Mangrove swamp at Bako National Park near Kuching in Sarawak
Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion on music, travel and the arts by writer Graham Reid
Badma Khanda Ensemble: Mongolian Music from Buryatia (Arc/Elite)
Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The European Arc label is doing God's work in this world by bringing to light music from Eastern Europe right across to the shores of the western Pacific. Already in its ever-expanding catalogue it has well annotated collections from Tuva, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Samarkand and beyond.
And this 21 song collection is very much from that "beyond", the remote south-central region of Siberia with Mongolia to the south (population fewer than 400,000 in an area about half the size of Japan).
Singer Badma Khanda was born in Inner Mongolia where the songs of the Soviet Buryat territory had been preserved and she learned them from her grandparents and parents. By all accounts she is a star in Buryatia but has also sung at Carnegie Hall -- and my guess is she wouldn't have needed microphones.
Her voice is strong and pure, and here with her ensemble which includes local versions of the flute, fiddle, zither and so on, she offers a programme of song (and some instrumentals) which is quite enchanting, and sounds like a less grating and piercing version of traditional Chinese song.
Highly melodic and evocative of a vast landscape uninterrupted by too many towns, but also music of great intimacy when the occasion requires it. Like quirky pop in places too.
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