TENGIS  (the booklet) 
Songs of the Darkhad people 

The Darkhads live in the province of Khövsgöl in the north west of Mongolia. They inhabit the immense valleys of the steppe surrounded by rocky mountains which they call chichged. These nomadic shepherds earn a living by rearing the "five muzzles": horses, sheep, goats, camels, cattle. Cows, which are common in the other provinces of Mongolia, are replaced here by the yak which alone is capable of giving milk all year round. Winter is particularly harsh in this region, even for a country with an extremely continental climate like Mongolia. It begins in October and ends in March. In January and February the temperature plunges to minus 50 degrees Celsius. Tengis is a place situated on the bend of a river to the north of the village and reknowned for its cold season.

In 1921, the long Manchurian domination was replaced by the patronage of the Soviet Union. Mongolia became the first Soviet satellite. Moscow's plan was to settle part of the population in order to employ them in public services and technical aid for the Negdel (farming cooperatives). Today, those cooperatives no longer exist but the villages which sheltered the settled populations remain. The Russian financial aid which was vital for this community project has dried up completely since the dismantling of the Soviet block at the end of the eighties.
The village of Rintchinlkhumbe, one of four in the valley, currently has a population of three thousand.

The livelihoods of these inhabitants now depend on the relationship they maintain with those families which have remained nomadic. One member of each family lives in the village. This person serves as a bridgehead to the facilities and products of sedentary life. In return, the villagers buy cattle left in the care of the shepherd families who in turn owe them a share of the products created by the rearing of these animals (dairy products, meat, hides,...). These relationships, originally based on family ties, or more rarely on ties of friendship, are made official during festivities such as that for the lunar new year (Tsagaan sar ) and the associated exchange of greetings and gifts.

Until recently, the life of the farmers and the rural populations remained isolated from the influence of wider market imperatives. But the fashion for cashmere completely changed this state of affairs. The farmers sell cashmere for a very high price. For hundreds of years goats played only a secondary role in Mongolian farming, but today farmers buy them in huge numbers thus provoking a rapid deterioration of the most accessible pasture-land. In money terms, they are increasingly wealthy. Their pasture-land, however, is becoming poorer and poorer.
This has led to discordance between farming techniques established through the ages and current economic logic. The arsenal of the latter is powerful. Electricity arrives in the village each evening at eight o'clock. Television sets are switched on and sitcoms vaunt the western way of life. Nevertheless, the Darkhads are proud of what is theirs, of their lifestyle and their history. During the Middle Ages and the times of Cinggis-Khaan, these men of the great Mongolian north were known for their shamanic gift. Although they speak Mongolian Khalka (language of the dominant ethnic group and official language of Mongolia), the Darkhads jealously preserve their dialect with its trailing accent which rises to a high note at the end of each word.

Long and short songs, songs of praise and popular songs
This recording presents the musical practise of the Darkhads of the village Rintchinlkhumbe. The "Chichgedin oianga", literally the "Group of the valley", interprets styles belonging to Mongolian populations as a whole but, except where indicated, the repertoire is principally Darkhad. They sometimes incorporate into their repertoire songs from directly neighbouring populations: the Khotgoïds and the Tsataans who make a living from rearing reindeer in the mountains ranging along the Russian border.

The short songs are indeed short. They are built on pentatonic melodies. One of the regular practises of the Darkhads is to use these melodies to improvise new lyrics. This is their opportunity to put to music a witticism or a mockery about a new element of their environment or human entourage. Observation and subtle use of language are two highly prized qualities throughout Mongolia.
Long songs are of a more solemn style. Each syllable is drawn out, shaped, reformed and vocalized for the sheer pleasure of it. Once the text is written down it rarely represents more than a few sentences. Pauses for breath are sparse and symbolically charged: the singer relives. Mongolians use the same word to express both life and breath. The horse hurdy-gurdy "Mörin Khüür" must follow the meanders of the voice without ever anticipating on it. Unlike long and short songs, songs of praise are characterized by an abundance of words. As their name suggests, they are sung in praise of a place, or of the actions of the daily lives of the nomadic shepherds. They are generally accompanied by the hurdy-gurdy. The "Tüülitch" bards are aging and this style is seldom adopted by young people who prefer the short songs better adapted to the rhythm of modern life.
Mongolian popular songs are more recent and are sung throughout Mongolia. They are based on a verse/chorus structure which closely resembles that of our popular songs.

