Mongolie , Vocal and Instrumental Music (various artists) Maison des Cultures du Monde W260009 (November 1988)

This well recorded CD contains five tracks of Ganbold’s khöömii as well as a little of Yavgaans. There is some great long song singing and morin khuur playing and unusually a good selection of darkhad songs.


1.  Jaakhan charga, a long, solo song. “The little light bay". A song of praise and of love.


2. Erdene Zasguyn unaga, a long, accompanied song. 'Erdene Zasag's foal". A song of filial love.


3. Morin tövörgöön, morin khuur solo. "The horse's gallop". Evoking the spaces of the steppe played in long style, followed by a rapid tatlaga, to illustrate the horse's gallop.


4. Torguud nutag, biphonic song. “The land of the Torgut". The melody of a short song sung in tseedjnii khöömii or biphonic voice, and accompanied on the morin khuur.


5. Biphonic song. Taravjav Ganbold accompanying himself on the ekhel, fiddle, presents successively three techniques of biphonic singing, tseedjnii khöömii, bagalzuuriin khöömii and kharkhira khöönii


6. Khuren khaalgatai delguur, biphonic song. The melody of a satirical song performed in tseedjnii khöömii style.


7 Mandal Juujaa, morin khuur, solo. The melody of a long song followed by a tatlaga.


8. Dance music played on the morin khuur.


9. Khangayn magtaal, song of praise. A song in praise of Mount Khangai, performed in ayalakh style with khöömii, ekhel and tobshuur accompaniment.


10. Dörvön Ual, short song. “The four mountains". Evocation of the peaks surrounding Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia. This bogino duu is composed of four identical strophes, each comprising several lines of four bars in 4/4 time. It is accompanied by the shanz, khuuchir and the morin khuur.


11. Alsyn gazryn zereglee, short song of the Darigang. “Mirage of a distant land". A song praising love and nature.


12.  Budarmaar budarmaar salkhi, a popular Khotogoyd song. “The wind announces the coming of the storm". This song, inspired by a legend, tells of two brothers who were separated. It is performed in long style with discrete accompaniment on the metal jew's harp or khon khuur.


13. Chingin chivirin uus, a popular Darkhat song. "The water of the Chingin Chivrin". A song of praise. Each verse, broken by an instrumental interlude, includes two lines of two bars in 6/8 time, arranged in an AC/BC pattern.


14. Dursgalyn alchuur, a popular Darkhat song. "The souvenir neckerchief". A love song based on a model identical to that of the preceding song.


15. Tosonguyn oroygoor, a popular Darkhat song "The summit of Mount Toson". A song of praise in long style.         

16 Kharmayn khagd, a popular Darkhat song. In praise of the river Kharmaj. In this interpretation long           song alternates with syllabic song.


17. Dunjin garav, a song of praise. Magtaal performed in ayalakh style, dedicated to a mountain close to Ulan Bator.  .


18. Enkh mendyn bayar, a long song with accompaniment. A song of peace. The four verses follow the model A B B B and each comprises four sentences.


19. Övöbn chuuvuu, a long, solo song. "The old man and the bird". A song of filial love.


20 Dörvön oyrdyn uurya, a morin khuur solo. "The four calls of the Oirat". A tatlaga played at Oirat festivals preceded by an introduction in long style.


21. Uckhan zambuu tivyn naran, a long, accompanied song. Hymn to the sun and to peace.


22. Altayn magtaal, a song of praise. A song praising the mountainous chain of Altai. After a short introduction in kharkhira khöömii style, the players alternate solo parts in khaylakh style with choral ones in ayalakh style. Instrumental accompaniment is provided by the ekhel fiddle, two tobshuur or lutes and a khon khuur, metal Jew's harp.


Performers and the tracks on which they appear.


[1] Adilbish Nergui (singer)

[2] Damidinjav Tuvshinjargal (singer), Sodnompil Ganaa (morin khuur).

[3] Luwsangombo Iderbat (morin khuur)

[4] Taravjav Ganbold (khöömii), S. Ganaa (morin khuur).

[5] T. Ganbold (khöömii, ekhel)

[6] T. Ganbold (khöömiii)

[7] & [8] S. Ganaa (morin khuur).

