The main representatives of Mongolia's cultural heritage in the UNESCO list
Updated: Jan 23
Mongolian traditional songs and music are inscribed in UNESCO world heritage.
Mongolian people like to sing a song, play music and entertain. Mongolian music and song express vastness, freedom, and life in harmony with nature and the environment. Mongolian traditional song consists of long song, folk song, contemporary short song, and, throat song called khuumii and among other traditional musical instruments. Most Mongolians can sing a folk song and it is a common tradition that when people are at a party or traditional ceremony, they all can sing when they receive a special toast. Tumen ekh ensemble and State Morin Khuur Ensemble play traditional performances and it is highly recommended for tourists to watch. However, not everybody can sing long songs and throat songs. There are certain songs and music are prescribed in the UNESCO world heritage.
Traditional folk long song Urtiin duu-Long song
This statue is made for Mongolian long-song singer icon Norovbanzad, now located in Dundgovi province near Ikh Gazriin Chuluu. Her song “Uyahan zambuu tiviin” Naran is famous in Japan.
Urtiin duu was incorporated into the UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural heritage in 2008. Urtiin duu is a classic form of Mongolian folk song. Researchers explained different ways of naming its Long-song 1st it has a vast vocal range and free compositional form. The rising melody is slow and steady while the falling melody is often intercepted with a lively rhythm. 2nd it’s been sung for centuries, a long period of time, widely believed to have originated 2,000 years ago, the Urtiin duu has been recorded in literary works since the thirteenth century. 3rd meaning of the songs includes things that last forever, reflecting; the meaning of human life, a matter of nature and society, and eternal themes such as heaven, earth, water, and love. Performances and compositions of Urtiin duu are closely linked to the pastoral way of life of the Mongolian nomads on their ancestral grasslands. The meaning of the word eternal is called the song of the longitude. The long song is associated with important celebrations and festivities and plays a distinct and honored role in Mongolian society. It is performed at weddings, the inauguration of a new home, the birth of a child, the branding of foals, and other social events celebrated by Mongolia’s nomadic communities. Urtiin duu can also be heard at the Naadam, a festival featuring wrestling, archery, and horseracing competitions. A rich variety of regional styles has been preserved until today, and performances as well as contemporary compositions still play a major role in the social and cultural life of nomads living in Mongolia. Many famous long song singers are from the south Gobi because of the vast open land it echoes the melody.
The traditional music of the Morin khuur
Morin khuur also known as the horse head fiddle is a Mongolian traditional bowed two-stringed musical instrument by written sources dating from the Mongol empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2003). From early times Mongolians worship horses and cults in the flag and include them in the song and music. The fiddle’s significance extends beyond its function as a musical instrument, for it was traditionally an integral part of the rituals and everyday activities of the Mongolian nomads. Even now, most families have Morin khuur musical instruments in their homes and displayed in respectful parts of the home. The design of the morin khuur is closely linked to the all-important cult of the horse. The instrument’s hollow trapezoid-shaped body is attached to a long fretless neck bearing a carved horse head at its extremity. Just below the head, two tuning pegs jut out like ears from either side of the neck. The soundboard is covered with animal skin, and the strings and bow are made of male horsehair. The instrument’s characteristic sound is produced by sliding or stroking the bow against the two strings. Common techniques include multiple stroking by the right hand and a variety of left-hand fingering. It is mainly played solo but sometimes accompanies dances, long songs (urtiin duu), mythical tales, ceremonies, and everyday tasks related to horses. To this day, the morin khuur repertory has retained some tunes (tatlaga) specifically intended to tame animals. Owing to the simultaneous presence of a main tone and overtones, morin khuur music has always been difficult to transcribe using standard notation. It has been transmitted orally from master to apprentice for many generations.
Over the past forty years, most Mongolians have settled in urban centers, far from the morin khuur historical and spiritual context. Moreover, the tuning of the instrument is often adapted to the technical requirements of stage performance, resulting in higher and louder sounds that erase many timbral subtleties. Fortunately, surviving herding communities in southern Mongolia have managed to preserve many aspects of morin khuur playing along with related rituals and customs.
