ICH of Mongolia: Traditional music of the TSUUR


2017-04-04 11:16 GMT+8

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Traditional music of the Tsuur was inscribed in 2009 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. 

Mongolian tsuur is a vertical pipe-shaped wooden wind instrument with three finger holes. Simultaneously touching the mouthpiece of the pipe with one’s front teeth and applying one’s throat produces a unique timbre comprising a clear and gentle whistling sound and a drone. 

Tsuur music is based on a combination of instrumental and vocal performance – a blending of sounds created simultaneously by both the musical instrument and the human throat. Tsuur music has an inseparable connection to the Uriankhai Mongolians of the Altai Region, and remains an integral part of their daily life. The melodies that are played on the Tsuur are usually imitations of the sound of water, animal cries and birdsongs as heard by shepherds whilst on the steppes or the mountain slopes of the Altai. 

The tsuur, also known as choor is common among Tuvan, Buryat, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Bashkir. 

The Tsuur is traditionally played to ensure success for hunts, for benign weather, as a benediction for safe journeys or for weddings and other festivities. The music reflects one’s inner feelings when traveling alone, connects a human to nature, and serves as a performing art.


The Tsuur tradition has faded over recent decades as a consequence of negligence and animosity toward folk customs and religious faith, leaving many locals with no Tsuur performer and no families possessing a Tsuur. The forty known pieces preserved among the Uriankhai Mongolians are transmitted exclusively through the memory of successive generations – a feature making this art highly vulnerable to the risk of disappearing.

The Government of Mongolia approved a national program "Mongol Tsuur" in 2014 with the aim to create a legal framework to preserve tsuur, develop study of Mongolian tsuur, determine formal and informal forms of tsuur training, support governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as individual people to promote traditional music of tsuur, create information database for tsuur and encourage tsuur performers. 

In scope of the program, it trained 70-80 tsuur performers, organized an international symposium in June, 2016 and created a documentary. 

However, lack of trainers, skills and financial support provided by the state are negatively impact the preservation of traditional music of tsuur. 

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