Beauty and diversity of Inner Mongolian music

Updated 2017-04-21 10:00:59

Many people picture a horse head fiddle and classic melodies, such as Hong Yan, when they think of Inner Mongolian music. The instruments used and music played have a strong nomadic style, which is always a gift to listen to.

Below are four genres of Inner Mongolian music, from which listeners can find the beauty of prairie and nomadic life.


Mongolians are able to mimic the sounds of waterfalls, winds and the cries of animals by simultaneously making two sounds up to six octaves in difference. This way of singing is what they call throat-singing or Hoomii.

The method of singing Hoomii, in Mongolian, is called "chor". Interestingly, "chorus" in English, "chord" in French, and "chor" in German, all refer to the same thing: multi-part singing. The Mongolian "chor" is multi-part singing, sung by one person at a time.

Hoomii, in Mongolian, also means larynx, and with more than 800 years of history and three different genres –the overtone, quaver and complex–Hoomii is an outstanding vocal mimicry.

The basic structure of Hoomii consists of a continuous bass and a musical treble. To sing Hoomii, a person needs to use their vocal cords, nose and oral cavities, and even the thorax to vibrate the current of air to flow between the three.

Morin khuur music

Morin khuur, otherwise known as a horse head fiddle, is a traditional stringed Mongolian instrument with a horse's head carved at the top.

The deep, rough and passionate sound which comes from the instrument can aesthetically convey a performer's inner feelings. The music can express a joyful mood or melancholy feeling, and is known to also mimic the steps of horses.

Morin khuur music was listed in the first group of national intangible heritages approved by the State Council of China in 2009.

Sihu music

The sihu, a bowed instrument, is named because of its four strings and is commonly found in Inner Mongolia, as well as in Northern China. The instrument can also be called siguzi or sixian, as its name varies from region to region.

The sihu was invented in Northern China, during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC), by the nomadic Donghu people. After the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the art of sihu spread and had a large influence on Han folk singing –Tongliao city is now the best place to find sihu.

The three types of sihu includethe alt, mediant and the bass. The alt sounds clean and neat, while the mediant sounds thick and full.

Mongolian long tune

Urtin Duu, otherwise known as the "long tune", is a historical Mongolian folk music song which dates back to the 7th century AD. It was the time when the Mongolians were shifting from a hunting life, along the Argun river, to a nomadic life on the western Mongolia grasslands.

Urtin Duu is now part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Generally, Mongolian folk music is separated into two genres: the short tune and long tune. The short tune, preceding the long tune, has a relatively short structure, narrative lyrics, and dancing. While the shift in the Mongolian lifestyle gradually took place during the 7th to 17th century AD, a new genre of folk music with glissandos and trills began to form. The newly formed genre was the long tune.

The type of the long tune varies on different occasions. There are madrigal, choral, toasting, wedding, and home songs.

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