Preserving Mongolian throat singing

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-09-22 07:39:29

Preserving Mongolian throat singing

Naranbadrakh (center) and his team of performers present a Beijing concert on Sept 21.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"It's more difficult for women than men to perform the singing style, because their vocal cords are different," she says. "But the training was rewarding since it has opened my vocal range and helped me gain much strength while singing and breathing."

Preserving Mongolian throat singing

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Naranbadrakh, a well-known khoomei singer from Mongolia, who conducted the classes, performed in a concert in Beijing on Sept 21. He has made many khoomei presentations in China since 1997 but taught here the first time this month. Five other Mongolian khoomei singers, including Battumur and Altantug, also participated in the concert titled Call of Mongolia.

The origins of khoomei are uncertain. According to Naranbadrakh, it is believed to have originated from herders' imitations of animal sounds and was later incorporated into religious rituals.

"The core of khoomei is not just to show off the skill onstage, but to feel the power of the ancient art and acquire peacefulness at heart. I think the students have gained their own understanding of the art," says Naranbadrakh, 36, who lives in Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital.

Despite his childhood dream of becoming a professional wrestler, he started learning khoomei in 1994 from Odsuren, a Mongolian master of the form.

Odsuren also introduced the throat-singing tradition to his country's university syllabus and has taught the skill to more than 1,000 Chinese students since he first visited China in 1993.

"Khoomei is closely connected with nature and the Mongolian language. Like Peking Opera and Italian opera, despite the cultural and linguistic differences, khoomei can be enjoyed by the world's audiences," Odsuren had said in an earlier interview.

In 2011, Temur, a famous Chinese khoomei vocalist, invited Odsuren, 73, to launch the Odsuren Khoomei School in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region's capital, Hohhot. Hundreds of students from around the world have since received khoomei training there.

Tekexi, who is the younger brother of Temur, is a khoomei promoter at the Beijing Exchange Center of the Odsuren School of Khoomei Art. Besides offering training and staging performances, the center also plans to teach traditional Mongolian instruments and language.

Naranbadrakh points out that khoomei, along with its long-drawn songs and the use of matouqin, a traditional string instrument, is highly regarded in Mongolia. Khoomei is not only a national treasure protected by the government but also an art form appreciated by young Mongolians, he says.

"Khoomei has been incorporated into many musical genres such as pop, rock and rap. But the study of khoomei should be serious and solid," says Naranbadrakh, who has also introduced some pop into his old art form.

"Though most Mongolians now live in urban areas, we bear our roots in mind. We have the responsibility to take this art to more people."

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