Traditional Mongolian String Instruments in Denver

Andre Turrettini

Nippon Kan Brings  

As part of Nippon Kan’s AHAN Mongolia Project, Nippon Kan purchased ten morin huur from Mongolia this past June. The morin huur is one of the most popular traditional Mongolian string instruments, whose heritage goes back centuries. Played somewhat like a viola, the morin huurhas two strings that traditionally are made from horsehair. A horsehair bow is used to create it’s beautiful song.

The morin huur were brought to Denver by Khan-Huur which means “king of”(in this case the king of morin huur), Mr. Ulambayar of Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. Khan-huur is a title of the highest honor and was given to Mr. Ulambayar for his outstanding skill in making these instruments by hand. So fine is his work, one of his morin huur was presented to the Queen of England as a gift from the President of Mongolia.

Mr. Ulambayar hand crafted these ten morin huur in sections in Mongolia and then brought them to Nippon Kan for assembly. Turning Nippon Kan’s ger (traditional Mongolian nomadic yurt-like house) into a factory of sorts, Mr Ulambayar has been spending this last week giving life to these instruments which are decorated with a hand-carved head of a horse at the crown.

The purpose of this AHAN project is multifold. Currently there are about 1,500 native Mongolians living the Denver area. Far from their homeland, these Mongolians yearn for their native culture, and can grow isolated in this country which is so foreign to them. It is especially difficult for the elders who come to Denver to care for the children while the children’s parents work or go to school. Arranging activities that unite this community is an important project, and the gift of music is a wonderful way to bring a little of their homeland here to Denver.

These morin huur, once assembled, finished and tuned for play, will serve this Mongolian community by creating the music of their lands so far away. There are many Mongolian musicians in Denver, most notably Ariunbold Ari who is a master of this instrument. There are current plans to also offer morin huur lessons to the Denver community, which will begin sometime toward the end of the summer.

Originally it was planned that Homma Sensei and staff would travel to Mongolia this year to bring back the morin huur personally. With the outbreak of the SARS virus this spring however, travel to Mongolia was discouraged, and the trip was postponed. Instead, Mr. Ulambayar has made this journey from Mongolia, bringing with him a tradition and craft as timeless as the mountains and plains that forged them.

This project has caught the attention of local media who have come to the Nippon Kan ger to see this craft making first hand. For more information and related articles and events, please seeAHAN projects, Mongolia.

Master morin huur musician Ariunbold Ari looks on as the instruments begin to take shape.
Mr. Ulambayar making a morin huur
in the Nippon Kan ger.