CD tracks
  1. Darkhadi Magtal  (song in praise of the Darkhad people)
    "It is in the country of the Darkhad that the flower of the lake grows... Let's adore her song, let the hurdy-gurdy play, let's pluck her strings... ! Look to the east, there spreads a treasure of nature. To the west, you'll see graceful gazelles graze. This country is the greatest treasure and keeps the world in harmony."

  2. Olin Khalzan davaa  (short song)
    "What emotion to remember and sing about childhood haunts. Do you remember the fifteen great and famous ovoo ? They watch over the pass which leads to our pastures."
    The ovoo is a monument of piled up stones or intertwining tree trunks which indicates the presence of spirits or commemorates an important event. 

  3. Khoyee, khoyee, khoyee  (short song)
    "Tomee, man of wisdom, is forgotten, but not so the melody of his song..." 

  4. Elstein Ganga (short song)
    "My country is decorated with sand. I see this distant mirage as my herd wanders far away, becoming whiter and whiter."

  5. Orgil khangain magtal  (song in praise of the Orgil Mountains)
    "The very names of these mountains are a gentle poem. Listen to the grace and beauty of the country where I was born. Hear therein my praise for the Orgil Mountains." 

  6. Ambaindaa otchinow  (short song)
    "Is it possible to go out onto the brown and misty taiga without stopping to drink at the spring of this virtuous friend?"

  7. Orgöön n'orsnoo medsengui  (short song)
    "Because the steps of the great blue sky spread out above my head, I have not noticed the new grass of the pasture. Because he conversed endlessly, I did not realize I had arrived."

  8. Yamar l'amrag gekhev  (short song)
    "The fog lingers over the summit of the Taiga. Will you ever manage to tell her of your love? The smoker slumbers... how will he tell her of his love?"

  9. Talbaï charag  (long song)
    "We all live in this vast yellow expanse of land. Words spoken together cannot be false."

  10. Khürgani aya - (Melody of the lambs)

  11. Bogd Dunjingaravin magtal (song of praise for the sacred mountains of Dunjingaravin)

  12. Tosooroo Chüürsan tovog  (long song)
    "My Tovog, tempest of dust. Arsaï rams into my side. My Emt, tempest of dust. Arsaï surges into the valley. My Tovog who blows in gusts, Arsaï has covered us with stones."
    Tovog and Emt are the names of winds and Arsaï is the name of a torrent flowing down from the mountains to the west the village.

  13. Aligarmaa (popular Mongolian song)
    "He puts the blue khadag on the arms of the young Aligarmaa. With Altansukh, she ties the path of her life. Altansukh has gone to fight in the war. She has been waiting thirteen years now."
    The Khadag is a blue material consecrated by the buddhist monks. 

  14. Samgaldaï  (Tsataan melody)

  15. Delteï tsenkher  (long Khotgoïd song)
    "I see the undulations of your blue mane. What makes you suffer? Oh, river Delger, why are you strangling me?"

  16. Khangain magtal  (song of praise for the Khangai mountains) 

  17. Mörni aya  (melody of the horses)
    The movements of the herd on the steppe are set to music.

  18. Zöölöngin arin mod  (short song)
    A kilometer outside the village, on a rocky promontory named "Zöölöng", the Darkhads have erected an ovoo made of branches.
    "Behind Zöölöng, the trees criss-cross like the winds... his weathered and tender face often changes."

  19. Altain magtal  (song of praise for the Altaï mountains)

  20. Büdarmaar, Büdarmaar salikh  (long song)
    In winter there blows an icy wind which the Darkhads name Büdarmaar. Over the past two years, many animals have died in the blizzards provoked by these gales.

  21. Samgaldaï   (Tsataan song)
    "Samgaldaï, the northern mountain is a jewel engraved and decorated with stones, but the man who does not see it this way would probably say that it is just a coarse cliff."

  22. Siilen Böör  (popular Mongolian song)
    "Before the sun slowly finishes its journey across a clement, clear sky, the daughter of the southern neighbour, she who is named Siilen Böör, will be accompanied. This slim princess had never dreamed she would leave like this."