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Morin Khuur – Horse head fiddle

Perhaps the most ancient musical instrument of the Mongols is the “morin-khuur”, invented at least a thousand years ago. In Mongolian, morin means horse, and khuur means sound, rhyme, and melody. This instrument’s history is based on a legend of a man who had a beloved, magical horse that could fly. When an evil man killed the horse, the man made an instrument from the horse so that he could remember it. Originally, the handle of the horse-head fiddle was made of horse ribs and its base was horse skin.
Today, the long tail hair of a horse ridden since childhood is used for the strings. It is said each tail hair fiber should be processed until it “starts talking”. To honor the horse, its head is carved of wood and placed where the scroll would be on a violin. The tone of the morin khuur is tender and slightly languorous. This instrument is often used to perform pieces which imitate animals’ and nature’s appearance and behavior, including rivers, stallions, camels, bulls, elks, and especially the horse.

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