Amaan Khuur (sometimes Khel Khuur, Khel means tongue) Jews harps

 

The Amaan khuur, which means Mouth instrument, is the general name for the mouth harp or the Jew's harp. There are two types of Amaan Khuur, which I will describe.

 

Tömör Khuur

 

The Tömör Khuur is the metal or iron mouth harp and is commonly used to create popular or short song melodies. It was used among the Buryiat shamans to cure the sick and the Khalkh Mongols to test a potential shaman (Böö) and during the invocation of a spirit. The Darkhad Shamans of Northern Mongolia used three methods of playing.

 

Shuud Tsokhilt (Direct stroke) is a regular rhythmic stroke with no change in pitch symbolising the journey of the shaman along the road.

 

Khelnii Tsokhilt (tongue stroke) made by moving the tongue backwards and forwards to create different pitches, is used to imitate the cries of animals and to communicate with the animal spirits.

 

Ongodiin Tsokhilt (Spirit stroke) imitates the trotting of an animal, and is used when the spirit is believed to have left the body of the shaman and to be returning home to its tent or to the mountains and rivers.

 

When in Mongolia I saw an amazing video copied from a Mongolian film. There was a mother camel, who had given birth to a baby camel but the mother camel had sadly died. The herdspeople tried to get it to suckle on another she camel. However the she camel rather unceremoniously kicked the poor baby camel away. The herdspeople then got out their Tömör Khuur and played a special melody. This melody did an incredible thing. It made the she camel cry!. The camel’s huge tears swelled up in her and she wept. The herdspeople proceeded to play a special long song on the Morin Khuur. This created a state, which enabled the she camel to accept the orphan baby camel to feed! It is one of the most remarkable pieces of animal husbandry I have ever seen. The herdspeople have spent so much of their history caring for these animals that it seems they can tune into their very souls.

 

Khulsan Khuur (Bamboo Mouth Harp)

 

The second type of Jew's harp is the Khulsan Khuur or Bamboo Khuur. It can also be made of bone, horn and wood. The Khulsan Khuur is largely played by women and girls and is said to attract men. The method of playing is quite simple but different from the Tömör Khuur.

 

1. Loosely hold in the left hand.

2. Do not touch the mouth

3. The tongue of the Khulsan Khuur should be in line with the mouth

4. When pulling the string it must be in the plane of the Khulsan Kuur

5. When the string is fully extended flick back with the wrist.

6. Change the resonant structure of the mouth with silent vowels and tongue position changes to create a melody

7. You can create a rhythm my moving the Khulsan Khuur to and from your mouth

 

Javgaan plays an 8 minute Amaan Khuur melody on Virtuosos from the Mongolian Plateau : King Records World Music Library King 5177 (August 1992).

 

 

Return to Overview of Mongolian music main page