Throat singing is who I am because since my birth, my whole life and everything I have achieved and dreamt of have been closely linked to throat singing,” says D.Khosbayar, one of the most accomplished Mongolian throat singers.
The artist became one of the Top 10 contestants of “Germany’s Got Talent” (Das Supertalent) show in 2009.
D.Khosbayar is the Head of the World Association of Throat Singing, which has nearly 1,700 members who diligently promote Inuit, Tibetan, Papua New Guinean, South African, Native American and other throat singing styles. In the following interview, he spoke about his latest contributions in promoting throat singing, a vital part of the Mongolian folk art and one of the oldest forms of music in the world
What have you been doing lately?
The Norwegian National Academy of Arts is launching a project with 32 artists from 12 countries to promote peace and love for the nature through the arts. Within the scope of the project, I will be participating in concerts in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. I’ve been living in Mongolia for the past year and have been performing at international festivals and concerts from time to time.
I organized two international and one small scale throat singing contest after being appointed as the head of the World Association of Throat Singing. Our association hopes to join Mongolian and Tuvan Associations of Throat Singing together and work under an integrated policy.
For instance, we discussed cooperation and the establishment of an integrated policy with the Tuvan Ministry of Culture last year, and in April, we inked a memorandum on cooperation with the Inner Mongolian Association of Throat Singing. The World Association of Throat Singing is going to manage some projects and initiatives of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science related to artists and culture bearers under a contract.
Is it true that you will work with a Chinese company, Starlight Culture Media Co.?
Nowadays, the world arts and cultural market is focusing on Asia. Starlight Culture Media previously collaborated with Mongolian Khukh Lake’s Khangai and Tuvan Khun Khurtu bands, which have similar traits with our Trans Mongolia band, which will soon hold a tour concert as part of our collaboration with Starlight Culture Media Co. Trans Mongolia will mostly tour around Asian countries, including China, Malaysia, Thailand and India.
You have been promoting Mongolian folk art overseas for over 20 years. How do Europeans preserve and protect their culture and heritages? Do they have some kind of national policy?
For certain, government involvement is crucial for preserving our heritage and our culture for the future generations. Artists and culture bearers must develop their minds and sense of responsibility if they wish to pass on their culture, talent and skill to the next generation. The state isn’t helping much even though Mongolian culture bearers have become well-aware of their roles and are working very hard to safeguard their unique cultures and train younger generation of artists. The state only takes part whenever a competition, contest, meeting or performance is organized.
Looking at global practices, culture bearers receive government support because they safeguard the nation’s tradition and culture. Mongolian culture bearers have to take care of all financial costs if they organize trainings or workshops for others, but in other countries, they receive financial support and all costs are covered by the state. For example the project I’m participating in right now is fully sponsored by the Norwegian government. Despite the project’s main objective to promote traditional folk arts of many countries, Norway is enforcing a policy to refine and boost their own folk art.
…I don’t sell albums in Mongolia because our nation isn’t a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Only a certain group of people that I know sometimes sell my albums online and shares it with others. I’m thinking of releasing an album with Mongolian and foreign music composers in 2017. It will probably be the first album I release in Mongolia…
Mongolia can’t do such a large-scale project at the moment so the government should at least create an agency that manages and resolves internal problems faced by culture bearers. When L.Gantumur was the Minister of Education Culture, he made many favorable and supportive decisions for cultural representatives. Even so, implementing and starting initiatives is the most important part.
Other countries spend a certain amount of money for teaching and distributing information about folk arts to middle school children, and some schools invite culture bearers to have them talk about the significance and beauty of folk art.
For starters, our association works to promote throat singing to students in the capital. We’ve sent a proposal to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
Many throat singers say that they improve their skills by receiving energy from their home land. Does living abroad for a long time impact your throat singing ability?
Of course living abroad for a long time influences throat singers’ sensitivity. But you learn to separate work from private life and emotions after throat singing for a while. Presenting your inner emotions through a voice recording is rude to the audience.
State Merited Artist D.Sundui is your uncle. Do you have many relatives who are throat singers?
In addition to D.Sundui ,who became the first State Merited Throat Singer, State Cultural Worker D.Tserendavaa, State Merited Actor N.Sengedorj, and D.Ganbold, who throat sang music pieces composed by N.Jantsannorov, as well as Chuluun and D.Gereltsogt, who throat sang “Altain Magtaal” for the first time in history with an orchestra at the Cultural Days of Khovd Province event in 1950, are all my relatives.
In fact, there are many talented herders who can throat sing better than some professionals in my homeland – Chandmani soum of Khovd Province. I believe that it’s a good idea to study why natives from Chandmani soum are able to become exceptional throat singers from geographical, biological and from other perspectives.
You once mentioned that no athlete would be able to beat Mongolian athletes if they used throat singing, long songs and morin khuur music as treatment. Can you tell us more about this?
Whether an athlete can succeed is closely linked to their mindset. People control their physical power with their mind. Scientists from countries with highly developed science sectors proved that calming music is very important for helping athletes relax, relive stress and recover their strength within a short time after using up too much energy. Long songs, throat singing and morin khuur music calm the mind. There is no reason why we can’t use them as a form of therapy or meditation.
Haven’t you released an album with Modern Talking band’s Dieter Bohlen?
Several years ago, my throat singing was featured in three of Dieter Bohlen’s songs. You can listen to the song only by purchasing the album.
Why do you not release albums in Mongolia?
I don’t sell albums in Mongolia because our nation isn’t a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Only a certain group of people that I know sometimes sell my albums online and shares it with others. I’m thinking of releasing an album with Mongolian and foreign music composers in 2017. It will probably be the first album I release in Mongolia.
I’m slowly realizing that I have actually done many things. My main aspiration now is to nurture the future generation of throat singers and share my experiences with them.
The World Association of Throat Singing doesn’t operate on a daily basis. We used to gather once in a while for festivals but now I’m trying to start regular operations such as a regular training and workshop, or gathering among throat singers so that they can network, share experiences and come up with new ideas.
Have you seen “Mongolia’s Got Talent” show? Since you have participated in the German version of this show, how would you evaluate “Mongolia’s Got Talent” compared to “Germany’s Got Talent”? Have you noticed any potential world stars from the show?
I sometimes watch it when it’s on television. Nurturing a world-class talent is all up to the marketing team of the show. It depends on what the organizers are focusing on and what they want to relay to the audience. 20 percent of the chance an artist emerging onto the world stage depends on the artist and the rest depends on the team working behind the scene.
You have performed in more than 70 countries. As an experienced throat singer, what would you like to advise fellow throat singers? Is it common for countries to infuse modern elements into folk arts or do people prefer preserving the original form of folk arts?
Artists are able to preserve and promote their own art and culture more efficiently by studying and learning cultures of other nations. In this sense, I always go around exploring whenever I travel. The artist has to decide if they want to attract people with a mix of folk and modern arts. However, I fear that younger generations would misunderstand it to be the original form of the folk art. I often tell fellow throat singers that it’s better to preserve the original elements of folk art. Preserving and safeguarding the core elements of our culture is the biggest deed we can do. This will become our greatest merit.
What are your future plans?
I hate imitating to try and upgrade something that has already been done by someone else. I strive to think of and do unique things that no other has accomplished before. I have released around 10 solo and joint albums. I don’t think there’s any Mongolian folk artist who has released as many albums as me.
Each one of my albums is unique and express something different. I’ve tried the things that modern bands are doing now. I had already created an album that combines beatboxing, electro and rock music with throat singing in the late 1990s.