and government are doing well to contain the virus. Russia has had three cases so far and government and general public are very much alert too.

Our travellers have been mostly Taiwanese and Dutch citizens. Taiwanese travellers used to travel through Beijing with tickets bought by us, and this is a situation we will evaluate. There are options through other cities, like Seoul, and perhaps even direct flights into Siberia starting soon. We think there is (and in any case should not be) any risk for the group as a whole. We will await further development and understand travellers might want to wait a bit before booking trips.



Previous tours lasted about 11 days/10 nights and included the international flights for most travellers. The current tour is 13-14 nights depending on your outbound flight. We are still putting together some information and will be able to set the price late February 2020. Since our travellers are mostly people we know (or friends of them), and for other reasons we chose not to publish the prices here.

If you are interested to join, write to us for an e-brochure with full details (about Pricing, Visa, How to Register, etc.), and to receive all updates about this Sound Journey. Even if you are just considering to join, it helps to let us know – no obligations of course!

If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask Mark:

– send an email to Mark

– write him on Messenger:

– call to Taiwan: +886(0)910382749

Or write an email to Choduraa Tumat.




Photo credit: Mark van Tongeren unless otherwise mentioned. Published under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0  license.

The Ouroboros Concert

Voor nederlands even naar beneden skrollen.

Here is a letter I wrote earlier this year when I was about to turn 50 (want to get on the mailinglist too? let me know!):

I love the number 49 and its symbolism. Much better than 50. So I prefer to send out a shout to everyone on the last day of my 49th year in which I am walking on this strange and wonderful place called earth, rather than on the first day of the 50th year. My dear sister Daphne somehow knew I wanted to celebrate while I was still 49, when she organised a surprise party for me several months ago. I completely and totally bought it, even after my mom and two friends showed up in a park where you would not expect that. What a great present!

And then the Tuvans, for whom 49 is a special number, play their magic on me too. Tuva and its inhabitants have shaped my life in many ways. When I was halfway on to this point of my life and getting close to 25 years old, I first visited Tuva and fell in love with the place forever. 12 Years later I visited Tuva with June Wen, and it was then and there that we found out that we are destined for each other. That led to our marriage, to our kids, to me moving to Taiwan. Life-changing experiences in which Tuva seemed to play a role.

And right now, guess what? Earlier this year I began organising several Tuvan concerts here in Taiwan, and I was asked to curate two different acts for the Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. And today (last day of 49) the first Tuvan group, a young quartet called Ezengi, has just finished their job (which they did very well) and returns to Tuva. And tomorrow (first day of 50) four fine senior musicians arrive from Tuva to Taiwan for this weekend’s performances: Shonchalai and Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei and Valerii Mongush. Coincidence?


And then, there was this other coincidence this year. When I fist visited Tuva I learned about a Scythian ornament found during archaeological excavations, consisting of a panther biting its own tail. A wonderful symbol of infinity and the ever-repeating cycles of events. “Ma fin est mon commencement” (“my end is my beginning’) as mediaeval poets and musicians such as Guillaume de Machaut knew so well. This spring a very noble and inspiring friend, the philosopher Fons Elders, sent around a message with his view about this symbol, which is known as the ouroboros in the western world. A little later I performed in the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam with the wonderful Turkish ney player Sinan Arat, a concert I had arranged to be filmed so that I could share it with everybody. In the background of our stage happened to be . . . an ouroboros. So a few days ago, while working on the video I decided to call it “The Ouroboros Concert”. The next day I took the Tuvans to the Pacific Ocean – Tuva being very far removed from any sea or ocean. They decided to try surfing and that’s how I noticed the Scythian ouroboros tattooed on the arm of Anchy Damdyn. What a great idea! The first time ever I imagined I could have a tattoo too.

So by way of celebration and to express the gratitude I feel for being a human amidst so many wonderful human beings I share this Ouroboros concert video with you.



Hier is een brief die ik onlangs rondstuurde, toen ik op het punt stond 49 te worden (ook op de mailinglijst? laat het weten!):

49 Is een prachtig getal met een prachtige symboliek. Veel beter dan 50. Dus stuur ik een groet aan iedereen op de laatste dag van de 49 jaar dat ik op deze vreemde, wonderlijke planeet rondloop, in plaats van de eerste dag van mijn 50e. Mijn lieve zus Daphne voelde kennelijk al aan dat ik liever even stil sta bij mijn leven op mijn 49e, toen ze een surprise party voor me oganiseerde enkele maanden geleden. Ik stonk er totaal in, zelfs nadat mijn moeder en enkele vrienden spontaan opdoken in een park waar je hen toch niet 1-2-3 samen verwacht. Wat een geweldig cadeau!

