Tseveng – A Mongolian, Nomadic Herder and Singer

To watch the movie in High Definition, click here to go to Vimeo.

During a 12 day stay with a nomadic family in Mongolia, I was introduced to Tseveng, a member the same community of herders that I was staying with. He is known in the community for singing traditional Mongolian folk songs. He used to sing in competitions and perform more regularly when he was younger, but doesn’t have as many chances to perform as much as he used to. During an interview, which also included several musical performances, he asked if I wanted to hear and record him singing to his herd. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. This video is one of the songs I recorded during that performance.

Tseveng has one son, but he’s very shy. Summarizing Tseveng’s own words, not everyone is meant to sing long songs, and unfortunately he probably won’t pass his musical knowledge onto his son. While these songs are well known in Mongolia, there was something about his performance that really moved me. There are very few nomadic herders who still sing traditional music as well as Tseveng can. I believe traditional folk music in Mongolia will be around for a very long time, but a staged performance for example is very different than a performance by a nomadic herder who has been taught the songs as part of an oral tradition. I aim to help preserve that musical tradition through audio and visual recordings, interviews, and writing.

I feel very fortunate to have met Tseveng. Our first few meetings were so successful and relevant to my project that I asked him if he’d be willing to be a major part of the project. He was just as excited about my idea as I was and agreed. I plan on staying with him for another week or so to record 10-15 songs, maybe more, film more performances, as well as document the role of music in his life and the recording process through interviews, images, and writing by both of us. I will post some more of the footage I mentioned earlier soon.

Even though it might not look like it, the day we filmed was extremely windy. A windscreen on the microphone I was using barely did anything. Because of that , there’s a lot of wind noise I wasn’t able to get rid of without changing Tseveng’s voice drastically. When I go back, the weather should be a lot nicer and I’ll have enough time so that I’ll be able to choose when to film. Another note: a few people have asked me if I asked Tseveng to dress differently for this performance. The answer is no. Mongolian herders normally wear a deel (the grey part of his outfit that goes to almost to his feet) and will often wear khooroom (the red top he’s wearing) when it’s cold or windy. ¬†There are many variations on both articles of clothing that are often regional traditions or stylistic choices. This is a very normal outfit for him to be wearing though.