Mongolia has a rich cultural heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation. The country is known for its epic singing, traditional instruments, and unique throat singing style known as khoomei. In honor of Asian Heritage Month, we recently hosted "The Ancient Melodies of Mongolia" and had the privilege of hearing from two remarkable artists, Dr. Baatarjav Erdenetsogt and Ms. Bolormaa Purevjav, who have dedicated their lives to preserving and promoting this cultural heritage. Special thanks to our co-organizers Dr. Baatarjav, Ms. Bolormaa, as well as the Chingis Khaan Museum, World Nomadic Cultural and Custom's Center and The Center for Traditional Music and Dance.
Dr. Baatarjav Erdenetsogt is an epic singer, tsuur musician, and khoomei singer from Mongolia. He was born in 1972 in a place called 'Bosgyn ekh' in Duut soum of Khovd province. Dr. Baatarjav grew up among the last renowned epic singers of Mongolia, including great epic singers and tsuur musicians, who were his teachers. After obtaining the profession of veterinary in the School of Agriculture in Khovd, he studied and worked in Russia, where he learned the arts of epic singing and tsuur playing and had music education. He established his solo band of 'Mongolian heroic epos' in 1994 and learned the arts of wooden tsuur and throatsinging. Dr. Baatarjav set a mission to preserve and transmit the marvelous heritage and culture of ancestors of Mongolians, particularly ancient Uriankhai ethnic people. He learned to play simultaneously the epic singing, tsuur flute, khöömei singing, ancient jaw's harp, tovshuur fiddle, and ikel playing techniques in their authentic manner and methods. He has held his solo and joint performances in many countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Japan, China, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgi, Italy, and Russia.
Ms. Bolormaa is a Mongolian musician and cultural ambassador who was born in 1972 in Jargalant Soum, Khovd Province. She graduated from the School of Design in Russia and started working in Hovd in 1998. Bolormaa has participated in various cultural events and received numerous medals for her achievements in music and dance. Ms. Bolormaa, alongside Dr. Baatarjav, has researched and developed Mongolian ancient instruments, such as Chashga, Dudar, and Numan Khuur, which were almost forgotten, and now teaches these instruments to younger generations. Bolormaa is a member of the bands "Khulgun Tuulis" and "Khugsuu" and has given concerts in over 20 countries, including Russia, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the USA, and Germany. She has introduced Mongolian traditional culture to Mongolian television broadcasters and participated in programs such as Happy New Year Lunar and Naadam.
During our event, Dr. Baatarjav and Ms. Bolormaa showcased their talents and performed on several centuries-old traditional Mongolian instruments. They shared the traditions and history of Mongolian instruments and their association with modern instruments. Dr. Baatarjav explained that Mongolian traditional instruments are divided into three groups based on the material they are made of: rock, wood, bones, and wool. These historic instruments date back to the hunter-gatherer time and were used for hunting and spiritual purposes. He added that Mongolia had about 200-300 musical instruments dating back thousands of years, but now only approximately 30 are recorded and in use.
The instruments that were performed are:
Dudar: First evidence of the instrument appeared in the 15th century. It is inseparable from Mongolian tradition and is used for all genres of traditional music and singing. Essential part of festivities, ceremonies, social gatherings, and more. It is a long-necked, two stringed lute with a pear shaped body that is covered by a thin wooden sounding board. The body and soundboard are made from mulberry wood, the wood is rounded, hollowed out and polished. The neck is made with dried trunk of an apricot tree.
Tsuur (Wooden flute): The Tsuur was inscribed in 2009 on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The music of the Tsuur is a combination of instrumental and vocal performance. This instrument is an inseparable art from the Uriankhai Mongolians of the Altai Region and it remains an integral part of their daily lives. It is played to ensure success for hunts, benign weather, and benediction for safe journeys/weddings/festivities. The music reflects ones inner feelings when traveling alone by connecting human to nature.