En de Toevanen, voor wie het getal 49 ook speciale betekenis heeft, duiken ook weer op haast magische wijze op. Zoals jullie weten hebben Toeva en haar inwoners mijn leven op allerlei manieren vorm gegeven. Toen ik halverwege het punt was waar ik nu ben, dus bijna 25 jaar oud, bezocht ik Toeva voor het eerst en raakte voorgoed verslingerd aan deze plek. 12 Jaar later ging ik naar Toeva met June en we ontdekten, toen en daar, dat we voorbestemd waren voor elkaar. Dat leidde dus tot ons huwelijk, kinderen en tenslotte mijn verhuizing naar Taiwan. Nog een levenswending waar Toeva haast een sturende hand in leek te hebben.

En wat is er nu aan de hand? Ik begon eerder dit jaar een aantal Toevaanse concerten te organiseren hier in Taiwan, en werd onder andere verzocht twee programma’s in te vullen voor het Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. En vandaag (de laatste dag dat ik 49 ben) vertrekt de eerste Toevaanse groep, een jong kwartet genaamd Ezengi (nadat ze zich trouwens uitstekend gekweten hebben van hun taak). En morgen (de eerste dag dat ik 50 ben) arriveren er vier geweldige senior musici uit Toeva: Shonchalai en Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei en Valerii Mongush. Toeval?


En dan was er nog iets dit jaar. Toen ik Toeva voor het eerst bezocht leerde ik een Scythisch ornament kennen, dat bij archeologische opgravingen gevonden was en dat bestaat uit een panter die in zijn staart bijt. Een prachtig symbool van oneindigheid en de eeuwigdurende cycli van gebeurtenissen. “Ma fin est mon commencement” zoals middeleeuwse dichters en musici als Guillaume de Machaut heel goed wisten. Dit voorjaar stuurde vriend en inspiratiebron Fons Elders een bericht rond met daarin zijn visie op dit symbool, dat bekend staat als oeroboros in de westerse wereld. Iets later trad ik op in de Oosterkerk in Amsterdam met een geweldige Turkse ney-speler, Sinan Arat, een concert dat ik liet opnemen op video (en waarvoor je de link onderaan vindt). Juist achter ons podium bevond zich . . . een mooie uit hout gesneden oeroboros. En dus besloot ik een aantal dagen geleden toen ik met de video bezig was om ons optreden Het Oeroboros Concert te noemen. De volgende dag (afgelopen zaterdag) nam ik de Toevaanse musici mee naar de oceaan (waar de Toevanen verder van verwijderd zijn dan zo’n beetje wie dan ook ter wereld). Ze wilden graag gaan surfen en zo ontdekte ik de tatoeage van zo’n Scytische oeroboros op de arm van Anchy Damdyn. Wat een geweldig idee! Nooit eerder had ik ook maar een seconde de gedachte gekoesterd dat een tatoeage voor mij zelf ook best interessant kon zijn.

Dus om even stil te staan bij dit bijzondere moment in mijn leven en uitdrukking te geven aan de dankbaarheid om een mens te zijn te midden van allerlei fantastische mensen met wie ik mij omringd weet, deel ik nu deze Oeroboros concertvideo met jullie.


Makigami Koichi comes to town (TPE)

The second Taiwan International Improvised Music Festival (TIIMF) is in full swing, with many events in Taipei and some in Hsinchu. It is great to be involved again, like two years ago when Jaap Blonk came over from the Netherlands for the kick-off of the festival’s first edition. I played host for Jaap and will do the same now for the guest arriving next week. Even though he lives close by, in Japan, it will be Makigami Koichi ‘s first visit to Taiwan. Friends of Taiwan! After a carreer spanning some 40 years, moving in wildly different directions, here is a chance to finally hear, see and even make music with your charming neighbor!


I first met Makigami in Kyzyl (Tuva, Siberia) in 1995 during the International Festival Khöömei. Our paths crossed many times since then, in New Zealand (where we performed with and on the invitation of Phil ‘Dadsonic’ Dadson), New York (where we had a concert the same evening, but in different places; I caught the tail of his performance with John Zorn and others and joined them for a bite afterwards), Germany (where we did a duet which was displayed live on a big screen as a Cymatics graph by Lauterwasser), Amsterdam (for the International Jew’s Harp Festival, where Makigami joined our band Oorbeek) and of course Siberia. More than Jaap Blonk, who sees himself primarily as a composer, Makigami is an improviser at heart.


