I am Steve E. Morel, Founder of UUGUUL
a French artist, researcher, musician, psychologist and life coach, former motion designer, photographer, and VFX artist, passionate for Morin Khuur and explorer of Mongol music, arts and culture.
I worked in the Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) industry for more than ten years (since 2003), from website development, interactive applications to Flash animations, and from motion design for Television to Visual Effects for cinema.
In 2013, another kind of journey started, answering a soul awakening, inspired by the Morin Khuur and the Mongol tunes. Seeking times past, seeking myself… this journey became a life purpose.
Find below the links to see my work (photography, video, and music).
Also, if you like my works and are interested in collaborating with me, feel free to contact me.
Keep scrolling down if you wish to know more about my story.
What made me come to Mongolia?
I am originally from Strasbourg, France. I started learning about computer graphics and website development back in college around the age of fifteen. I was learning during the night and usually sleeping during the day in class. After working as garbage collector, gardener, and working as a labourer in the SNCF (Société National des Chemins de fer Français – National society of French railroads) for a few years, I moved to Paris at the age of twenty to work for a website agency. Back then I was an introvert scared of having human relations and a true workaholic, spending around fifteen to eighteen hours a day, everyday, on my computer, forgetting about the few friends I had and even about my family. On top of that I was playing video games (actually started when I was four or five years old) and used to be a hardcore gamer on Starcraft, Quake, and World of Warcraft…
In 2012, after three instances in the hospital due to overworking, lack of sleep, junk-food and extreme stress, I came to the realisation that my existence, at the time, was meaningless. Back then it was like my body shut down and gave up on life. It was a deep depression with panic attacks… a very dark time. It triggered something, which started putting things in motion to send me on the way to find my purpose. I was ready to start my journey to Mongolia!
Luckily, I had a few great friends to support me and help me get through that hard time!
Especially one who offered me a CD that would change my life forever.
The first time I heard Hoomei, this “double voice”, I really felt an awakening. My heart and soul were glowing! I spent months listening to the “Huun Huur Tu” album kindly offered by my friend Aymeric, working endlessly with those natural and deep melodies continuously in my ears.
A few months later, I started to dig into this music to find out more! I craved for its origin. In a beautiful moment during my exploration, I saw the “Morin Khuur” for the first time. It was like love at first sight! I though that it has such a majectic presence. Being held as if flying… the touch on the strings seeming so free… and the head ornamented with such a marvelous animal, a horse. It felt like a bridge to freedom. I immediately thought that I was made to play this instrument. The funny thing is that I had just started taking cello lesson a few days earlier. It was as if Tenger sent me the Morin Khuur so I would not fall into the cello.
Around that time I discovered a westerner, Alex Glenfield, researching and singing Tuvan Hoomei. It was like a huge trigger for me. Indeed before seeing him, I thought that this art and music could only be performed by natives.
It imbued me with this idea: Hey why not me?!
After that I decided to try to sing by myself, checking videos and doing my best to mimic the recordings I had. In Paris I found an association, Vent du rêve, that was sharing knowledge about overtone singing, didgeridoo, jaw harps, ancestral art and culture. It took me three weeks to find the courage to visit the weekly meeting! I was still quite an introvert and extremely shy. Once I arrived there, I had my first encounter with people who were interested in this music unlike my coworkers, who felt that it was a bit “weird”.
Eventually, I decided to subscribe to the association and started to meet a new kind of people, much more open, connected and close to nature! I naturally shifted to a more spiritual life, meeting more and more enthusiastic people!
After only one month, on the 11th of April 2013, I was fortunate enough to meet the Buryat band “Duo Shono”.
It was the first time I heard authentic Khoomii, LIVE! It was such a powerful feeling. Absolutely amazing. We also had been lucky during the performance to have a person explain each song and legend that was sang. That way we could easily imagine and feel all the legacy that was carried within the music. I was filled with emotions and really had the confirmation, “okay, this is it!”
