RootsWorld: Home Page Link RootsWorld: Home Page Link

Violons Barbares
Saulem ai
World Village (

Most RootsWorld readers are familiar with throat singing. Fewer may know about string instruments like the Bulgarian gadulka or the Mongolian morin khuur. For an introduction, or perhaps a reminder, take a moment to watch the following video, then read the rest of this review.

Welcome to the fascinating world of Violons Barbares. Dandarvaanchig Enkhjargal on morin khuur and Dimitar Gougov on gadulka are joined by French percussionist Fabien Guyot, with all three singing in various styles.

Saulem ai is the ensemble's second record, and it starts off at a gallop. First comes the title track, a traditional song from Kazakhstan which translates to “My Beloved.” It's ostensibly a love song - with hoofbeats. Horses provide one of the themes on this record. They are mentioned specifically in two songs, often alluded to sonically through the percussion, and equine images are pervasive in the artwork that accompanies the CD. For those familiar with Mongolian horse races, many of these tunes will conjure images of large groups of children riding cross-country at breakneck speed during the large summer festivals.

"saulem ai"

“Saulem ai” is followed my “Saturday Yurt Fever,” another track that starts with driving percussion echoed by rhythmic strings. The melody is carried by the voices, and the instruments work together to propel the song forward most energetically. The English liner notes say this is an “ode to the beauty of the earth” with “an invitation to admire and take care of nature.” From the force of the music, this does not feel like a simple suggestion, but rather a direct call to action to protect wild spaces.

"saturday yurt fever"

Other songs use energy and movement in different ways. “Wind in the Steppe” has a slow, foreboding energy, using gongs and other ancillary percussion to warn of a coming storm. “Djore dos” is a traditional Bulgarian song about a madman knitting a multi-colored sock, which is more shouted than sung, the strings conveying the frenzy of the way I imagine a madman must knit. And I did not need to read the translated lyrics of “Gipsy Wedding” to know this was a call to “Dance with me, my love!”

"wind in the steppe"

"djore dos"

"gipsy wedding"

The 28-page booklet that comes with the CD contains some great photographs along with lyrics in the original language with synopses and translations in both English and French, thus providing a perfect capstone to this musical rendering of the traditions of the Eurasian Steppe. - by Greg Harness

Looking for More Information?


return to rootsworld

© 2014 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.


cd cover

Share on Facebook


RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.