I’ll never forget how Makigami entered the stage in Siberia to deliver his version of Tuvan throat singing in 1995: he walked in firm, big steps towards the mic, effectively starting his performance not after installing himself behind the mic and getting prepared to sing, but at the moment he appeared from the wings. His performance was hilarious, blending throat singing with other theatrical voices.


It’s hard to nail down where Makigami belongs musically: better not to even try. In 1979 he received national pop-star fame with a rather experimental, faintly New Wave-inspired song.


Shortly before that, he and his friends had formed a rock band called Hikashu (ヒカシュー), even though they started out with an interest in exploring theatre a year earlier. They were not quite interested in staying in the business of producing pop/rock format material and moved in new directions. This can clearly be seen in a documentary from the early 1980s, where we see the band exploring all sorts of absurd, mystical, comic and intellectual ideas and performances. I do not understand Japanese, but anyone can see they explore a huge range of performance techniques.


One of these techniques I knew from my studies in ethnomusicology, which included one semester devoted to Japanese music. We discussed the case, and listened to the recordings, of Buddhist monks (if I remember well), who would pursue a state of being where they let go of their ego-bound consciousness in such a way that they would squarely fall on the ground. We listened to the recording (chanting and bells, I presume) and suddenly heard a loud thud of a monk’s body dropping down; and then another one, and another one. I tried hard to understand how to do that without seriously hurting yourself (I pictured them falling forward). It definitely stands out as one of the most intriguing music-theatrical rituals ever invented.


Well, I found out one possible way to do it when watching the Hikashu documentary. All the band members let go and drop themselves on the floor, almost without counteracting the crash. If you want to try: the movement goes backward, not forward. It seems a thick mat or padded floor is used, by the sound of it (it still looks like a wooden floor). Painless it wasn’t it, at least not every time, so much is clear. It takes practise and guts.

(for the video link of this fragment, scroll down).



I knew for a long time I shared many musical passions with Makigami. The first one was obviously throat singing, then we both love the Jew’s harp. Later after I joined Oorbeek, I met probably the biggest fan of Hikashu and Makigami Koichi in The Netherlands, Maarten Hepp. And just at about the same time I did some improv work with Koichi in New Zealand, playing Zorn’s Cobra under his direction. But after viewing this documentary some years ago I see there is a whole range of body work and conceptual experiments he did in the early days.


It is therefore a great pleasure to also host a workshop with Makigami, who ignited some of my own improv teaching work when jointly presenting a workshop in New Zealand in 2003. He had a fantastic way of inviting and encouraging people to join in his musical experiments, and this lingered on in my own teaching. Next Sunday, November 26, Taipei residents have a chance to work with an original master of musical invention.


I asked him for the requirements of those who are going to join.

He dryly replied “no technique”.

Any styles people should know or play?

“No styles”.


That will be on Sunday November 26, 13:30-17:00, in Reykjavik Lab /

愛雷克雅維克實驗室, 台北市濟南路一段7號B1, Taipei. Full details and registration: on Accupass and at the bottom of this post.




Friday November 24

Concert “National Song beyond the Voice”

with Makigami Koichi (JP, voice, theremin, Jew’s harp, shakuhachi), Lin Chien-Chun (soprano), Lee Shih-Yang (piano), Mark van Tongeren (voice, sruti box, Jew’s harp), Hsing Tian Kong Library, Taipei, 19:00


Saturday November 25

Closing concert of the Taiwan International Improvised Music Festival

With Porta Chiusa; and Makigami Koichi (JP, voice, theremin, Jew’s harp, shakuhachi), Tung Chaoming (guzheng), Mark van Tongeren (voice, sruti box, Jew’s harp), and others.

Zhongshan Hall, Taipei, 19:30



Tuesday November 28

Improvisation music/dance with Makigami Koichi and Mark van Tongeren and one female dancer.

HORSE · No.24, Lane 28, Sec.1 Daguan Rd., · Banchiao District · New Taipei City 220 · Taiwan




Wednesday November 29

A lecture-demo in Fu Jen University, Taipei


Details upon request.





This film also includes their hit song:

Hikashu ヒカシュー | プヨプヨ


For which the single version is here.





