From left to right Ikh (Big) Khuur, Morin Khuur (Horse Fiddle), Limbe (transverse mirliton flute), Khuuchir (spiked fiddle), Bishguur (Shawm, usually used in Buddhist Monasteries in pairs), Yochin (hammered Dulcimer), Ever Buree (curved clarinet originally made from a horn), Shanz/Shudraga (three stringed fretless lute), Yatag/Yatga (long half tube plucked zither that was possibly reintroduced in the 1950’s with a Korean gayageum and finally and most importantly a singer.
Tumen Ekh Mongolia 1993
Tumen Ekh, a traditional Mongolian Music and Dance Ensemble had visited the UK in 1992 where I had met up with their khöömii singer Gereltsogt. He had led a lecture demonstration which was their idea of a workshop. I had gained some knowledge but not the practical workings of khöömii. I could sing overtones which I had basically taught myself, so I called my khöömii, “ mini angli khöömii” (bad Mongolian for my English khöömii!). I headed for the Children’s Park just south of the main square & caught up with the ensemble. Gereltsogt gave me a few lessons while I was in UB & most importantly said he would contact his brother in law who lived in Khovd and would host me there & take me to a khöömii teacher in Chandman Sum (district). He wrote two letters in lower case Mongolian which I could not understand, one for each of the above mentioned. This proved invaluable and I am forever grateful to Gereltsogt for this.
I became great friends with the ensemble, bought their cassettes and they let me into their concerts for nothing. When I returned to UB they helped me buy a Shanz, two Tobshuurs (2 string fretless lute), a Khuuchir and Dorvon Chikhtei Khuur. I already had a Morin Khuur & managed to get a yatag and shaman drum.
Gandan or Gandantegchinlen Monastery Ulaanbaatar Mongolia 1993. This taken in October when I returned from the countryside. Mongolian Buddhism was in a process of revival since about 1990 when freedom of eclectorial voting and religion came about as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union
Mongolian Buddhism had a rich tradition of Cham Dance. These masked dances were banned during the purges in the 1930’s. Tumen Ekh’s versions were choreographies more for the secular stage that the sacred monastic rituals. Other stylised dances as well as the musical arrangements played a similar role in staging a performance of a whole range of traditions from the different yastans (bones) or cultural/language groups around the country.
One of the highlights of the show was Tumen Ekh’s arrangement of Altai Magtaal, a praise song to the Altai Mountains. The instrument in the middle is a Tobvshuur (Two string fretless plucked lute) which has many versions in the west of Mongolia from where it comes from.
Uench, who is singing on the right was the main Bogino Duuch (Short Song Singer) of the ensemble, her husband Baldentsering who was at ther back playing the Ikh Khuur and Enbish on the Yochin seemed to be in charge of the arrangements. Chuluntsetseg was reading the music for her Shanz/Shudraga during the rehearsal. All the musicians could read music, were professionally trained and worked very hard almost earning nothing.