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Mongolian throat singing : experiencing a dying art form

Updated: April 10, 2012
By: Ian Yacobucci

Hanging out with mongolian throat singer Baasandorj

Mongolian throat singing is a unique musical artform in Mongolia.  Join me as I experience a private concert in a traditional Mongolian ger.

Mongolian throat singing is a unique musical art form practiced throughout Mongolia. Unfortunately, among the younger generations this type of music is dying out. On my trip to Mongolia I was lucky enough to sit in on a cultural exchange to witness Mongolian throat singing in an intimate atmosphere while visiting the old Mongolian capital of Kharkhorin.

At our guest house in Kharkhorin we were lucky to meet Baasandorj whose name means treasure stone in Tibetan. Since the age of 19, Baasandorj has been performing Mongolian throat singing and playing traditional music in Kharkhorin in order to preserve it. He has even made it onto the cover of an old Japanese lonely planet which he proudly displayed to us.

Mongolian throat singer Baasandorj posing with his Lonely Planet

Unfortunately, he is one of the few people in Kharahorin who can play several traditional instruments and although he does have a few students, they are only learning how to play one instrument. For him, playing for tourists who spend the night at guest houses in Kharkhorin allows him to share this unique art form.

For us and two other guests Baasandorj played a private concert in the traditional Mongolian ger we stayed in. It was a really cool experience as he described the instruments and techniques he was performing. During the performance he played three instruments which included a flute, a small harp like instrument, and a small cello like string instrument with two strings made of horse hair known as a Yoochin.

While performing he also took time to explain the techniques of Mongolian throat singing known in Mongolian as Khoomei. For us he performed the four Mongolian throat singing techniques known as nose, tongue, throat and chest Khoomei. He also sung some really interesting songs; my friends and I’s two favourites being running horses and Chenggis Khan.

As an art from Mongolian throat singing is very unique and something worth seeing. So if you get the opportunity to see Mongolian throat singing performed live you should definitely take up the opportunity.  And if you see Baasandorj just be thankfull that you got to witness his legacy and Mongolian throat singing live in person.

Ian Yacobucci

Traveling the Trans-Siberian, mountaineering the Himalayas, or teaching in Tokyo I'm always trying something new. As a someone who's worked, studied, and traveled to 40+ countries around the world I'm here to share my experiences so you can do the same!

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