The Art of the Mongolian Khöömii (Throat Singing)

Baasankhuu Chinbat / Bayarbaatar Davaasuren

(CD - Arc Music #EUCD 2613)

Review by Timothy Monger

Admittedly, the course sounds of throat singing, or Khöömii, are an acquired taste for most casual listeners, but this intimate collection from Mongolian master Bayarbaatar Davaasuren is worth spending time with. Recorded at an abbey in Central France, these 11 tracks appear unedited and totally unprocessed, save for mastering, which, even in folk music is a rarity in modern recordings. Accompanying himself on the tovshuur (a goat-skin lute) and morin-khuur (a two-stringed horsehair fiddle) with additional support from Chinbat Baasankhuu on the bowed, zither-like yatga, Davaasuren fills the space with the ethereal, multi-toned harmonics of his own voice. From a textural standpoint, this is a beautifully captured recording with the mellow timbres of the instruments offsetting the severity of Davaasuren's often guttural singing. Tracks like the ten-minute "Gurvan Shariin Nuruu Magtaal" are both arresting and utterly meditative, segueing from long, single-note drones to complex rhythmic chants. The immediacy of the performances and the stark presentation really serve to capture the uniqueness of this strange tradition.

blue highlight denotes track pick