Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Performers' Instruments Stolen
By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
City Hall got a crash course on Tuvan music after a group of Siberian performers lost their rare instruments to a weekend theft in an Albuquerque motel parking lot.
The musicians were nearing the end of a 50-concert U.S. tour when the thieves broke into their rented van Sunday and made off with their fiddles and other instruments, considered invaluable to the players. They also took two of the members' passports.
"It's hurting everyone hard," Sean Quirk, the band's Wisconsin-born manager, said of the smash-and-grab burglary. "It's going to hurt our future as a band even."
Quirk manages the Alash Ensemble, which consists of four men from Tuva, a Central-Asian republic that borders on Mongolia. The four practice Tuvan throat singing, an ancient art developed among the nomadic herdsmen of this region.
They play instruments such as the two-stringed "horse-head fiddle," so-called because the peghead is carved in the shape of a horse's head.
The musicians met Mayor Richard Berry during an appearance Sunday at an Asian music festival and explained that their instruments and passports had been stolen.
On Monday, city officials helped them complete police reports about the incident.
Thieves are likely to have trouble unloading the instruments at a pawn shop, Quirk said. "I'd like to see the looks on their faces when they opened those cases and saw those horse-headed instruments," he said.
White said the burglars still may try to find a market for the instruments.
"It's going to be difficult for someone to sell them," White said. "But from my experience, they'll try."
Band members thought they could safely leave their instruments, passports and other personal items locked in the van while they grabbed six hours of sleep at Motel 6, 1000 Avenida César Chávez SE. Motel employees notified them about 6 a.m. Sunday that someone had smashed a rear window of the van and stolen the contents.
Enthusiasts of Tuvan music have responded to the call to loan instruments to the band for its seven remaining concerts. The band expects some instruments to arrive by FedEx in Telluride, Colo., in time for a concert scheduled Thursday, Quirk said.
The band will travel today to Acoma Pueblo, where it will perform for school children. The musicians will have to rely on singing until they can replace their instruments, as they did at an Asian music festival Sunday in Albuquerque.
Two of the men also lost passports, which could hinder their ability to return to the former Soviet republic June 1 as scheduled, Quirk said. City officials said they contacted members of the New Mexico congressional delegation to expedite the process of replacing the passports.
Quirk said he fears Russian authorities won't let the two men re-enter the country without their original documents. "Russia is really famous for its complex bureaucracy," he said.