Mongolian traditional art of Khuumii-throat singing
Inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Khöömei originated in western Mongolia, in the Altai mountains which it has high mountains and rapid stream rivers. The performer imitates sounds of nature, simultaneously emitting two distinct vocal sounds: along with a continuous drone, the singer produces a melody of harmonics. Khöömei literally means pharynx, and it is believed to have been learned from birds, whose spirits are central to shamanic practices. The multitude of Khöömei techniques in Mongolia is grouped within two main styles: the kharkhiraa (deep Khöömei) and isgeree Khöömei (whistled Khöömei). In kharkhiraa, the singer sings a drone in a normal voice while emphasizing the undertone or subharmonic one octave below. In isgeree Khöömei, it is the overtones above the fundamental note of the drone that is emphasized, creating a higher-pitched whistle. In both cases, the drone is produced with very taut vocal cords, and the melody is created by modulating the size and shape of the mouth cavity, opening and closing the lips, and moving the tongue. Khöömei is performed by Mongolian nomads on a variety of social occasions, from grand state ceremonies to festive household events. Khöömei is also sung during herding, and inside the yurt to lull babies to sleep. Traditionally, Khöömei is transmitted orally from bearer to learner, or via master-to-apprentice.
The traditional music of the Tsuur string instrument`
Inscribed in 2009 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding National Centre for the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Tsuur music is based on a combination of instrumental and vocal performance – a blending of sounds created simultaneously by both the musical instrument and the human throat. Tsuur music has an inseparable connection to the Uriankhai Mongolians of the Altai Region and remains an integral part of their daily life. Its origins lie in an ancient practice of worshipping nature and its guardian spirits by emulating natural sounds. The Tsuur is a vertical pipe-shaped wooden wind instrument with three finger holes. Simultaneously touching the mouthpiece of the pipe with one’s front teeth and applying one’s throat produces a unique timbre comprising a clear and gentle whistling sound and a drone. The Tsuur is traditionally played to ensure success for hunts, for benign weather, as a benediction for safe journeys, or for weddings and other festivities. The music reflects one’s inner feelings when traveling alone, connects a human to nature, and serves as a performing art. The Tsuur tradition has faded over recent decades as a consequence of negligence and animosity toward folk customs and religious faith, leaving many locales with no Tsuur performer and no families possessing a Tsuur. The forty known pieces preserved among the Uriankhai Mongolians are transmitted exclusively through the memory of successive generations – a feature making this art highly vulnerable to the risk of disappearing.
Mongol Biyelgee, a Mongolian traditional folk dance
Inscribed in 2009 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
National Commission for UNESCO
The Mongol Biyelgee – a Mongolian Traditional Folk Dance is performed by dancers from different ethnic groups in the Khovd and Uvs provinces of Mongolia. Regarded as the original forebear of Mongolian national dances, Biyelgee dances embody and originate from the nomadic way of life. Biyelgee dances are typically confined to the small space inside the ger (nomadic dwelling) and are performed while half sitting or cross-legged. Hand, shoulder, and leg movements express aspects of the Mongol lifestyle including household labor, customs, and traditions, as well as spiritual characteristics tied to different ethnic groups. Biyelgee dancers wear clothing and accessories featuring color combinations, artistic patterns, embroidery, knitting, quilting and leather techniques, and gold and silver jewelry specific to their ethnic group and community. The dances play a significant role in family and community events such as feasts, celebrations, weddings, and labor-related practices, simultaneously expressing distinct ethnic identities and promoting family unity and mutual understanding among different Mongolian ethnic groups. Traditionally, Mongol Biyelgee is transmitted to younger generations through apprenticeships or home-tutoring within the family, clan, or neighborhood. Today, the majority of transmitters of Biyelgee dance are elderly, and their numbers are decreasing. The inherent diversity of Mongol Biyelgee is also under threat as there remain very few representatives of the distinct forms of Biyelgee from different ethnic groups.
Folk long song performance technique of Limbe performances - circular breathing
Inscribed in 2011 on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The Limbe is a side-blown flute of hardwood or bamboo, traditionally used to perform Mongolian folk long songs. Through the use of circular breathing, Limbe performers are able to produce the continuous, wide-ranging melodies characteristic of the long song. Players breathe in through the nose while simultaneously blowing out through the mouth, using air stored in their cheeks to play the flute without interruption. Single stanzas of folk long songs last approximately four to five minutes. A single song consists of three to five or more stanzas, which requires the performance of the flute to continue uninterrupted for twelve to twenty-five minutes. Traditional training methods used to acquire this technique include continuously blowing at a candle flame without extinguishing it and blowing through a straw into a glass of water. Limbe playing is characterized by euphonious melodies, melisma, hidden tunes, and skillful and delicate movements of the fingers and tongue. The small number of bearers of the element has become the cause for concern with a considerable decrease in groups and individual practitioners. This has been caused in part by the predominance of international musical forms and training systems. At present, the frequency and extent of this traditional element’s practice are unstable with only fourteen Limbe practitioners remaining.