Mongolian Folk Music (Various Artists) Hungarton HCD18013/14 (recordings from 1967)

Originally available on a triple vinyl LP. These recording are of great historical and musical interest. The Khφφmii singer Bori is featured on two short tracks. Strangely the liner notes say that Khφφmii singing is fairly common in Eastern Mongolia, which does not seem to be the case now!??. Catch some early long song of Norovbanzad, fine epic/legend singing and lots, lots more.                                                                                                               


A Hungaroton ‑ Unesco collaboration selected and compiled from the 1967 year's collection by Lajos Vargyas    Compact disc 1 Total Time: 49’50’’

1  Story of the origin of the marinhur (9'26") (Dagiranc)                                                                

2  Praise song (magdal) about an archer in a tournament (2’14") (Dorzhdagva)

3  Heroic song (magdal)) about the winner of the archery tournament (2'38")


4 & 5 “Zamba Tiv” ‑ 'Long song' performed on the marinhur  (6'30’’) (Zhamyan)                                                             

6   Jew's harp song (Ho‑mi) (0’54")  (Bori)                                                         

7 "Dadaj gerech" song performed on the yochen (0’33’) (Dozhdava)                                                                               

8 "Hergen" ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (2’46’’) (Suglegma, Ceden)                                                        

9 "Zergen tiyn sil" ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (2'23’’) (Suglegma,    


10 "Uzesgelen ua" ‑ Song performed on the sudrag (1’38’’)    (Dazhdulam)                                                                    

11 "Handarma" ‑ Song about a girl performed on the sudrag (2'22") (Dazhdulam)                                                            

12 "Suenserlen harandah ul" ‑ Song about the nature on the sudrag (2'28’’)   


13  "Urt saffiam huren" ‑ East Mongolian 'long song' with marinhur accompaniment

        (3’51’’) (Dorzhdagva, Boyan)                                                                       

14 "Hojer bor" ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (3’26") (Dorzhdagva,


15  Jew's harp song (Ho‑mi) (1’40") (Bori)

16 "Sigsirgin ay" ‑ in praise of the horse. (0'40) Sung with sudrag, yochen, yihor and   

      talhengreg accompaniment (Nansalma)

17 "Ondor‑sayhan bor" ‑ 'Long song' (5’16) (Dorzh‑suren)


Compact disc II Total Time: 50’34’’


1  Praise song of the Gobi (magdal) (8'12’’) (Dagiranc)

2  "Bor bor byalzuhay" ‑ 'Long song' (2’25’’) (Dorzhdagva)

3  "Durtmal sayharn" ‑ West Mongolian 'long song' with marinhur accompaniment (4'20") (Dorzhdagva, Boyan)

4  "Onchin cagan batcho" ‑ 'Long song' on the limba (1’44") (Dorzh)

5  "Zambu tivlyn nar" ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (3’20") (Norovbancad, Batbayar)

6 "Urhan hongor" ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (2'39") (Norovbancad, Batbayar)

7 "Hoyer bor” ‑ 'Long song' with marinhur accompaniment (2'38") (lahmzhav, Z1hanzanchol)

8  "Uzelen gua" ‑ Song performed on the hocher (0’40’’) (Masuren)

9 & 10 "Harisan hagd" ‑ Darhat song with marinhur accompaniment (2'38") (Nadmid, Zhanzanchoi)

11 "Bieleg" ‑ Music of the shoulder dance performed on the sudrag (1’43") (Bazarragcha)

12 "Uyeidur" ‑ Music of the arm‑hand dance performed on the sudrag (1’37’’) (Bazarragcha)

13  Dance melody performed on the sudrag (2’30") (Bazarragcha)

14  "Setert" ‑ South Mongolian 'long song' from Borzhigen with marinhur accompaniment (5’06’’) (Dorzhdagva, Boyan)

15 “Sumen delt" ‑ Song performed on the yochen (1’17’’) (Dasdeleg)

16 "Bayan sun" ‑ Song performed vocally and on the yochen (1’29’’) (Dascleleg)

17  "Har deltei halyun" ‑ Dorbot song (4’45) (Bazuh)

18 "Gandan ulun ceceg" ‑Song performed vocally and on the yetah (2’19’’) (Nansalma, Nadmid, Balchinsuren, Cerendolgor, Enhtusin, Zhagirzurem, Gadima, Dolgor)




Madame Balchinsuren, 28, yetah

Batbayar, 32, born in Suhebator, marinhur

Madame Bazarragicha, 45, born in Ulanbator, sudrag

Bazuh, 39, Dorbot tribe, born in Ird Aymak, singer

Boyan, 46, born in Urhangai, marinhur

Bori, 23, singer (Jew's harp song)  (sadly no mention of where he come from!)

