The Mongolian morin khuur (known in Chinese as a matouqin) is shaped like Bo Diddley's square body guitar, but with only 2 strings that are bowed. It is held upright in the lap and is in the cello/viola pitch range. The instrument is fingered on top of or underneath the strings and it usually accompanies throat singing. On this album the pieces are apparently instrumental treatments of songs, whose topics are described in the English section of the notes.
Chinese influences are obvious. Much of the music is pentatonic and often alternates between semi-rubato and up tempo passages. Techniques are sometimes fiddle-istic with drones and rhythmic, pulsing bow strokes. There are also plenty of slow, Indian-like slides.
The Far East has not had significant impact on the world music circuit. The music on Matouquin is easily accesible to Euro-American tastes. It could be construed as mood music (in a positive sense). The players are obviously virtuosi on the matouquin and I occasionally detect a bit of Western approach to bravura technique.
Most of the notes are in Chinese which, in part, mentions that the matouqin can sound "like a horse neighing." - Stacy Phillips
Audio: ©2000 Hugo Music (China), used by permission
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