Four masters of Mongolian overtone singing

Allocation :
Sengedorj Nanjid
vocals, khöömii, lute tovshuur, flute tsuur
Odsuren Baatar
vocals, khöömii, lute tovshuur
Tserendavaa Dashdorj
vocals, khöömii, lute tovshuur, fiddle ekel
Ganzorig Nergui
vocals, khöömii, lute tovshuur, horse head fiddle morin khuur

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.

Concert intégral au Musée du quai Branly (12/01/2013)
Avec l’aimable autorisation du musée du quai Branly

Between tradition and modernity, this concert is a real discovery of the many facets of khöömii, the art of vocal timbre par excellence. Through the repertories of praise song magtaal, long song urtyn duu, short song bogino duu, accompanied with lute tovshuur, horse head with fiddle morin khuur and flute tsuur, Sengedorj, Odsüren, Tserendavaa and Ganzorig take us in Mongolia by revisiting their musical traditions from within.

Amphi-Opéra (Opera of Lyon), Théâtre Claude Lévi-Strauss (Musée du quai Branly), Opera of Lille, Musée des arts asiatiques of Nice, Salle Guy Ropartz (Rennes), Le Rêve de l’Aborigène Festival, Musiques d’Ici et d’Ailleurs Festival, Les Saulnières (Le Mans), la Péniche Spectacle (Rennes)…

Dossier de présentation

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)

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).

Biographie des musiciens

Sengedorj Nanjid

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))

Tserendavaa Dashdorj

Born in 1954, year of the sheep in Chandmani district, Khovd province and still lives in his homeland, Tserendavaa is one of the rare overtone singers combining a nomadic pastoral lifestyle with the professional practice of khöömii. His apprenticeship of overtone singing began at the age of six, in the pastoral context by imitating the people around him. A number of people influenced him includes, Tsedee, Makhan Chuluun, Ulmiibat, Margad and Sundui. When he was 24, he started his professional career as overtone singer. Since the 1980s, he has performed all around the world (USA, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Russia and Japan). Among other overtone singers as Sengedorj and Odsüren, Tserendavaa is one of the main actors who accelerated the development of khöömii and its public dissemination during the Soviet period. A big contribution he made for the progress of khöömii art is the invention of combined khöömii style, in which the singer performs long song urtyn duu with overtone singing by pronouncing some of the lyrics.

He practices seven techniques of khöömii: uruulyn khöömii (labial khöömii), tagnain khöömii (palatal khöömii), bagalzuuryn khöömii (throat khöömii), khamryn khöömii (nasal khöömii), tseejnii khöndiin khöömii (chest khöömii), khargia khöömii (deep khöömii), and khosmoljin khöömii (combined khöömii). He also plays lute tovshuur, horse-head fiddle morin khuur and fiddle ekel. Like the other herders in Mongolia, he sings the traditional long song, widely performed in festive events. He transmitted khöömii tradition to two of his sons: Tsogtgerel and Khash-Erdene; both of them pursuit professional career by overtone singing. He also teaches khöömii to the children and nomads of his community, as well as many foreign visitors.


  • Musique et chants de tradition populaire Mongolie (various artists) (Grem G7511, Saint Mandé : Grem, coll. Discovering the World Through Sounds, 1986)
  • Mongolia. Living music of the steppes, instrumental music and song from Mongolia (MCM 3001, Multicultural Media, JVC, 1997)
  • Jargalant Altai. Xoomii and other vocal and instrumental music from Mongolia (Pan 2050CD, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 1996)
  • Chandman’Song « traditionnal Mongolian melodies sung in Khoomii (overtone singing) » (TS001, Londres : Amina Records, 2000)
  • Music and song of Mongolia. Live at Cambridge, England (various artists) (cassette Global Arts GA1, 5 août 1988)
  • Music from Mongolia, Live at the Asia Society, New York, USA (various artists) (cassette, 7 october 1987)
  • Mongol Music (various artists), cassette of the Mongolian national public radio
  • Tserendavaa et Tsogtgerel: Chant diphonique de l’Altaï mongol (RN01, Coulaines : Routes Nomades, limited edition of 400 copies, 2006)
  • Tserendavaa & Tsogtgerel, chants diphoniques de l'Altaï mongol (3017742, Paris : Buda Musique, coll. Musiques du monde, 2008)
  • Dörvön Berkh, Four Shagai Bones, Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing (PAN 2100, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 2010)

