World Music Wednesday: Batsükh Dorj
World Music Wednesday is a weekly segment on The North 103.3 FM. Every Wednesday at 4pm on Northland Afternoon, we will feature a brand-new release or a significantly important past work from our vast library of music from around the world.
Support for World Music Wednesday comes from Simply Ballroom in Duluth's Craft District.
Today, we journey to western Mongolia, to the district of Tsengel in the Bayan-Olgii province, notably populated mostly by Kazaks; however, the Tsengel district is mainly Tuvan. And that is the home region of today's spotlight artist, a singer, musician, and luthier named Batsükh Dorj. He plays igil (basically a Tuvan fiddle), and doshpuluur (a Tuvan lute instrument), and is a master of khöömei, what we often refer to in Western culture as "Tuvan throat singing."
Though the throat-singing techniques used in Tuvan culture are referred to as khoomei overall, there are several different techniques within that group. Here are three of them:
- One uses the same term for the whole, called khöömei, with a fundamental drone usually in the low-mid to midrange of the singer's normal voice, and usually two or three harmonics that can be heard between one and two octaves above the fundamental. Singing in this style is said to give the impression of wind swirling among rocks.
- Kargyraa, characterized by a low, rumbling fundamental tone. This is sometimes described as sounding like the howling winds of winter.
- Sygyt, characterized by piercing, flute-like harmonics, reminiscent of whistling. It is often described as an imitation of the gentle breezes of summer, or the songs of birds.
See if you can hear these different techniques in this recording:
Batsükh Dorj first learned khöömei with his older brother. He also listened to recordings, then later studied alongside the famous throat-singers from nationally-known ensembles. He graduated from the Music College of the Republic of Tuva (Russia).
His songs contain themes about his nomadic culture in Central Asia and the mountains of Mongolia, "notably by imitating the rhythms of horses and the flow of water." His first CD appearance was on a compilation CD, An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömii released in January 2017. Batsükh participates in many festivals and traditional arts competitions, as well as national and regional khöömei competitions.
During his last tour in France in 2022 he recorded his first solo album at Studio du Faune with Johanni Curtet (who produced the recording and provided guitar accompaniment). The album, Ögbelerim: Music for My Ancestors, has been released this month and has already secured the top spot on the Transglobal World Music Chart for the month of January 2024.