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Music Project

Preservation of the traditional music of the Western Mongolian Zakhchin People
by singer Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar

Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar was born in the Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia, where she lived with her nomadic family until her enrollment at university. She belongs to the Zakhchin poeple, an ethnic minority with a population of 25000 people, who speak their own dialect and keep their traditions alive up to today. An important part of Zakhchin culture is their music, which differs from that of the Khalkha majority. For generations the Zakhchin songs have been passed on orally by a few singers. In the last years the life of the Zakhchin people has greatly changed under the influence of the capitalistic market reforms. The youth is more interested in Western music, and many move to the city in search for a better life.  Consequently, as the Zakhchin songs have never been studied nor written down, there is now a great danger that this musical treasure will be lost.

Since her youth Otgonbayar is known in her homeland as a singer. Already at a young age she used to tour through Mongolia with the ‘Ülgeriin Dalai Ensemble’, and also performed at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre and the National Academic Drama Theatre in Ulaanbaatar.  She was invited to participate in the recordings of the ‘Collection of the Best Mongolian Songs’ (Mongolian Shildeg Duu No.4) and won several awards.

The singer Otgonbayar attaches great importance to the preservation of the traditional culture of her people, to which she contributes in the musical realm. Together with her husband she had the idea to collect the disappearing melodies and lyrics of the Zakhchin songs from the last singers. Having started to realize the project in 2004, the first CD “Songs of the Zakhchin People in Western Mongolia” was recorded already in 2005 in the S-3 Studio of Radio Cracow. The songs are partly performed in the traditional style without instrumental accompaniment, and partly together with the painter and musician Wolfgang Hofer, who lives in Cracow and improvised on the guitar. Despite this unusual accompaniment, Otgonbayar’s recordings encountered her fellow countrymen’s appreciation during her next visit to Mongolia. Encouraged by the success, in summer 2005 and 2006 she continued to collect material in the steppes of her homeland. At times she had to travel several days on horseback together with her husband in order to visit the last still existing singers on the summer pastures in the Altai at an altitude of 3000 m. In spring 2006 she could record her new CD ‘Zast Altai’ with 27 traditional Zakhchin songs. Part of the songs have been presented to the public for the first time by the Polish radio. Otgonbayar is currently working on her next CD with the title ‘Zastiin Nogodoi’.

Further information: zakhchinmusic@yahoo.de

Music-CD "Zast Altai" zakhchinmusic@yahoo.de