Category: Mongolia

Ichinkhorloo – Gan Tumur; Gandii Mod; Yanjuur Tamkhi

We are back! This month, I’m happy to introduce our friend Reto Müller of Switzerland who has provided us with three brief and sublime Mongolian rarities. It was fun to do a little research together! – JW

Reto Müller:

Ever since I heard Mongolian music for the first time, I felt very drawn to its power. So, I decided to pack my backpack and visit Ulaanbaatar in the hopes of finding traces of early recording.

My adventurousness was rewarded. This record I obtained from the estate of a Hungarian politician is no longer an obscure treasure of Mongolian music. It was Mr. Surenkhorloo, a scholar of early recordings, whom I luckily met in Mongolia, and who kindly helped me to shed some light on the story behind this very disc.

It features the fine songstress Dashzevegiin Ichinkhorloo (1910-1972) performing three short pieces. The first is titled “Gan Tumur,” where she is accompanied by Mr. Dorjdagva on the bowed instrument known as the khuuchir. Both were honored People’s Artists. The second track is a well-known folk tune titled “Gandii Mod” (mynah tree), and the third is “Yanjuur Tamkhi.” In the latter, she is accompanied by another People’s Artist, Magsarjavyn Dugarjav (1893-1946), on the Mongolian flute, the limbe.

These three recordings were made in Moscow in 1934 and first released on the state-run label known as Gramplasttrest, numbers 427/428. I was told that in the early days, records were not common in Mongolia at all. They rather were awards for gifted musicians. Therefore, these issues are very scarce.

The copy featured here is a reissue on the BNMAU label (Bügd Nairamdakh Mongol Ard Uls – or, Mongolian People’s Republic).  In 1946, BNMAU released several records for Mongolia’s 25th anniversary of independence from China. They were pressed in the Soviet Union.

If you happen to be in Ulaanbaatar, make sure you visit the “Mongolian Theatre Museum” near Sukhbaatar Square. It features an awesome music section. They even have Mrs. Ichinkhorloo’s shanz, her diary, and numerous pictures on display.

Meanwhile, you can listen to her singing.

If you track down early recordings of Mongolian music you will eventually bump into the works of Danish explorer Mr. Henning Haslund Christensen, who recorded on site in Inner Mongolia. Obviously, he too was drawn to Mrs. Ichinkhorloo’s voice, as it seems that he had made a copy, or dub, of the first of these three pieces, “Gan Tumur”: see “1938/39 female singer acc. by morin khuur.”*

Ichinkhorloo – Gan Tumur; Gandii Mod; Yanjuur Tamkhi

Label: BNMAU
Issue number: 13460
Matrix number: 13460/5n Г-92

*While Europeana states that the instrument is the morin khuur, we believe that it is in fact the khuuchir, though the limits of recording could alter the sound, and it could in fact be the morin khuur fiddle. Secondly, Europeana also lists the date of the recording as 1938 – we believe that is incorrect, and that their recording is in fact Haslund Christensen’s 1938 re-recording or dub, at an inaccurate speed, of the very same 1934 Soviet recording of “Gan Tumur” that was eventually issued on BNMAU, here.








Image courtesy of

Dolgor-Zab – untitled folk song

I hurriedly started to prep this little post this morning during a loud thunderstorm that set off car alarms and set a park on fire a few blocks away. Things have been a little apocalyptic in Los Angeles lately, what with the brutal drought, and wildfires jumping four-lane highways and burning up dozens of cars. Amid the weirdness, I’m in one of those periods where there isn’t enough time time in the day, vaguely overextended, working on various side projects, all music-related.

In the meantime, here’s something brief, extremely rare, and powerful – a folk song from Mongolia, sung by a singer credited only as Dolgar-Zab. I’ve no idea of the title – it shares a side with another folk song performed by “Cok-Dzolma.” I can say that it’s a wild vocal performance, with surprising falsetto and yodeling, accompanied by a musician on the morin khuur, the horsehead, two-stringed fiddle of Mongolia (one string is made of mare’s hair, the other of stallion’s). The instrument itself is recognized by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage of humanity. You can bet I believe that list of masterpieces should be expanded.

Supraphon is arguably the most important Czech record label, and first made its appearance in 1932. State-run, the contents of Supraphon and the related Czech label, Ultraphon (operated by Telefunken), were predominantly classical. However, while uncommon, they did issue some important recordings of folk music from politically friendly nations including North Korea, countries in Central Asia, and Mongolia. On the label of this disc, you’ll see a little insignia for what was the First World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Prague in 1947. While I have my doubts that the production of this disc has anything to do with that festival, I do believe it gives us a good idea of the date – 1947-1948 or so.

Mongolian music on 78 is brutally scarce. Several discs were issued by Japanese Columbia and Japanese Victor, as part of folk music box sets organized by ethnomusicologist Tanabe Hisao. Mongolian music was also issued later on the Chinese Zhongguo Changpian label, as well as the Russian Melodiya-associated labels, for those keeping track. There was also a local, Mongolian 78 label named B.N.M.A.U. (Bügd Nairamdakh Mongol Ard Uls). Its history has yet to be scrutinized in the west.

Dolgor-Zab – untitled folk song

Label: Supraphon
Issue Number: B 15002
Matrix Number: 45225