Num Khuur- is an ancient musical genre, even older than our pet domestication. It is a bow folk instrument used by the previous generation of the Mongolian stubborn ethnic group Uriankhai. There are 6 different types of these instruments such as Tsuukel, Suwchaar, Aldlagt, Jirgeer, Bultsuurt gives. These instruments were often made of wood and deer antler. Senior Suren Jamsran has apparently started to restore these instruments, which was interrupted for more than 70 years, and commissioned the carpenter J. Erdenetsogt and blacksmith J. Tseren. This instrument Num Khuur is published from the habitat of the Uriankhai people, which is surrounded by mountains and peaks, is closely related to the mountains, hunting, habits and warfare, and also was to do with their tradition and customs and beliefs, especially this one Instrument played for the fire, which is the largest sanctuary of the house. The bow music has two unmistakable nuuh of metal and copper, traditional technology of the bilchir is made with red bronze. In 1930 a woman lived in Duut, the last representative of this music. When playing Numan Khuur is similar to the Khel Khuur. For the past 16 to 20 years, Baatarjav and Bolormaa have collected more than 30 different Khel Khuur and 50 different Tumors Khuur and Khulsan Khuur.
Khel Khuur (Jew’s harp): in our country, a bone fiddle was found from the Altanbulag sum area of the Central Province, which testifies to the fact that the Mongols enjoyed and used the fiddle during the Hunnu period, or more precisely in the 3rd-1st centuries BC/before the common census. The tomb was excavated and studied in 1989 by a joint team of scientists from Hungary, Russia and Mongolia. In addition, if it can be confirmed that the tongue and fiddle originated before the practice of shamanism, it can be considered that this musical instrument is at least 25 thousand years old. This is because American scientists have determined that the indigenous people, the Indians, practiced shamanism when they came to the continent, and they determined that the migration from Asia through the Bering Strait took place 20-25 thousand years ago.
Currently, scientists agree on only one thing about the origin of the fiddle, and that is the assumption that the fiddle originated from the Bronze Age. Music lovers define the bamboo fiddle as the youngest fiddle based on its spread to many parts of the world, but musicologists have the opposite opinion. They assume that the bone and bamboo fiddles are the oldest forms. Although the lingo and fiddle did not change much in appearance and shape when it spread to all corners of the world, the Vietnamese lingo and fiddle is characterized by the fact that it does not have strings. In addition, Mongolia is the only nation that has developed and preserved three types of fiddles: bone, metal, and bamboo. That is why some Mongolian folk music researchers suggest that the khel khuur originated in Central Asia. Bone fiddles are the least common type of fiddle to find their way into instrument stores in the United States. The instrument recreates the melodies of nature, wildlife and is commonly used for spiritual rituals.
Uriankha Jashga Instrument: This music is a unique music that whistles loud and loud. Heroes Epicer Erdenetsogt played this music and he then inherited it to his son. In July 1997, Heroes Epicer Erdenetsogt had talked about this instrument. Chashga Instrument was used for 6 basic purposes.
- Bring out and compare bird's voices
- Use for hunting
- Prayer to heaven
- Childless families
- Helped someone who is in a panic
Chashga's main part was made of wood by Miriceria Germanica, spiral groove of Aspen tree and wooden stem of Baljirgan plant. And the pistol is made with the stiff felt. At the opening ceremony of the International Symposium Throat singing Festival, many different scholars and artists were very interested in this instrument and were inspired by the fact that this music of the hero epic narrator Baatarjav becomes with the wood music Tsuur of the old Huns empire, the epic and the Throat singing were combined.)
Morin Khuur: Inscribed in 2004 on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The instrument is dated back to the 13th century Mongol Empire. The instrument is important to our nomads and is an integral instrument to rituals and activities. The Morin Khuur retains tunes that are specifically intended to tame animals, such as mother camels (The Weeping Camel). The teaching of the instrument is transmitted orally from master to apprentice for many generations since it is difficult to transcribe using standard notations. The design of the Morin Khuur is closely linked to the important cult of the horse and there is a lore explaining the origin.