Odsüren Baatar

Born in 1949, year of the sheep in Aldarkhaan district in Zavkhan, Odsuren lives in Ulaanbaatar. When he was a child, he was introduced to khöömii by S. Myagmar. In 198, he started learning heroic epic tuuli and praise song magtaal from D. Jantsanchoi, a musician and storyteller. Under the guidance of Jantsanchoï, he turned to teaching khöömii from the end of the 1980s.

Odsuren is the first to teach khöömii at the establishments of higher education system (National University of Mongolia, University of Culture and Arts) in Mongolia. Although his principal activity is teaching, he participated in several international concerts (USA, Japan, Russia, France and Germany). He practices twelve techniques of khöömii, some of which are his innovations: khargia khöömii (deep khöömii), gilsen khöömii, tsuurai khöömii (echo khöömii), üyelzsen tsuurai khöömii (whirling echo khöömii), shuluun tsuurai khöömii (straight echo khöömii), khamryn tsuurai khöömii (nasal straight khöömii), dorgio khöömii (jolted khöömii), kherkheree khöömii (gargle khöömii), isgeree khöömii (whistle khöömii), dangildakh khöömii (monosyllabic rhythmic khöömii), doshgiraa khöömii (labial vibration khöömii) and khosmoljin khöömii (combined khöömii). He also plays fiddle ekel, lute tovshuur, mouth harp khulsan khuur (in bamboo) and tömör khuur (in metal).

He regularly transmits khöömii in Buryatia (Russia), Inner Mongolia (China) and in Europe during the concert tours. Odsüren is also one of the first khöömii singers to teach overtone singing to women.


Les bardes de Gengis Khan (La Huit production/Audiovisuel Muzzik, 52mn., 1998)


Dörvön Berkh, Four Shagai Bones, Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing (PAN 2100, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 2010)

Ganzorig Nergui

Born in 1974, year of tiger in Zuunkharaa town in Selenge province, Ganzorig lives in Ulaanbaatar. When he was a child, he learnt horse head fiddle at school, then self-taught khöömii by listening to the recordings of the famous overtone singers as Sundui and Ganbold on the radio. Having mastered the two principal techniques of overtone singing, he gradually specialized in performing and composing the praise song magtaal. He practices four techniques of khöömi: uruulyn khöömii (labial khöömii), bagalzuuryn khöömii (throat khöömii), khamryn khöömii (nasal khöömii) and kharkhiraa (deep khöömii). He also plays lute tovshuur, horse-head fiddle morin khuur, mouth harp in bamboo khulsan khuur, and flute tsuur.

Ganzorig occasionally works with the ensemble of the Zuunkharaa Theater. He founded Altai-Khangai group in 1996, which led him to play in many countries: four years of residence in Germany, three years in Netherlands, and individual concerts in France, USA, Switzerland, Austria and Morocco. Turned into the musical compositions from traditional elements, Ganzorig brought a number of innovations in the repertory of khöömii. His originality characterizes the perfect combination of Mongolian and Tuvinian overtone singing.

Bonus video of the film « Maîtres de chant diphonique » de J.F. Castell (2010)


With Altaï-Khangaï:

  • Gone with the wind. Songs of mongolian steppes (WTE CD 002, Amsterdam : Window to Europe, 1998)
  • Naariits Bïïlye, Let’s Dance. Mongolian khuuryn tatlaga (PAN 2061, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 1999)
  • Melodious Tree (AKA09001, Ulaanbaatar: Self-production, 2000)
  • Naadam (Ulaanbaatar: Self-production, 2006)
  • Öngöd (860240, Paris : Buda Musique/Full Rhizome, 2013)

With Dörvön Berkh:
Dörvön Berkh, Four Shagai Bones, Masters of Mongolian Overtone Singing
(PAN 2100, Leiden : Pan Records, Ethnic Series, 2010)

Solo project:
Khuumei, magtaalchi Ganzorig N. (Ulaanbaatar: Self-production, 2014)

Textes : Johanni Curtet