The capital city of Mongolia, UlaanBatar, is covered with cookie cutter style Soviet apartment buildings. After recently visiting another part of the former Soviet Union, Belarus, I began to believe the joke about Stalin only hiring one architect to save money! All of these apartment complexes are built with large community courtyards, where the people gather.
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A few years back my Dad and I visited Ulaanbatar in early January, and I have to admit that I have never experienced cold weather like I did for those few days. From sunset to sunrise the temperature floated around -30 celsius. As I shivered at the sight of the thermometer most Mongolians were not even wearing winter hats.
This little boy was probably seven or eight years old. He would sit down on the sidewalk and sing for everyone passing by. My friend told me that he was singing traditional Mongolian songs of Chinggis Khan and the day of the nomad. For the few minutes that I watched him sing almost everyone who passed dropped some money in his bag. Finally, he got wise to me and peeked over to where I was shooting smiled and then got up and moved on.
The morin khuur or the horse head fiddle’s mythology is as rich as its sound. It has been a tradional Mongolian instrument for nearly 1,000 years. The man playing in this shot and video is a music teacher in one of the schools in Ulaanbatar.
Watching this man play was one of the most incredible musical experiences of my life. Through years of practice and tradition he had mastered the art of playing the horse head fiddle, and sadly the youtube video does not do the performance justice.