[9] Guendenpil Yavgaan (singer, khöömii, tobshuur, jew's harp) T. Ganbold (singer, khöömii, ekhel).

[10] & [11] A. Nergui (singer), S. Ganaa (morin khuur), Sosor Tosjargal (shanz), Jigdee Tsetsegmaa (khuuchir)

[12] Dechinzundui Nadmid (singer), G. Yavgaan (jew's harp)

[13] et [14] [15] D. Nadmid (singer), S. Ganaa (morin khuur), S. Tosjargal (shanz), Tsetsegnnaa (khuuchir).

[16] D. Nadmid (singer), S. Ganaa (morin khuur), S. Tosjargal (shanz), J Tsetsegmaa (khuuchir).

[17] G. Yavgaan (singer, tobshuur), T. Ganbold (khöömii).

[18] A. Nergui (singer), L. Idebat (morin khuur).

[19] D. Tuvshinjargal (singer).

[20] L. Iderbat (morin khuur)

[21] A. Nergui (singer), L. Iderbat (morin khuur)

[22]  G. Yavgaan (singer, khöömii, tobshuur), T. Ganbold (singer, khöömii, ekhel), D. Tuvshinjargal (singer, tobshuur).


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A land of mountains and steppes, the Peoples's Republic of Mongolia extends over an area of 650 000 square miles between the USSR and China. Its population of about 1850000 inhabitants is made up as follows: three quarters Khalkha and similar Mongols (Khotogoyd), and Buriat and Darkhat to the north, Oirat or western Mongols (such as Torgut) to the west, and finally other groups not ethnically Mongol: Tunguz, Kazakh, Uriankhay and Tuva. Distinctly marked by nomadism and pastoralism, Mongol culture also reflects the vestiges of ancient shamanic and lamaic religions, notably on the occasion of the great community festivals when combat, archery and horse racing hold pride of place.

Vocal art, a privileged aspect of Mongol music, is characterized by its variety of styles, its multiple social functions, and its repertory. As in most nomadic and pastoral societies, everyone sings, so that song has a dominant role. It keeps boredom at bay during long hours spent on horseback or guarding cattle, it accompanies activities like milking and other various domestic activities. Finally, it is found at all family reunions and when friends meet, as well as at community festivals and ceremonies. The presence of specialized singers is not necessarily required for every gathering. There is, however, a class of semi‑professional bards or tuulchi, guardians of the epic tradition, tuuli and of songs of praise, magtaal.

Themes treated in Mongol vocal music are closely linked to the conditions of nomadic life. Numerous references are made to the horse, hunting, and to nature in general. Love theme predominate, love of the beloved, friendship, the love of the horseman for his mount, and are couched in a lyrical tone marked, depending on the case, by nostalgia, irony or praise.

Mongols distinguish three styles of vocal emission.

The first, khaylakh (literally, "to cry out") is the style used by men for the epic, tuuli and for magtaal songs of praise. It is easily recognized by its recitative mode, its grave register and its rough tone.

The second, duulakh "to sing" or ayalakh "melodious", is the sung style properly speaking. It is used in long songs, short songs and in certain magtaal. The voice, clear and strained, lends itself to various ornamental techniques depending on the kind of repertory.

Finally, the third, khöörnii "pharynx", brings together all the biphonic voice or singing drone techniques. The khöörnii is the simultaneous emission of a basic sound or drone in khaylakh style, and of a melody composed of overtones chosen by means of various pharyngal and buccal techniques. Three of the six techniques listed may be heard in this recording: tseedinii khöörnii or chest khöörnii, with a relatively high‑pitched, clear drone (upper G) ' bagalzuuriin khöörnii or throat khöörnii, with a rough drone of medium pitch (upper D), kharkhira khöörnii, which makes use of resonators at chest level and so emits a drone an octave lower than that of the bagalzuuriin khöörnii (lower D). Rarely sung by women, the khöörnii does not have a repertory of its own. It is usually used for the melodies of short songs, for popular songs, or as an interlude between magtaal, songs of praise.

