THE STRANGE OF THE STRANGE
Anyone who has heard Throat Singing had to be in the country of Mongolia or Inner Mongolia of China. It is the strange of the strange to the western ear, but it is music to the ears of this culture at the ends of the earth. What is throat singing? Technically it is described as over- tone chanting. It is the manipulation of the resonances created as air travels to the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody. Now you know, but best if it is heard. ( The sound track on my slide show gives a good illustration.)
The Genghis Khan Mongol Empire united the warring armies of the area of Asia between 1206 and 1228. The were fierce, ruthless, destructive barbarians know for their speed in battle. Their kingdom stretched over most of Central Asia and into China. The Great Wall of China was built to keep out the Mongols.
As a teacher of English, I went to Mongolia for two months and then again on a Christian humanitarian effort. We worked with the blind and the street children. An American girl was there working full-time with the blind. She had lost her sight as a teenager and was so touched by the need of the Mongolian blind that she went there to help. Her driver and translator works beside her.
The people are warm and friendly with a desire to know a traveler. If one should go to the country side, as I did, the real Mongolian bar-b-que is served. The country is dotted with gers (tent home of the nomad) and I will never forget my train ride in the moonlight, with the white of the gers shining under the stars.
One of my students told me a true story of when she was a child, riding through the desert with her family. She was very young and was riding in a basket secured on the side of a camel. Somehow she fell out and the caravan went on without her. It was not until much later that she was discovered missing. Retracing their tracks, they heard her cries and saved her that day. Now she is living in the U.S.A. and probably telling that story to many people. I have written a children’s book depicting her story and often tell of it in my lectures.
My second visit to Mongolia was strictly to help the street children. At that time, the children were often without families because of alcoholism or death within their home. They became a part of a street gang, living in sub-zero weather below the streets in order to keep warm. A student visited me recently and said that she had gone with authorities into these areas to try to help. World Vision is a Christian organization that has made a great difference in the lives of the people. My guest, who was a first time visitor to the U.S, went with me to a local landfill in order to take back some of the technology to the neighborhoods of Ulan Bator , the capital of Mongolia.
It has only been since 1990 that Mongolia has thrown off the communist rule of the Russians and rebuilt their own country. During the seventy year domination, Russia persecuted the Buddhist priests and tried to wipe out the Mongolian culture. This was through training programs to change from the Mongol script to Cyrillic and from the native language of Mongolia to only Russian. When the Berlin Wall was going down, the Mongolians also took to the streets and reclaimed their country. Now the computer age has brought the Mongolians into a different world. No longer are they isolated between Russia and China. They are getting to know the entire world. I am glad they did find their freedom because it gave me a chance to see and meet wonderful people in this land at the ends of the earth.
BOYER WRITES by N.W. BOYER
Video 1 Modern Mongolia video Video 2 Slides and throat singing.
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