At that time, I was also trying to get my hand on a Morin Khuur in order to start my musical journey. However, this task was pretty challenging as information and knowledgeable people about the instrument were scarce. Indeed, the popularity of the Morin Khuur was quite different than it is now. It took devotion and persistence to find a lead that would later put me on a path to get my first Morin Khuur. After almost a year of digging and asking around, one light emerged from the darkness.
After meeting with a member of an association who organised a concert of central Asian music, I had a first contact by email with someone who knew a Mongol musician who was planning to sell his instruments at the end of his tour. After a few exchanges, they let me know that the musician had agreed to meet me to eventually sell one of his instrument to me. They gave me a date (a few months later) and a location (a park in a city in the north of France) where the meeting would take place. After this email I did not receive any other news from them until the real meeting. It was psychologically challenging for me, as I was still very insecure, introvert and afraid to try new things. However, the love and passion for the Morin Khuur gave me enough courage to overcome my fears and move forward. I then ordered the train ticket for that day and crossed my fingers untill the D-Day.
On the 16th of June 2013, after a thourough one hour interview to know my intention and goal toward the Mongol culture and the Morin Khuur, the Khoomiich Tsogtgerel Tserendavaa accepted to sell me one of his instrument. I was very lucky because it was a skin fronted Morin Khuur who had already played for a few years.
As the saying goes:
To a young horse, an old rider.
To a young rider, an old horse.
When I made the first notes on this Morin Khuur it was like a reunion with an old friend, an old soulmate… I could not hold my tears and I felt that this instrument was like none others.
In order to learn how to play it respectfully I had to find proper guidance and it took me another six months of searching to find a teacher in Paris. During that time I barely touched the Morin Khuur as I felt overwhelmed by its power. This instrument was not to be taken lightly. Later, with some luck (or let us call it destiny), I met the only teacher in Paris. Again, I had to show and prove my good intention to access to her knowledge.
I had my first lesson on the 16th of November 2013.
In parallel to this musical journey, I was also starting to get deeper into spiritual teachings as well as into my own psychological healing. I discovered the “Yoga du Son”. It was somehow a bridge between the overtone singing and a spiritual state of mind! I followed their courses and learned a lot about myself. It also triggered something extremely violent in me during the first workshop. It was like a war within myself! I was devoured by a herd of crows, shackled in picky wire, and left bleeding out. I felt that I really needed to find help from someone as it definitely seemed to be way too much to handle by myself. Exactly at that time, let us call it destiny, I heard about the “Festen”.
It took all my courage, all my strength and dedication, and all my time to start this spiritual work!
As a result I felt that my soul was about to be released… about to be free!
At the same time, I was following the first module of “Non Violent Communication”. It was a very moving period for me. A lot of my beliefs were transmuted. I was pushing the limit of my comfort zone further and further. It was like being born, starting to open my eyes, and discovering life for the first time.
In the meanwhile my interest for Mongolia, for its music, its arts and culture, kept growing! The idea of taking a plane (something I never did before) to feel, see, and experience the land of my burning passion was starting to flourish in my head.
Finally, I flew to Mongolia the 11th of July 2014!
The first sight of this ocean of mountains, vast steppes and isolated ger touched my heart deeply.
I could not hold my tears… I was finally home.
After two month in Mongolia as a tourist (in which so much happened), it was clear that this was the place for me to be. I did not know how, why, or what, but it was clear. I went back to France for two weeks to sell everything I had and took a leap of faith. I have been living in Mongolia since the 5th of October 2014. As the years passed, I started to perceive a direction and the outlines of UUGUUL were emerging.
I gave, give, and will give everything I have to get as deep as possible into this culture. I want to honour it and help preserve it. I am learning Morin Khuur, Urtiin Duu, Tsuur, Tuuli, Magtaal, Mongol script, traditions, stamp sculpting, Morin Khuur making, and so many other things… I feel that I have a debt to pay to the Morin Khuur, for it has helped me so much and I may even say saved my life! This is the reason behind my strong and passionate intention to spread as accurate an image as possible of the ancestral culture, in order to help and contribute to its protection and perpetuation.
To the people who follow and support me in that incredible journey,
you have my deepest gratitude!