Music of Mongolia

From Academic Kids

Central Asian music
Inner Mongolia

Mongolia is a nation located in Asia, and its people form a distinct ethnic group composed of several smaller tribes and clans. The Russian Republic of Tuva and parts of China (including Inner Mongolia) also include large minorities of Mongols. Music is integral part of Mongolian culture. Communism in Mongolia lasted from 1924 and 1992; during this time, many aspects of indigenous culture were repressed throughout the country. The Mongol minorities in China and Russia were similarly repressed, at least for certain periods of the 20th century.

In Mongolia, Communist control led to the forced cultural domination of the Khalkhas, who are the largest ethnic group in the country. Traditional styles of music were modernized and standardized, sometimes adding European elements. With the collapse of the Mongolian Communists, traditional forms like long-songs returned to popular culture.



Long-songs are generally sad, and are sometimes perceived as being morose. Lyrical themes vary depending on context; they can be philosophical, religious or celebratory, and often use horses as a symbol or theme repeated throughout the song. Eastern Mongols typically use a horse-head fiddle as accompaniment, sometimes with a type of indigenous flute. Western Mongols typically sing long-songs unaccompanied, while there is some doubt as to whether long-songs are common at all in modern Tuva.

Horse-head fiddle

The horse-head fiddle, or moriin huur, is a distinctively Mongolian instrument, traditionally played by the uligershin (bards) of that culture, and is seen as a symbol of the country. The instrument is two-stringed and is bowed like a cello. There is some controversy regarding the traditional carving of a horse on the upper end of the pegbox. Some scholars believe that this is proof that the instrument was originally a shamanistic instrument, as the staffs of shamans have a horse similarly carved on top; the horse is a much-revered animal in Mongolia.

Mongolian throat singer.
Mongolian throat singer.

Throat singing

Perhaps the best-known musical form of the Mongols is the throat-singing tradition, extant among all or most Mongols though best well-known internationally from Tuva. Sung differently than traditional vocals from Mongolia or almost anywhere in the world (with the exception of a few specific areas, such as Switzerland or Canadian Inuits). In Mongolia, the most-famous throat-singers include Khalkhas like Gereltsogt and Sundui, while the Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu has an international following. This unique type of singing involves the performer generating two notes at once, one much higher than the other.

Pop music

Largely unknown outside of Mongolia, the city of Ulaanbaatar has a thriving pop mop scene, which is a mixture of various kinds of popular music. Other Western genres include heavy metal bands like Hurd, boy bands like Camerton, girl groups like Spike, hard rock bands like Haranga and hip hop groups like Black Rose.


  • Pegg, Carole. "Sixty Horses in My Herd". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 189-197. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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