This afternoon is for anyone interested in improvising with sound and music, from professionals (voice/instruments) to absolute beginners. Makigami Koichi is one of the special international guests for the second Taiwan International Improvisation Music Festival, doing several gigs around Taipei in this week.

Mr. Koichi is a master at manipulating groups of musicians, from absolute beginners to the most experienced professionals, and to let them create something never heard or seen before.

Powerful yet playful, with a body-language that is at once authorative and disheartening, Makigami Koichi could even turn a group of meek lambs into a fantastic bleeting-orchestra.

This man is breathing music and you cannot help breathing along with him, so that music, noise and theatrical antics will start to pour out of every pore of your skin.

As a (former) avant-rock star, an extremely versatile vocalist, the bandleader of Hikashu for almost 40 years, and as a multi-instrumentalist, Makigami has steered through numerous Japanese musical landscapes. He redefined the horizon of music in Japan, and far beyond.

Most of all, he understands group dynamics and, with few words, can guide people who never met before through a diverse musical landscape.

Musicians, non-musicians:
it’s Mr. Koichi’s first visit to Taiwan.
Join this unique event.
You will not regret it.











11/26 星期日,14:00-17:00

100 台北市濟南路一段7號

單人    每人1500 NT$
六人團體票 每人1200 NT$
學生/長者 每人1000NT$

Sunday November 26, 14:00-17:00
Doors open at 13:30, workshop starts at 14:00.

Reykjavik Lab
No. 7, Section 1, Jinan Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, 10051

100, 1200, 1500 NT$

Makigami Koichi is a renowned vocal performer and multi-instrumentalist who has been playing around the world for years. He rose to fame as the singer of the New Wave/rock band Hikashu in 1979. Soon thereafter the band sought more freedom, incorporating elements of spontaneity and improvisation into their music.

With some changes, Koichi and his collective continue to play a significant role in the cross-over field of rock-jazz-improvisation in Japan and around the world, with recent tours in Europe, Australia and the US.

Besides solo work, Makigami played with prominent jazz/experimental/avant-garde musicians like Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Ikue Mori and Fred Frith. He has visited Tuva/Siberia since the early 1990s and organised many tours and published CDs of Tuvan and Altai music in Japan. He is also a co-producer and the main curator of the avant-garde jazz festival Jazz Art Sengawa in Tokyo.




What happened after 1981 and recently, just check out Makigami’s websites.

And his website, proudly maintained by the artist himself since 1995 with the ancient but still working hypertext content. Proof of Makigami’s dedicated DIY spirit.


Sound Journey to Tuva 2018


After a 2016 ‘pilot’ Sound Journey to Tuva, Fusica/Mark van Tongeren presents a new Journey to Tuva in august 2018. An ideal way to explore a little-visited corner of the world with a guide who has travelled to Tuva for almost 25 years. You can experience Siberia’s wide-open steppe, its dense taiga, stunning rivers and lakes, rich culture, music and vibrant religious life. Though it is not a throat singing tour, you will get first-hand experience of Tuva’s famous throat singers, and receive instructions from local masters and your guide Mark. Those with a deeper interest in throat singing can stay longer in Tuva and get khöömei instruction through our network.


The tour will not be just for Mandarin speakers, and primarily conducted in English.
The rough dates are August 7 to August 22, with 12 days spent in Siberia. On Wednesday December 20 Mark van Tongeren, who leads the tour, will present the whole idea with full details in Taipei. Request a brochure if you are anywhere else and interested to learn more.

For the talk in Taipei you can register here or on Facebook. Full details will be available end of December 2017. Write us if you are interested in joining.

2016年,我們第一次舉辦了去圖瓦的聲音之旅。這次Fusica和德蘇(Mark van Tongeren) 結合了他在圖瓦25年的經驗,即將有個全新的圖瓦之行規劃。你可以體現西伯利亞廣闊的草原、茂密的針樹林帶、壯闊的河流和湖、豐富的文化、音樂,以及宗教生活。這次雖然不以喉唱課程為主軸,我們還是會聽到許多著名的喉唱歌手演出,也會跟當地跟大師以及德蘇學唱。不過,想學的人可以在圖瓦多待幾天,我們可以為你聯絡適合的老師。

【圖瓦的聲音之旅2018 說明會】
時間: 12月20日,星期三,19:00-21:00
地點:Canjune Aromajoint小聚場
106台北市大安區溫州街74巷3弄1 號

行程預定日期: 8月5日到8月20日

Please register here on FB or send a message to Mark: 0910-382-749,