The Mongolian 'chor' is multi-part singing sung by just one person. Hoomii, in Mongolian, means larynx.
Sort: Folk Music
Area: Inner Mongolia autonomous region
Serial No.: Ⅱ-4
Declarer: Inner Mongolia autonomous region
For one person to simultaneously make two sounds across six octaves simulating the sounds of pouring waterfalls, winds on the grassland, and the cries of animals would seem an incredible feat. But Mongolians have such a way of singing, called 'Hoomii', or throat-singing, meaning larynx.
The method of singing Hoomii is called 'chor' in Mongolian. Interestingly, 'chorus' in English, 'chord' in French, and 'chor' in German, all refer to the same thing: multi-part singing. But the Mongolian 'chor' is multi-part singing sung by just one person, and with more than 800 years of history and three different genres - the overtone, quaver, and complex - the Hoomii is more than an outstanding vocal mimicry.
The basic structure of Hoomii consists of a continuous bass and a musical treble. Hoomii singers need to use the vocal cords, nasal and oral cavities, and even the thorax to vibrate the current of air to flow between the three, rather than sing with the larynx itself. Sometimes, a Hoomii singer can even create consonances without using the vocal cords.
One of the most famous Hoomii singers is Wen Li, who is the only female Hoomii singer in Chinese and Mongolian history, since Hoomii had always been a folk art which only males were allowed to learn. However, Wen Li can produce four voice parts across eight frequencies. It is said that not only talent and hard work are necessary to learn Hoomii, but also a certain kind of physical standard - Wen Li is the combination of all. In her words, "I might have the soul for it".
For the past 100 years, the Hoomii was lost on the vast Inner Mongolian Plateau. Even today, the number of Hoomii singers is less than 100 throughout the nation. For the protection as well as the development of the legendary folk art, Hoomii singers are considering whether to incorporate modern music. However, ancestry and tradition believes that "chor can only be sung where it is quiet, where you can hear nature, and the birds and the leaves are dancing. Once the soul is there, you can begin the chor."