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Hoomii Singer Hugjiltu

Updated: 2015-10-09 13:51:31

( chinatoday.com.cn )

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“The saying ‘good things never come easy’ may be right. As soon as the first problem was solved, another one cropped up,” Hugjiltu recalled. “On the day of the gala recording, my singing troupe was scheduled to stage a performance at the Inner Mongolia Hotel. I asked for leave but the choir director refused, saying the performance was important. So I had to rush to the recording site as soon as I was done at the hotel. It was snowing that night, and while speeding along on my bicycle to get to the studio on time, I fell off and bashed my nose. I arrived at the studio with five minutes to spare. But when applause erupted at the end of my recording, emotions filled my heart – it was like recognition of my years of keen endeavor.”

In 2002, Hugjiltu received the credential of Professional Hoomii Singer from the Mongolian International Hoomii Association, the first to achieve the qualification in China.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Hoomii has an ethereal sound, something out of this world. Hugjiltu explained that this effect on listeners is due to the particular vocalization techniques that produce two or three harmonics simultaneously that deftly combine low droning and high whistling pitches. The bass part, extremely low and very crisp, is not the kind that one would expect to hear from a natural voice. The singer must manipulate his breath to deliver strong air waves that forcefully pound the vocal cords, resulting in guttural “bubbling” sounds that are 10 times more intense than normal singing. Meanwhile, the singer has to modify the shape of his oral cavity as the resonating body to magnify overtones. The result is clear, metallic, high-pitched tones.

“As for the origins of Hoomii, one theory is that it has its roots in the mimicry of sounds of nature made by early Mongolians while hunting. That’s why the singing depicts natural scenes, wild animals, horses, and the steppe,” said Hugjiltu. “Its styles are primarily Short Songs, but also include certain Long Songs of less complexity and length.”

Da Bueh Cholaw, a Mongolian musician and director of the intangible cultural heritage preservation section of the Arts Research Institute of Inner Mongolia, found similarities between Hoomii and the 2,300-year-old Holin-Chor singing of Altay in northern Xinjiang and Chor singing of Xilingol in central Inner Mongolia, both of which feature multiple sounds by one voice at the same time. His study provided supporting evidence for Chinese Hoomii’s successful bid for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

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