Back during my high school time, sometime in 2005, I was told that Mongolians sing perfectly with loud, strong and great voices, and that they can sing with their throat… Everybody urged me never to miss a show if I had the chance to see a Mongolian throat singing performance, whether here or if I was to travel to Mongolia. When I asked why, I was told Mongolian tribes are amazing, unique and different. I then asked why would they sing so good, and this fellow informed me that Mongolians have great voices thanks to the environment of their unique country, covered in mountains and nature.
With that kind of distinctness, Mongolians sing from the top of mountains and their sounds reach their cattle, mainly composed of lambs or camels. Ever since, I have been curious about this story, about these tribes and their singing. I wanted to know how far this story was true; or was it just a myth? With this in mind, I started to develop a wish to, one day, travel and visit these tribes in their homeland, Mongolia.
Imagine the great surprise when I learned that a Mongolian was going to perform at the Rainforest World Music Festival this year, showcasing this traditional art of Mongolian throat singing. It was to be a great opportunity for me to go and see the performer, as well as a chance and an honour to ask about that little story I had been told.
It was on the first day at the festival, after the artists’ press conference where he had been a guest too, that I met Mr. Enkh Jargal Dandarvaanchig, also known as Epi. He was so friendly and talkative, with a constant smile on his face, that I had the impression he was younger than his actual 47 years of age. I felt privileged to be able to talk to him, and his exceptional presence stimulated me to ask about that old story and also about his traditional music. So I did, and the answer was, “the story is only 25% true”…
“In Mongolia, people have lots of animals, so most of the time it is hard for the owner to know which animal belong to him. By singing to them, the animals recognize the owner’s voice”. Epi explained that Mongolian herders sing to their animals since they are puppies, and the animals always relate to the particular songs they hear all the time.
“Also, Mongolia is a land with lots of mountains and valleys, so Mongolian people sing or talk as loud as they can in order to communicate. Their voices are so loud that can be heard at a 10 to 20 kilometers distance. If you are in Mongolia, do not be surprised to hear people singing in the streets. This is a practice we inherited from generation to generation: in the local language we call the throat singing khoomii”.
So, that was the big secret behind the throat singing; my curiosity was satisfied, but that was not all. Epi shared the story of his life with me. He started singing at the age of 12, when he sang along with his parent and siblings. As he later found out that Mongolian traditional songs were so different from others, he went further and deeper into singing.
This passion prompted him also to playing traditional Mongolian music instruments like the Mongolian Horse Dead Violin, or Fiddle, also known as morin khoor. Epi told me he firmly believes in the importance of learning the traditional music of his country, which he finds fantastic, unique and deeply rooted in nature. This is one of the reasons Epi decided to perform at the Rainforest World Music Festival: for the spirit of the music played throughout the festival, and for the festival relation to nature! In the end of the interview, he wanted to give a message to all the people attending the festival: “Please respect nature, the natural resources, the animals and the Earth”.
But let me tell you about Epi’s performance: it was amazing, the theatre was packed with people all patiently waiting for his songs, waiting to hear his magic voice. He is a solo performer, and the moment he started playing his violin and singing, the audience was all of a sudden silent, like kidnapped. I personally watched dazzled, his passion was unbelievable and the performance spectacular.
He is alone on stage, yet if feels like more people are singing: he can sing in different voices, all sounding perfect, and his violin can imitate a horse’s cry. I never expected it to be that good. By the end of the concert, everyone stood up and gave him several rounds of applause. His show really satisfied my initial curiosity. I may not be able to travel to Mongolia to see a great performance, but by covering the Rainforest Water Music Festival, I achieved what I wanted.
I must say thanks to Rainforest Water Music Festival for making me discover Epi. I am aware I cannot really travel to Mongolia this time in my life, yet I had the chance to see an amazing traditional music performance nonetheless. Don’t miss the chance to discover world and tribal music: attend the Rainforest Water Music Festival next year. You can learn about music but also culture and environment. What do you say?
Epi was born 1968 in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia). He grew up in a little village near the russian border. He studied at Music-Conservatorium of Ulaanbaatar from 1990 to 1992 and his teacher was the most known and best Moorin Hoor (Horsefiddle) player in Mongolia.
During his studies, Epi already played in a Moorin Hoor quintet also in the Mongolian television to keep traditional Mongolian music traditions alive. Because of his familiar background, Epi is deeply rooted into the traditional and nomadic way of life that his people live in Mongolia (Epi’s father went into the steppe to raise horses, where Epi also lost his heart). In 1993 Epi went to Germany for the first time. He went there with Altain Orgil. During this first visit Epi and Rüdiger Oppermann met for the first time. Together with Rüdiger Oppermann, Epi played not only in Germany but also in a lot of other European countries and the USA. The last huge concerts brought Epi to the Expo 2002 in madrid, Gran Canaria and Paris… and a lot more…
Besides, Epi is a beloved guest musician and/or singer in different music projects: together with Peter Gantzmann he celebrates the Mongolian Hip-Hop, in a Duo Rainer Granzin he enjoys showing his jazzy side. That way he was able to prove his ability to improvise in a world of modern music. His interpretation of the Mongolian folk music lets him step between two worlds and wherefore his solo CD is named “Hoirr Öngö” (between two worlds). Epi was a guest musician on different CD studio recordings. Epi the miracle voice from Mongolia is a wanderer between cultures.
With his play on the Moorin Hoor and the perfection of his Choomie singing, Epis loves to melt his traditional roots with the modern and western cultured music in a brilliant improvisation.
After some tacts and tones Epi offers the smell and the beauty of the Mongolian steppe to the ears and the eyes of the audience. Epi lives in Karlsruhe (Germany) and is travelling a lot to share his passion (music) with the audience of Europe and the whole world.
Anyone who knows the funny, lovely, cheerful way Epi is, knows that he regards also the small things in life and those obviously small things can take great effects on happy living.
Check out his video at https://asianitinerary.com/epi-at-the-rainforest-world-music-festival-2015/
Epi bio: http://rwmf.net/performer/enkh-jargal-dandarvaanchig-epi/
Rainforest World Music Festival: https://asianitinerary.com/the-18th-rainforest-world-music-festival-2/
More about Mongolilan traditional groups: https://asianitinerary.com/sedaa-mongolian-funk/