ICH of Mongolia: Mongolian traditional art of Khoomei

Journalist A.Odontuya

2017-03-15 09:00 GMT+8

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UNESCO registered Khöömei in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Khöömei is a form of throat singing originated in western Mongolia, in the Altai mountains. Mongolian traditions of nature worship influenced a lot to the origination of the khöömei. Khöömei usually praises nature, mountains, rivers, and so on. 

The performer imitates sounds of natural surroundings, animals, mountains, streams, and the winds of the steppe, simultaneously emitting two distinct vocal sounds: along with a continuous "drone", the singer produces a melody of "harmonics". 

The multitude of Khöömei techniques in Mongolia are grouped within two main styles:

  • Kharkhiraathe singer sings a drone in a normal voice, while emphasizing the undertone or subharmonic one octave below. 
  • Isgereeit is the overtones above the fundamental note of the drone that are emphasized, creating a higher-pitched whistle.

In both cases, the drone is produced with very taut vocal cords, and the melody is created by modulating the size and shape of the mouth cavity, opening and closing the lips and moving the tongue. 

In addition to that, there are more than twenty existing techniques to enrich vocal timbre, or the ones of ornamental character. They can be used in combination as well. 


Khöömei is performed by Mongolians in a variety of social occasions, from grand state ceremonies to festive household events. Traditionally, Khöömei is transmitted orally from bearer to learner, or via master-to-apprentice.

Khöömii is also popular in Tuva, a republic in south-central Siberia, Russia. Tuvan khöömei is less strong than Mongolian khöömei. One can play world classics with Mongolian khöömei. Lately Mongolian ethnic groups including Altan Urag, Khusugtun, the grand finalists of the “Asia`s Got Talent” show, Khalil and Domog are promoting khoomei to the world combining modern music. 

Khöömei matches perfect with sound of Morin khuur, the traditional music instrument of Mongolia. 


The National Arts Council of Mongolia, The Mongolian Throat singing Association and The Association for Protection of Altai Cultural Heritage NGO organize the international throat singing summer course 2017 in Khovd province in West Mongolia. Course is scheduled on July 2017.

Registration is available at throatsingingcourse@gmail.com and www.fb.com/throatsingingcourse

In order to promote Mongolian culture and cultural heritage in Europe, through the awareness-raising activities on khöömii, Routes Nomades Association offers a series of lessons.

For more info please visit at www.routesnomades.fr/en/teaching

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