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Various: Folk Music of China, Vol II: Folk Songs of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang

review chinese mongolian folk x1 cong

This is part of Naxos’s newly-launched world music catalogue, and it’s more interesting than some of the modern rock/pop releases we listen to; admittedly it won’t shift so many copies.

The songs featured are the folk songs of five minority ethnic groups of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang — Mongol, Daur, Oroqen, Evenki and Hezhen. They’re mostly one voice (or sound like one voice), and there’s no throat-singing or anything like that; this is proper singing. It’s rather beautiful, and certainly distinctive.

While it does sound of a regional type, there are distinctive differences. The sleeve notes say the songs include four music traditions — Mongolian long song, Zhaendale, Wuchun and Yimakan — but leave the listener to work out which is which.

The Mongols open, and with songs such as Building Mongolian Ovoos and Vast Grasslands, you can probably guess they have the feel of open spaces, and maybe a little sadness: perhaps they were sung to remember home.

As far as Western perception goes (or at least ours), The Mongols are clearly Mongol, the Daur sound could be North American and much of the rest sound is more Chinese. The Daur songs kick in with a more energetic style, The Lover sounding like he’s more of an ex-lover. When Can I See You and Missing My Mother are other song titles, so the Daur sound a sentimental lot, too. From the Hezhen onwards it sounds more Chinese.

The sleeve notes say the music has two common features: adopting the Chinese pentatonic scales and incorporating elements of Shamanic tunes, which are “usually short in structure and intense in rhythm”. The Shamanic influence gives it an appealing intensity and it’s a pleasant listen, if you want something a bit different.

This is out on Naxos, NXW76089-2.


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