Words by Michael Orniston
Overtones (and undertones) of genius from Mongolian master
For the past 25 years Mongolian khöömei has enthralled audiences worldwide. With roots in West Mongolia, Tuva and the Altai mountains, it has now come to represent something typically Mongolian. Davaasuren’s six original compositions here demonstrate some of the innovations and influences that he, who originally trained as a dancer, has witnessed.
‘Ih Khaanii Duulal (Eulogy to Chinggis Khan)’ is a ten-minute, well-executed showcase of the various ways he sings melodic overtones, undertones and various combinations of the two; it also demonstrates examples of both shingen and kharhiraa khöömei. Davaasuren has had to adjust his fundamental pitch much lower than usual while attempting to sing a minor pentatonic scale in some core traditional khöömei overtones: it enables him to reach the 16th harmonic but means he has had to compromise in the lower overtone register. The last four tracks provide a change of scene; he explores the natural acoustics of the Abbaye de Noirlac in Lyon, France, and at the same time provides a rare chance to hear solo khöömei. ‘Tengeriin Duu’ is a nine-minute improvisation in which Davaasuren really stretches out, his powerful voice resonating the structure as he exclaims forcefully to the shamanic world of his ancestors.