GInterview for the Newspaper Ardchilal
18th of November, 2015
I was interviewed by the newspaper “Ардчилал”. They asked me different things about my passion for the Mongolian culture, the reason that made me come to Mongolia, my feelings toward the country, and about my crafts.
Below the English translation of the interview
1. When was the first time that you heard about Mongolia, and how did you feel when you finally arrived in Mongolia. Did it match with your information?
I heard about Mongolia in 2013, a friend of mine gave me a CD of Huun Huur Tu (a famous Tuvan band). The music really touched me, especially the singing. I started to dig into that music, and I discovered very quickly that Tuvan was an ancestral Tribe of Mongolia. Then I explored Mongolian music and art.
The first thing I felt when I landed in Mongolia, was a big disappointment, because I was thinking back then that everyone was singing Hoomei, wore deel, and that there would be horse, and ger everywhere! When I cam from the Airport to the center of UB, it was a whole different story.
Now that I have visited the country side, my love for Mongolia never ceases to grow. I hope that I will be able to get out of UB at some point, to be closer with the nature of Mongolia. I guess that when my studies will be finished, it will be a good opportunity to explore the countryside!
2. How did your lifestyle change from your French life when you came here? Is it difficult to adapt to Mongolian lifestyle?
Well before coming in Mongolia, I used to be a strict vegan. I was not eating any kind of animal products (milk / honey / eggs / meat / fish etc..), also I was not drinking any alcohol.
Now I try to get back in that way, but when I arrived in Mongolia, the “pressure” to drink a glass or two of vodka was sometimes a bit difficult to avoid. Also there are not as many vegetable here that as there are in France and most of the fruits are not that good or very expensive. I am trying to grow a few things in my home, I am just starting, and I would like to find some organic food.. but it is very difficult. This is the most difficult thing for me here.
3. What is your current job? I thought that you were a scientist. Is that right? Was it easy to learn about Mongolia, or not?
Actually I am a student at the University of Language and Civilisation. I am learning the Mongolian language, as well as the old script, and the calligraphy. I am not really a scientist, but that is true that I would like, at some point to write about Mongolian culture, calligraphy, and mainly about Morin Khuur.
Learning the Mongolian language is a very interesting challenge, and my brain got a few difficulties sometimes with some grammar principles. As I like it, it is neither hard nor easy, I guess it is in between! If there is passion, any kind of issues can be passed.
4. Was learning Morin Khuur your choice? Or did someone suggest it to you? Why did you choose Morin Khuur? We have many other national instruments.
I love the Morin Khuur, I cannot stop loving it, and every time I learn something new, I get more passionate about it! This instrument really changed my life for the better, and I really want to payback for the favour of what it did for me! The strength of this instrument, all the sounds that it can do, the stories that it can tell, I have no word to describe the passion that I have for it! Only reading my heart could give you a glimpse of the affection I have toward this music.
5. Did you play the Morin Khuur for your friends? How did they react?
I played for friends and for my family on some occasions. Each time, people got more or less the same reaction. They get very interested by the shape, the horse head, the particular strings, and in the instrument itself as it is pretty beautiful and fascinating! Then they feel like being taken away elsewhere… They can hear the horses, and they feel like travelling into a far country. Most of them are happy and smiling after the playing. Some are not touched by it, but it is pretty rare actually.
6. What song or music can you play the best on the Morin Khuur? Mongolian people imagine the vast steppe and horses when they listen to the Morin Khuur melody. What about you?
Actually I learned some songs now but for some I used to learn the “easy” way. Now I put my energy into learning those songs the real way, as it “should be”. My playing is going through big changes at the moment. I do not really
have a “best” song I think. I have some songs that I really love to play though, “Builgan shariin yawdal”
and “Jonon hariin yawdal” are kind of my favourites. They really take me away, in the steppe, on a horse, or with a camel! Also I love “Argamag huleg” and “33 govi magtaal”which I can not sing (yet).
7. How did you learn to sculpt stones, and when? How many seals have you made so far?
Well I had the chance to meet a Huurug maker once. He advised on the tools to buy, and showed me how to use it during an evening. After that I just tried by myself, as this guy was pretty busy.. I do not have any teachers for the making of Tamga.
Now I made 5 or 6 Tamga I think, it is the very beginning. I only started a few months ago.
8. Did you learn any other things in Mongolia? I heard that you are learning traditional Mongolian writing. Is it difficult, or not, because it can be really difficult also for Mongolian people. And how about calligraphy?
Well I learn as much as I can about the history, the tradition, the culture, and mainly the Morin Khuur. Also, I would like to learn how to make the instrument. I already made one, but I hope to make at least 3 or 4 a year eventually, as I cannot do that full time. I am interested in Hoomii and Urtiin Duu as well. I really enjoy the Mongol Bichig. That is true. I really like the calligraphy. It has a very fascinating feeling!
I actually feel that the Mongolian Cyrillic is much more complicated.. I feel more comfortable with the Mongol Bichig!
The calligraphy is another story. The feeling with the brush really needs time and practice to be understood. I have a lot of admiration for my teachers. They really inspire me and I hope that I will get there some day!
9. What do you think about Mongolian people? What about the positive and negative sides of us?
I prefer to avoid that question, as it is a very personal opinion. I guess there are good and bad person everywhere, we are human after all.
I feel mainly more comfortable in Mongolia that is for sure. I have had amazing encounters with very amazing people, but also a few disappointments so..
I could feel a big gap between the people from countryside, and the city people.. it is like two different countries.
10. What are your next plans to learn? Especially about Mongolian traditional culture?
Well my main goal is to learn the old playing style of Morin Khuur, and as much Magtaal, Urtiin Duu, Ardin Duu as I can. Also I would like to find a master to learn to make the instrument with him!
I am also very interested in the old script and calligraphy, and I would like to learn old stories about it. I am lucky because the school I study at the moment is teaching me all this knowledge!
11. What is the best place that you visited in the Mongolian countryside that you really liked?
I was in UVS, and I visited the river of TES and this was really amazing!!!! I think that might be one of my favourite places here! I also visited Hovd, and it was also very beautiful and powerful!
I do not really have a favourite place, it would be more, a favourite moment (favourite moments actually) that I shared with people! Because no matter the place, it is the people we are with that make the moment magical!