Traditional music instruments

Mongolia has a rich musical tradition. Cultural exchange between Mongolia and other Asian countries since the Hunnu Empire resulted in the spread of a number of oriental musical instruments that were widely disseminated among the other peoples of Asia.

One of the most popular traditional music is a horsehead fiddle. This stringed musical instrument derives its name from the horsehead ornament that it’s top. The horsehead fiddle is very common throughout Mongolia, with every family likely to have one and place special value on it. Mongolian traditional songs and melodies are played on it, although it can also be used to play any other type of music. The strings are made of hair from a horse’s tail. The Morinkhuur body and neck are carved from wood. The top of the neck is made in the form of a horse’s head, which gives the instruments its name. It is played with a bow made from the willow, traditionally stringed with horsetail hair coated with cedar wood resin. Modern professional horsehead fiddles use a bow made with synthetic strings. Morinkhuur /horsehead fiddle/ produces sounds describes as expansive and unrestrained, both soulful and haunting, like a wild horse neighing or a breeze across the grasslands. It has played a central role in expanding on the roots of nomadic herding practices and narratives as well as serving the translation of Mongolian mythologies and secret histories into song for many centuries.  In 2008, it was officially inscribed by UNESCO as a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage.

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