Ceden, 45, born in Bayanhongor, marinhur

Madame Cerendolgor, 21, yetah

Dagiranc, 36, born in Dund Gov, accompanying himself on the marinhur

Madame Dasdeleg, 71, born in Seleng Aymak, yochen

Madame Dazhclulam, 40, born in Touv Aymak, sudrag

Dorzh, 50, born in Dorno Gov, limba

Dorzhdagva, 63, born in Dun Gov, singer, retired folk artist of merit

Dorzh‑suren, 48, born in Zavhan Aymak, singer

Madame Dolgor, 39, yetah

Madame Dozhdava, 28, born in Zavhan Aymak, yochen

Miss Enhtusin, 18, yetah

Madame Gadima, 21, yetah

Lhamzhav, 38, born in Za0an Aymak, singer

Madame Masuren, 40, born in Choybalsan, hocher

Madame Nadmid, 30, Darhat tribe, born in Hovsgol Aymak, singer, yetah

Madame Nansalma, 24, born in Dund Gov, singer, yetah

Madame Norovbanzad, 35, born in Dund Gov, singer

Madame Suglegma, 34, born in Arhanchai, singer

Madame Zhagirzurem, 34, yetah Z1ramyan, 46, born in Eastern Mongolia, marinhur

Zhanzanchoi, 24, born in Gov Aymak, marinhur


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A few words about Mongolian folk music


              A selection sufficient for two recordings is not enough to present Mongolian folk music in all its variety, or to give an idea of all its instruments and types of vocal music as well as differences due to region dialects. All this makes Mongolian folk music extraordinarily rich in spite of the fact that it is almost entirely made up of pentatonic music. There are so many variations of vocal techniques, however, including highly unique types of singing, that even a short illustration will surprise a listener accustomed to Western music.

              Old lyrical melodies and certain ritual‑like songs are performed with characteristic ornamentation, glissandos, trills and tremolos, which are strongly reminiscent of instrumental sound effects. The most surprising element, however, is the wide vocal range of the songs. Falsetto singing is extremely wide‑spread, and used with strong volume, thus enabling an experienced singer to greatly expand his vocal register. At a certain point the broad melodies are continued one octave higher, extending the melodic line to unbelievable heights. The vocal range of their most famous singer, Dorzhdagva, extends over three octaves, from A to a", as shown in the selections on the discs (I/2‑3, 13‑14, II/2‑3, II/14). Mainly the so‑called long songs" are sung in this fashion. Another peculiarity in the perfor­mance of these songs is that the text, sometimes even certain words are broken with meaningless syllables which serve to heighten vocal techni­que and tonal colour. (This custom is also known in the Balcans). Moreover, they have a type of song, which has no text at all, and is performed throughout with such meaningless syllables (I/2‑3). In other features too, the performing style of these pieces is identical with that of the long songs".

In the women's 1ong songs", the wide vocal range used by the men is missing (retaining the high notes but lacking the deepest register), nonetheless, the vocal technique is just as demanding. In the highest registers their vibratos and tremolos bear witness to a highly developed vocal technique on the same level (I/8‑‑9, II15‑6, II/9‑10).

To expand the vocal range and to develop a unique vocal technique, this in itself is no ordinary accomplishment. Mongolian folk music, however, goes beyond this and overcomes the natural limitations of the human voice. They have developed a technique whereby one person can sing in two voices at the same time. Actually, the one of these is a single prolonged droning fundamental tone above which a flutelike melody is sounded in a high register. Even so, two voices are heard simultaneously from the same throat! These sounds were learned from the Jew's harp which in essence is an instrument producing a droning fundamental tone when the small vibrating metal tongue is held to the lips, and whose overtones are produced by altering the shape of the oral cavity. The Mongolian, however, can produce the same effect without the instrument by tensing their vocal chords and pressing air through them with great force. This gives the instrument‑like effect of a fundamental note rich in overtones, which can then be heard according to the different positions of the mouth cavity. This vocal production forces the diaphragm, demanding at the same time special use of the throat and the mouth, and all this has to be learnt separately. Not everyone can acquire this talent, but it is still fairly common among male singers, especially in Eastern Mongolia. And what is even more incredible, there are some men who can produce this wordless, almost supernatural whistling melody while riding on horseback (I/6, 15).

