It's an elegant, bowed, two-stringed Tuvan musical instrument, central to the music of that southern Siberian region, emitting a haunting sound that often accompanies and is played by throat singers. Tuva is part of the state of Russia, but is near to Mongolia and lies a the very centre of Asia.
The neck and lute-shaped sound box of the igil are usually made of a solid piece of pine or larch. The top of the sound box may be covered with skin or a thin wooden plate. The strings, and those on the bow, are traditionally made of horsetail hair, but also now nylon. The design often includes a horse’s head on the neck, as this similar Mongolian instrument, the morin khuur, or horse-head fiddle:
The Tuvan igil comes in a variety of lute-like shapes.
Some even incorporated a banjo-like sound box to help transmit the music:
Also known as the "ikili" in western Mongolia, is part of the lute family, but distinctively has a sound from its elongated shape, and is all about the relationship between two strings, often with one remaining on one constant while the other variously plays in unison, an octave higher, or creating various harmonious along a series of scales, as here demonstrated by celebrated player, maker and also minister of culture Aldar Tamdyn.
Now, incorporating that traditional, and complementary throat singing, is another Tuvan star, Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, from the group Huun-Huur-Tu, with the eerily wonderful Lament of the Igil:
And set with a splendid and breezy backdrop, here's singer and player Batzorig Vaanchig:
Ayana Mongush meanwhile begins her performance by using the harmonic capabilities of the instrument, lightly touching the strings low down the neck while bowing.
And here is an entire album of both the igil and throat singing traditions brought together by a variety of artists:
Other notable peformers to explore include Ak-ool Kara-sal, Andrei Chuldum-ool, Igor Koshkendei, Mongun-ool Ondar, Radik Tulush and Evgeny Saryglar.
Seen or heard any other igils being played or players accompanying in Tuvan or other music forms? Do any other types or images come to mind? Feel free to share other examples in songs, instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts in comments below. You can also get in touch the contact page, and also visit us on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. and Song Bar Instagram. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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