In Mongolian, Dörvön Berkh, “Four Challenges” means the four faces of ankle bone and a specific divination game. Representing luck and predicting an auspicious future, this launch is quite rare. In a figurative sense, it symbolizes the ascent of four persons to a top of the social status. Four sides of ankle bone game; it’s also four aspects of the Mongolian overtone singing as no one has ever heard. This is an unprecedented meeting of four of the greatest masters of overtone singing of Mongolia.
Genesis of the project
The project Dörvön Berkh was conceived in April 2007 in Mongolia. Johanni Curtet (ethnomusicologist) and Otgonbaatar Tsend-Ochir (manager) have united four of the most renowned representatives of Mongolian overtone singing on stage for the first time. The premiere took place in the Auditorium of the Modern Art Gallery in Ulaanbaatar with the support of the Alliance Française of Mongolia, Administration of Khovd Province, Khovd Dramatic Theatre, City Hall of Chandmani and Global Design Company. Following the success of the concert, two tours were held in France in spring and summer 2009. The musical creation continued at La Fonderie in Le Mans, with light creation residency with lighting engineer Jacky Jarry. Eventually, the overtone singers showed great motivation for cooperating again. Thus, Routes Nomades wanted to extend the project by editing a disc with the Dutch label Pan Records, which was released in February 2010 in the collection Ethnic Series. The story of these round trips between France and Mongolia, human relations between the ethnomusicologist-apprentice, and the Mongolian overtone singers, as well as the project Dörvön Berkh is told by Jean-François Castell in the documentary film “Masters of Overtone Singing” (2010).
Creation: 7 & 8 april 2007, Auditorium of the Modern Art Gallery, Ulaanbaatar
Production: Routes Nomades
Artistic Direction: Johanni Curtet & Otgonbaatar Tsend-Ochir
Light creation: Jacky Jarry, 2009
With the support of La Fonderie, Le Mans
CD available at the concert and in trade:
Dörvön Berkh, Four Shagai Bones, Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing
(Routes Nomades, Pan Records, Pan, Leiden: Ethnic Series, 2010)
Amphi-Opéra (Opéra de Lyon), Théâtre Claude Lévi-Strauss (Musée du quai Branly), Opéra de Lille, Musée des arts asiatiques de Nice, Salle Guy Ropartz (Rennes), festival Le Rêve de l’Aborigène, festival Musiques d’Ici et d’Ailleurs, Les Saulnières (Le Mans)…
Born in 1948, year of the mouse, in Chandmani district in Khovd province, Sengedorj lives in Khovd city. Retired since 2009, he worked in Khovd Drama Theater for over twenty years, where he practiced all professions, from stage manager to decorator, actor-overtone singer and director.
Sengedorj learnt khöömii from the age of six, by listening and imitating those around him, especially the famous overtone singer Sundui, whom he succeeded later in the Khovd Drama Theater. After Sundui, he is the second overtone singer to be recognized as “Honoured Artist” by the Mongolian State.
Sengedorj is among those who have developed overtone singing considerably in the last twenty years. Since the late 1970s, he played all over the world (France, Germany, Great Britain, USA, Russia, Korea, Japan, and Kazakhstan). Sengedorj practices three techniques of khöömii: kharkhiraa (deep khöömii) khamryn kharkhiraa (deep nasal khöömii) and Altain shingen khöömii (high khöömii of Altai). The “khöömii baritone” is the name he gives to his own vocal khöömii timbre. He also plays lute tovshuur and flute tsuur, an ancient and rare instrument specific to Altai region that he learnt from the great flutist Narantsogt. Sengedorj teaches khöömii to a limited number of students at home.
Bonus video of the film « Maîtres de chant diphonique » de J.F. Castell (2010)
- Mongolie : Musique et chants de l’Altaï (Ceto 811, Paris : Orstom-Selaf, 1986)
- Jargalant Altai. Xoomii and other vocal and instrumental music from Mongolia (Pan 2050CD, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 1996)
- The spirit of the steppes: Throat-singing from Tuva and beyond (NSCD 058, Londres : Nascente, 2000)
- Mongol Nutgiin Calxi (MOCN-0102, Japon, 2001)
- Tunganar Buyant (MOCN-0202, Japon, 2002)
- Dörvön Berkh, Four Shagai Bones, Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing (Pan, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 2010))
Texts : Johanni Curtet