The long song, urtyn duu, performed a capella or accompanied by the morin khuur or fiddle, is a slow, strophic song, unmeasured, in which the structure and the text mixed with meaningless syllables, are masked by long vocalized and richly ornamented phrases. Its range easily covers two and a half octaves, and the women pass with ease from chest to head voice. Each note is embellished with glissandi, appoggiatura, with trills both normal and yodelled and other vocal feats.

The short song, bogino duu is a strophic, syllabic song with little ornamentation. Its regular form results from the way in which the verses are cut up into lines of four 4/4 bars. It is usually accompanied by the morin khuur oi fiddle, or by a small instrumental ensemble consisting of a morin khuur, a khuuchir fiddle and a shanz lute.

The various populations of Mongolia also cultivate artyn duu, popular vocal traditions, which although not strictly resembling the long and short song forms, are somewhat similar in style.

The magtaal or song of praise, is a syllabic song close in style to the epic song. The stanza is composed of a variable number of lines songs on mottoes of one or two bars of 4/4 time. These mottoes may undergo variations or melodic transpositions between one line and another. The magtaal is generally accompanied by the tobshuur lute or ekhel fiddle.

Stringed instruments, fiddles, lutes and zithers, figure pre-eminently in the Mongol instrumentarium. Used alone or in small ensembles, their main function is to accompany song or dance.

The main stringed instrument is the morin khuur or "horse head fiddle". The trapezoidal sound box formerly covered with skin is nowadays provided with a sounding board in wood. The two strings are of horsehair. The neck is mounted on a peg box carved in the shape of a horse or a dragon head. The fingers of the left hand rest on the strings in various ways: vertically with the pad (third and little finger), or sideways with the nail (index and middle fingers) to give greater precision in glissandi and grace notes, and to facilitate the emission of overtones. Even more simple made than the morin khuur, the ekhel is a two‑stringed fiddle whose trapezoidal sound box is covered with goat or sheep skin. Exclusively masculine instruments, the morin khuur and ekhel accompany song and dance, or may also be used as a solo instrument, notably to charm camels refusing to suckle their young.

The khuuchir fiddle is Chinese in origin. It is made up of a small, cylindrical or polygonal sound box, covered with sheep or snake skin, with a neck of bamboo onto which are stretched two strings of gut or silk.

The shanz is also of Chinese origin and is the women's favourite instrument. This is a longnecked lute whose three strings are plucked with a plectrum.

The tobshuur or two‑stringed lute is the instrument of the bards. Its naviform sound box is covered with goat or sheep skin.

Instrumental music comprises adaptations of popular songs or short songs and a repertory of tatlaga for morin khuur or ekhel. These short pieces, played as a solo or to accompany dancing (byelekh), consist of several sections each with their own metre (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8) and their own tempo. Each section, formed by the repetition of a short motto played on both strings, illustrates a sound heard in nature or a horse's gait. Depending on the case, the tatlaga may be preceded by a slow, unmeasured prelude, richly embellished, in long song style.

Mongol musical language is founded on an anhemitonic pentatonic system. This system, comprising five main degrees and two complementary floating degrees, may appear under five different modes Analysis of Mongol pieces presented in this recording reveals a clear predominance of modes 1 and IV and an even more exceptional use of modes 11 and V. Furthermore, each mode is characterized by two main degrees whose structural function in the articulation of the melody is best demonstrated by their melodic weight in the incipits and cadenzas, their stability throughout the different variations of a motto, and their substitution function in the transposition of melodic mottoes. Apart from the melodic particularities peculiar to each style of Mongol music, some general characteristics may be noted: the limited use of complementary degrees, important skips (from a fourth to a ninth), and a distinct preference for ascending progressions by conjunct intervals and descending ones by disjunct movements. The Mongol metric system functions on the basis of binary, 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 bars, and of ternary bars of 6/8 or 12/13. The composition of syllabic songs and measured instrumental pieces reveals a regular structure and a tendency to symmetry, while avoiding the pitfall of monotony by means of a subtle play of unwedgings and leaps. Their architecture which proceeds by interlocking is the result of applying the principle of breadth at each level of division of the piece, and of a dualist organization of mottoes (question/answer) which rests on the relation of opposition and attraction of main degrees. Usually, the pieces include several verses, which are divided up into two or four phrases, each composed of two or four bars.


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