Khusugtun: Of Horses & Mongolia’s Robin Hood

Editor’s Playlist: For the month of October playlist, Music Press Asia is featuring Khusugtun, a Mongolian ethnic and contemporary band. Their latest album Jangar is released by the French music label, Buda Musique.

Khusugtun Mongolia music Buda Musique. Music Press Asia

The Mongolian culture has their lives so intertwined with horses that their key traditional instrument, the bowed, two-string morin khuur (or horsehead fiddle), is elaborately decorated with a carved horse’s head at the top of the neck.

Genre: World music

Meet the band called Khusugtun, an ethnic contemporary Mongolian group, dedicated to keeping alive the ancient Central Asian tradition of throat singing, where each vocalist is able to produce two or even three notes at once.

Khusugtun is an internationally recognized group that performs traditional music from Mongolia. They are especially renowned for their capella arrangements using “khöömei” or “overtone-singing,” which is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity from Mongolia.

After a first self-produced album in 2009 and participation in the double-disc An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömiiin 2017, Khusugtun released Jangar, its second album with French label, Buda Musique. It is a modern and polyphonic exploration of the traditional overtone singing of Mongolia.

Synonymous with “nomads”, their name represents the desire to travel by music, like their ancestors who migrated across the globe.

Their repertoire, almost entirely dedicated to khöömii(throat singing), is made up of traditional forms, such as praise songs (magtaal), short songs (bogino duu), or compositions inspired by the Mongolian music tradition.

The equine influence inhabits the music made, too, most obviously in the rhythms, but also sometimes in the sounds themselves.

Purchase the album, here.

Khusugtun Jangar album Buda Musique. Music Press Asia
[Khusugtun Jangar album Buda Musique. Music Press Asia]

The group has produced numerous works that feature elements of Western classical music and musical instruments and techniques that form part of Mongolia’s intangible cultural heritage, including the horsehead fiddle, zither, flute, lute, open-ended flute, various jaw harps and overtone-singing – although their galloping rhythms, inspired by the movement of horses across the steppes, sound like they could be totally modern.

Click here to watch and listen to Khusugtun’s performance at the BBC Proms 2011 Human Planet – LIVE at Royal Albert Hall.

Recently, their hose head fiddle member – Batzorig Vaanchig – has released his latest album titled ‘The Great Chinggis Khaan. Vaanchig studied the traditional fiddle at the Institute of Culture, Ulaabaatar city and began his music professional career at the prestigious theater, the Mongolian Grand Theatre of National Art.

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