There are other accomplishments resulting exquisite artistic experiences, which do not so much demand physical strength as great intellectual concentration. Among the different types of epics, there are vocal sagas and praise songs when the singer himself provides the accompaniment, moreover, improvising and varying text, melody and accompaniment alike. That is, he produces three kinds of improvisations simultaneously. Naturally, not all these elements are born during a given performance. The outlines and style of the melody and the accompaniment as well as various points in the text and the content of the saga have come down through history. But it is the singer who on the basis of this rough framework, lends form to the material, on the spur of the moment.

The content of the saga (I/1) is briefly the following: a hero has a winged horse. When he calls the animal, the performer imitates the sound of the horse's neighing and hoof‑beats on his instrument, either by beating or sliding the bow on the strings. The horse and his master fall asleep. His enemy cuts off the horse's wings, thus killing it. The hero mourns for his horse, and this lament, peculiarly enough, is not performed in song but in an instrumental interlude in which, after the pure pentatonic melody, chromatic intervals are suddenly heard. Finally, he makes a musical instrument out of the horse's hide, mane and head the very first marinhur. That is why there is a horse's head carved at the end of the marinhur's fingerboard, just as in the case of many Hungarian zithers. The saga's melody is a type familiar in many parts of the world, it can be found in the Middle East, in the recitation of Catholic psalms as well as in one type of Hungarian folksong now sinking into oblivion. In Mongolian music, however, it contains freer variations and sweeping declamatory rhythm.

The same singer also performs a praise song about the Gobi (II/1). This is a song in verse strophes but still possessing wide opportunity for variation and improvisation. When singing about the girls' dance, the performer beats a dance rhythm with his bow as an accompaniment. The marinhur is the most wide‑spread instrument in Mongolia, and is usually used for vocal accompaniment. The story of its origin shows how deeply it is rooted in Mongolian folklore. It is a cello‑like instrument with two strings and a trapezoid body, which is held between the knees, supported on the ground, as in the case of the Western instrument. Its tone, and especially its glissandos and tremolos virtually reproduce the sound of vocal ornamentation, equally evident as accompaniment when it imitates vocal melody (I/8‑9, 13‑14, II/3, 5‑7, 9‑10, 14), and in solo instrumental performance (I/4‑5).

In addition, there are several other instruments in common use. In these recordings you will hear zither‑like yetah which has the size and tone of a harp (II/18); the limba, a cross-flute (II/4); a three string plugged instrument, the sudrag (I/10‑12, II/11‑13); the hocher, a small two‑stringed instrument with a cup shaped resonating body (II/8); the yochen, the twin of the Hungarian cimbalom (I17, II/16); and finally an ensemble composed of a yihor and a talhengreg (I/16), a large marinhur used as a bass and a castanet like rattle, these but in ensembles.

Besides these a number of other instruments are known which contemporary Mongolian folk music inherited partly from secular and partly from religious sources. There are also new types of singing which are actually the most popular today. Among them can be found works by well‑known composers, which are performed in various programmes mostly by ensembles or outstanding soloists. On these occasions they are accompanied by new type of instrumental ensembles. Some of the selections give a taste of these highly popular songs (I/16, II/18), the latter included in order to give an idea of the sound of the yetah.

The performers on these recordings were all found in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. This city differs from its counterparts the world over in that it offers as many opportunities for an acquaintance with folk music as any other region in the country. Indeed, perhaps more. The Mongolian cherish their musical traditions, and whenever an exceptionally gifted singer or instrumentalist is found in the provinces, he is sent to the capital either to teach traditional styles in the state music school, or to entertain the public in operatic concerts and other programmes. Thus, in Ulan Bator itself one can become familiar with the traditions of the whole country and from the very best performers.

One of the most outstanding among them is the singer Dorzhdagva, a retired "artist of merit". Others include Dagiranc, a singer of epics and Zhamyan, teacher of the marinhur at the music school. We do not wish to create the impression however, that Mongolian folk music is being perpetuated only by these exceptional singers and instrumentalists. In order to illustrate how deeply rooted the styles they represent are in the daily musical life of the average Mongolian, we have recorded traditional songs, among them a 1ong song", by such performers (I/17, II/17). You will notice that they have the same style, even if the wide range, the use of the falsetto is lacking.

We also wished to illustrate tribal differences and musical dialects. It was for this reason that we recorded Darhat and Dorbot songs. Where no mention is made of origin, the selections refer to Halha Mongolians. The selections on these recordings will surely suffice to convince the listener of the unique musical traditions preserved throughout their long history by these people living in the mountains of Central Asia, and also of the high artistic achievements a traditional folk culture is capable of at its best.


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