Discover the Folk Music of Mongolia

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the unique and traditional folk music of Mongolia. From the horsehead fiddle to the morin khuur, learn about the instruments and the history behind the music.

Introduction to Mongolian Folk Music

Mongolian folk music is incredibly diverse and rich, with influences from both China and Central Asia. The music often reflects the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people, with songs about nature, love, loss, and joy.

Mongolian folk music is characterised by its use of the morin khuur, a horse-head fiddle, as well as other traditional instruments such as the shudraga (a type of lute), the tovshuur (a four-stringed guitar), and the tsenher khuur (a trumpet). The music often features complex harmonies and rhythms, and is often based on ancient Mongolian poetry.

If you’re interested in hearing some Mongolian folk music for yourself, there are a few excellent albums: Khoomei 2 by B. takeen , Monuments by Batzorig Vaanchig ,and Mongolic Suite by Nyamsuren Bayanbat.

The Origins of Mongolian Folk Music

The origins of Mongolian folk music can be traced back to the time of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. Mongolian music was influenced by the music of the Turkic peoples, Persians, and Chinese. In the 14th century, a type of music called khuur became popular in Mongolia. Khuur is a stringed instrument that is played with a bow. It is still played today and is an important part of Mongolian folk music.

In the 19th century, Russian and Chinese colonization had a major impact on Mongolian music. Local forms of music were discouraged and replaced by Russian and Chinese music. However, in the early 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest in traditional Mongolian music. By the middle of the 20th century, many traditional instruments, such as the morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) and shudraga (a type of lute), were once again being played.

Today, Mongolian folk music is enjoyed by people all over the world. The Morin khuur is perhaps the best-known instrument outside of Mongolia. It is sometimes called the “Mongolian violin” or “horsehead fiddle.” The shudraga is another popular instrument that is often used in folk music. It is a stringed instrument that is similar to a lute or mandolin.

The Instruments of Mongolian Folk Music

Mongolian folk music is characterized by its use of traditional instruments and melodies. The most commonly used instrument is the morin khuur, a two-stringed violin-like instrument that is thought to have originated in the 13th century. Other popular instruments include the tömör huur (a bowed lute), the shudraga (a flute), and the yatga (a zither).

Traditional Mongolian music has been passed down through the generations orally, and only began to be written down in the 20th century. The first folk music ensemble was formed in 1920, and since then, Mongolian folk music has become increasingly popular both within Mongolia and abroad.

One of the most distinctive features of Mongolian folk music is its use of throat singing, a technique whereby two or more pitches are produced simultaneously by using different parts of the vocal cords. This unique sound has been described as “one voice creating two or more pitches simultaneously.” Throat singing is thought to have originated amongst the nomadic peoples of Mongolia and Siberia, and it is still widely used in folk music today.

The Styles of Mongolian Folk Music

Mongolian folk music is often divided into two main style categories, Long Songs and Khoomii. Long Songs are characterized by their, well, length–these songs can often last upwards of 10 minutes, or even longer! They are also notable for their emotive, narrative qualities–Long Songs are often used to tell stories, paint pictures of the landscape, or express the singer’s emotions. Khoomii, on the other hand, is a style of throat-singing–a vocal technique in which the singer produces two or more pitches simultaneously. This gives Khoomii a very distinctive sound, and makes it one of the most unique and recognizable styles of Mongolian folk music.

The Performers of Mongolian Folk Music

The music of Mongolia is very unique and has been passed down through the generations by the country’s nomadic people. One of the most important aspects of Mongolian folk music is the morin khuur, or horsehead fiddle. This instrument is often considered to be the national instrument of Mongolia, and it is said to represent the country’s nomadic heritage. The horsehead fiddle is a string instrument that has a wooden body with two strings that are traditionally made from horse hair. Theplayer sits cross-legged on the ground and uses a bow to play the instrument.

Mongolian folk music also features a variety of throat singing styles. Khoomei is the most common form of throat singing in Mongolia, and it is characterized by a deep, guttural sound. Khoomei can be performed as a solo or group activity, and it often accompanies dances and other forms of Mongolian folk music.

Buryatia, a region in Siberia that is home to many ethnic Mongols, also has a rich tradition of folk music. The music of Buryatia is influenced by both Mongolian and Russian traditions, and it features a wide range of instruments including the Morin khuur, balalaika, and accordion. Buryat folk music often tells stories about the daily life of Siberian nomads, and it is often accompanied by dance.

The Future of Mongolian Folk Music

Mongolian folk music has undergone a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to a new generation of musicians who are keeping the tradition alive.

Mongolian folk music is known for its use of the morin khuur, a traditional two-stringed instrument. The music often features throat singing, which is a Mongolian technique that produces two or more notes simultaneously.

The future of Mongolian folk music looks bright, as more and more young people are interested in learning about and performing the genre. As the popularity of folk music continues to grow, we can expect to see even more Mongolian musicians keeping this rich tradition alive.

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