Sounds of the Mongolian Grasslands – An informal talk and recital with Mongolian horsehead fiddle player Nachin (China)

Moderator: Frank Kouwenhoven (CHIME, The Netherlands)

Nachin (那琴)

We met in person one of the upcoming talents of Morin Khuur (Mongolian horsehead fiddle): Nachin 那琴 (b.1994), a native from Ordos in Northwest China.

Nachin grew up in an entourage of farming life, amidst horses, cows, sheep, poultry, and camels, but from early childhood onwards she also had ample exposure to music.

‘While I was still in my mother’s belly I probably already heard the sounds of songs sung at local weddings.’

She began to learn the horsehead fiddle in her hometown region when she was eight years old.

She was lured by the instrument’s deep sounds and sturdy appearance. A Morin Khuur can play harmonies, overtones and solid notes simultaneously. Its large soundbox and horsetail bow-hairs contribute much to its unique tone, which can be loud and quite deep, often close in timbre to the human voice.

Nachin graduated in horsehead fiddle performance in 2020 from the Central University of Nationalities (Zhongyang Minzu Daxue, MUC) in Beijing, but she has always kept close ties with her native region. She has been carrying out extensive fieldwork among regional tribes in Mongolia and in Inner Mongolia since 2015. That included taking lessons from senior local masters like Burin and Badma

She acquired in-depth practical knowledge of a variety of different playing styles, some of which are now already becoming rare in living practice.

In this informal presentation (in English), she offered a brief introduction to some basic types of Mongolian horsehead fiddle (Morin Khuur), and presented three of the most prominent traditional genres, illustrated with video clips and live playing. Additionally, we had a brief talk with Nachin, to hear more about the realities of present-day life in rural Inner Mongolia.