Batzurig Vansheg is a renowned Tofan ring singer who often plays with the Mongolian folk music group Khosoughton. However, in this video, he is giving an intimate performance – his home in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. And the musician accompanying him is his daughter Marla.
They sing a beautiful traditional song about strong and fast horses, which is a popular theme among nomads given the long history of horses. Vanchege’s singing is very unique and needs to be heard to be appreciated.
Neck singing is one of the oldest forms of music in the world. The Tovani neck song is native to northwestern Mongolia. According to Folkways, “Singers use a form of circular breathing that allows them to play multiple notes over extended periods of time.”
Singers begin practicing in childhood, and singing often imitates the sounds of the natural world. These can be animals and winds sweeping across the Mongolian steppe.
In this song, Marla plays a musical instrument reminiscent of a horse’s hooves, and Vanshege plays a violin made from a horse’s head (Maureen Hor).
Singing their necks, the tovans imitate the sounds of the environment – animals, mountains, streams and harsh steppe winds. It’s fun, as you’ll see for yourself in the video below.