Tono: a music concert
Presented by Red Sky
Featuring Tuvshinjargal Damindinjav, Bat-Orshikh Bazarvaani, Batmend Baasankhuu, and Rick Sacks
January 20-21 @ The Music Gallery
By Isla Craig
I am forever captivated and amazed by the similarities and expressions found in folk music traditions. Across land and time and centuries of histories, the power of song prevails, confirming our connection with life and the living world. As a singer, I am interested in the sound of voice, the body as instrument and find great wonder in the connections forged between continents and across language.
Wednesday night’s performance of traditional Mongolian folk songs was undoubtedly an amazing display of vocal technique of a celestial nature. The voice is the driving force behind the Mongolian folk song, consisting of throat singing and long song. Throat singing sounds like crickets and bees and all sorts of frequencies you would never imagine could be replicated by the human voice.
Long song singing is long breathless phrases of song floating effortlessly through the microtonal realm. This singing is supported by the horse head fiddle, a traditional Mongolian bowed instrument that drones as well as plays melody with the voices. Voice and drone: two peas, one pod. It is a sound that allows melody to flow freely, and the spaces in between reflect the passing of time, the sharing of sound, the experience.
The music of Tono invokes the majesty of the horse, the power and momentum and is a great source of inspiration within Mongolian folklore. A once nomadic people, Mongolians conjure the symbol and sound of the horse as a sort of animal guide and create aural landscape to relfect that lifestyle. Though, during the Q&A, the musicians themselves spoke to the changing times and modernization in Mongolian culture, the performance and study of the songs in still well-rooted in the rural traditions of their country.
The sound is all over the place, and more than a few times I found myself pleasantly confused as its origin: instrument or voice. The group chose to bring in a contemporary percussionist to add more layers to the sound, but the music in the purest form was so beautiful that the addition was unnecessary. The Tono piece, which when performed on a larger scale involves contemporary dance, is a collaborative exploration of finding links amongst aboriginal cultures across the globe. However, that connection is already present in the traditional song.
By my account, the Mongolian songs call to mind a relationship of worship, and, like my church music, I don’t like it all cut and pasted—just give it to me raw, and let the melody do the talking.