Khoomei-Taiko Project

26 Oct 2009, by Brian in Culture

Last night Baatar Hero witnessed an awesome and rare performance.

We went to a World Affairs Council Global Classroom event at Town Hall to learn a little more about Mongolia, and my expectations were blown away.  Our evening began with a presentation for local teachers by Dwight Gee, President of the Arts Council of Mongolia, and Pat Burleson, Director of Japanese Connections (a high school study tour program to Japan).  Both presentations were informative and inspiring.  We were even invited to get up and say a few words about the RoamGreen and the Mongol Rally which was very cool, but the best part was meeting Dwight and watching the presentations…

Dwight was nice enough to chat with us before the presentation. He has a wealth of info, knows pretty much everybody in the local Mongolian community and offered to introduce us! His presentation reinforced a lot of what I’ve been reading about the economic and cultural challenges the country faces, but it was so compelling to hear it directly from somebody who is working there to preserve the art and culture.  One particularly interesting project he told us about involves gathering oral histories from the few remaining survivors of the purges of the 1930’s to preserve the pre-communist Buddhist culture for younger generations to connect to.

Pat’s presentation on the blending of old and new traditions in Japan was fascinating, especially this video of the Yoshida Brother’s mixing up the traditional shamisen with contemporary music:

After the presentations the Khoomei-Taiko Project rocked Town Hall with an awesome performance of Mongolian morin khuur horse-head fiddle, khoomei throat singing, Japanese flute, koto, and taiko drums. Khoomei-Taiko is a cross cultural ensemble of Mongolian and Japanese musicians incorporating American improvisational techniques into their pieces.  This wasn’t really anything like traditional Japanese or Mongolian music I’d heard before… it was somehow familiar, but they have created something really new and compelling.  We were a little sad to hear that not only were they temporarily formed as an ensemble and last night was their last performance together, but they don’t really have any studio recordings of the group together!  We talked to Kaoru Watanabe after the performance to express support for a future project like this, or a recording of the group.  The blending of these instruments was really unique, and the khoomei throat singing is something everybody should experience (especially LIVE, it’s other worldly… you can search YouTube but it doesn’t really convey the experience).

We talked to some local musicians who we are hoping we can get involved with one of our events.  I’d love for you all to be able to hear this music.

Here are some links to the individual artists for you to check out:

Kaoru Watanabe

Kaoru & Shoji Kameda

Kaoru & Shinetsog Dorjnyam

If you ever get an opportunity to see any of these artists, TAKE IT.  They were amazing and deserve your support.

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