I met Zulsar briefly in Ulaanbaatar in 1997. He had just performed with the state music and dance ensemble. He created a new style for Mongolian khöömii singers, which was most probably influenced by the Chylandyk style from Tuva. Zulsar combines his version of Khargiraa with one of his khöömii styles. So when he sings a melody the harmonic number needs to be double due to the undertone nature of the Khargiraa. So in the “Zulsar” style he will sing with control up to the 26th Harmonic! His style sound very different from the Chylandyk style in Tuva. All the Mongolian khöömii singers in Ulaanbaatar have tried to copy his style with varied success.


Here are some words from Zulsar (or a friend?) himself


The technique of throat singing may be easy to write about- but it is almost impossible to actually try to perform. To perform the higher tune, the singer should bend (or fold) the tongue, and tap skilled sounds with the tongue point and whisper through the front teeth. At the same time the converged melody is made by making lips conical. As the basic tune resonates, a melodic buzzing sound also reverberates. Because of the unique skills needed to master this type of venerated singing is rigorous, there are not very many throat singers. The mother land of throat singing is considered to be in Khovd aimag, (in western Mongolia,). It is said that almost everyone there can throat sing. But although almost everyone can throat sing, very few actually can perform it professionally. It is estimated that only one out of two hundred children eventually master this demanding skill. Mr. Zulsar is one such gifted vocalist. He has travelled with the National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble to roughly fifty countries presenting the wonders of throat singing. Mr. Zulsar firmly believes in order to be a throat singer, one must not only have a capacious throat, but more importantly- the ability to refine through hard work and demonstrate a real patience for the continuous development of it.

“It is difficult to pinpoint the period when throat singing actually started, but as an art it started to develop during the 19th century. Khoomii is not studied well. Shorter forms of Khoomii were sung. In 1954 Tsedee, a singer from Chamdmani soum, Khovd aimag sang, “Eulogy of Altai Kaan” (long song about Altai mountain) in the throat singing form during the Khovd aimags Arts Days in Ulaanbaatar- That song was a revolution in the Khoomii art!" Zulsar asserts.

In Mongolia, this creative sound is at its’ zenith largely due to the performers imaginative aesthetic impressions of nature in which he/she is a part of. For instance, songs from Khovd aimag sound eerily similar to wind whistling over rocks and crevices, as they impersonate their aimag surroundings, which is windy and rocky.

There are three genres of Khoomii: Khoomii from chest or lower tune buz; cascading Khoomii, divided into two-cascading and lapids; whistling or thin Khoomii. This is believed to be suitable for songs concerning legends and epic poems.


Return to khöömii singers page 3