Festival of Mongolia 2001
in New York City  - June & July, 2001

About the Festival of Mongolia 2001

The Events of the Festival of Mongolia 2001

The Performers during the Festival

Mongolian Culture

Mongolian Music

Mongolian Wrestling

Pictures from Mongolia

Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Mongolian Information and Facts

Mongolian Web sites:

Mongolian Permanent Mission to the United Nations

Festival of Mongolia 2001

The Festival of Mongolia 2001

The Festival of Mongolia events for June/July 2001 will present the traditional nomadic culture of Mongolia in New York City in a series of events for the general public that are free and open to the general public.

The Children's Museum of Manhattan will have a Mongolian cultural day for children eight and under. They will learn about Mongolian nomadic life, meet Mongolian children, try on traditional Mongolian costumes, and make a video in the CMOM studio that will transport them to the Mongolian Steppe.

The Wildlife Conservation Society will host performances by the Mongolian musicians, dancers, singers and wrestlers at Bronx Zoo and have a presentation on their conservation work in Mongolia. This program will help bring attention to one of the last great expanses of wilderness in Asia and its varied wildlife.

The World Financial Center will present performances by the Mongolian music and dance ensemble in its magnificent Winter Garden atrium. Mongolian wrestlers and archers will demonstrate their sports on the outdoor waterside plaza. There will be an exhibition of rare archival photographs drawn from the American Museum of Natural History's expeditions of the 1920's. Also included in the exhibition are images from the Mongolian National Archives depicting Mongolia's political history, and the modern day photographs of nomadic life in Mongolia by photographers, Catherine Ursillo, Ellen Warner, Robert Peck and Heather Mallory.

The World Music Institute will introduce the legendary singer of the Mongolian long song, Ms. N. Norovbanzad in her U.S. debut. Ms. Norovbanzad has been recognized as the greatest voice of the century in Mongolia. This rare one time appearance will allow the audience to experience the powerful songs of Ms. Norovbanzad that evoke the vast landscapes of Mongolia.

New York City will host a two day min-Naadam in Central Park with performances by Mongolian wrestlers, archers, singers, dancers and musicians. Mongolian nomadic homes called "Gers" will be placed on-site to allow visitors to learn about nomadic life.

Festival of Mongolia 2001 - Program and Events

June 2nd - The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo will present a celebration of Mongolian culture with performances by Mongolian singers, dancers, wrestlers and musicians. These traditional Mongolian arts convey the unique legacy of the Mongolian nomadic way of life.  There will be a  tour of exhibits of Mongolian animals will allow visitors to view the Przewalski horse, snow leopards and other Mongolian wildlife. Dr. Rich Reading of the Denver Zoological foundation will speak about his conservation work in Mongolia with Argali Sheep, the Gobi bear, and the Wild Bactrian Camel.

Fordham Rd. & Bronx River Pkwy. For information please call (718) 367-1010

June, 3rd - The Financial Center

The Financial Center will host a series of performances by Mongolian wrestlers, archers, singers dancers and musicians.  Traditional throat singing, folk dancing, and horse fiddle players will introduce the ancient nomadic culture of  Mongolia. The musical performances will take place in the Winter Garden atrium and the wrestling and archery will take place along the esplanade in the Oval Lawn.

Winter Garden and Oval Lawn, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Admission is free.

200 Liberty Street. For information please call (212) 945-0505 The Financial Center will also exhibit photographs of Mongolia in a group show titled, Mongolian Nomads: A Tradition of Survival. Focusing on Mongolia in period photographs from the 1920's to the present day featuring images of people, landscapes, wildlife and traditional  Mongolian nomadic culture. Never before exhibited drawn from the Mongolian National Archives, and the American Museum of Natural History Archives photographs are included with the contemporary photographs of Robert M. Peck, Ellen Warner, Catherine Ursillo and Heather Mallory.

Courtyard Gallery, June 3rd July 14th, Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am - 4 pm

June 9th  -  Mongol American Cultural Association

The Mongol American Cultural Association will host their annual Genghis Khan ceremony. This sacred ritual commemorates Genghis Khan and brings together Mongolian Americans for a day of remembrance for the founder of the Mongolian nation. Mongolian singers, musicians and dancers will perform and a buffet dinner reception is included.

Ramada Inn & Conference Center, North Brunswick, N.J.  1:00 pm - 6:30 pm. Admission is $25.00 in advance, $30.00 at the door

Please call (732) 297-1140 for information.

June 10th - Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

A day celebrating Mongolian culture will be held at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Mongolian musicians, archers and singers will perform. There will be a presentation about cultural links between Mongolia and Tibet.

338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island. 2:00 - 4:00 pm. Please call (718) 987-3500 for information.

June 10th - World Music Institute

Performance by legendary Mongolian singer Ms.Namjilyn Norovbanzad. One of the most famous singers of Mongolia will present her first time ever program of classical Mongolian long song performances in America. Ms. Norovbanzad has been recognized by Mongolians as the greatest voice of the century. Rich in vocal ornamentation, long songs evoke the vastness of the steppes, the solitude of nomadic life, and harmony with nature. Ms. Norovbanzad will be accompanied by musicians playing the horse head fiddle and other instruments.

Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th Street, 8:00 pm. Tickets are $26.00.

For information  please call (212) 545-7536

June 16th - Open Center

The Open Center will host a workshop on Mongolian Khoomi throat singing. The Khoomi singer can actually carry two tunes at the same time and is one of the most strenuous feats of vocal music traditions. Discussion of techniques and the history of Mongolian music will include audience participation.

83 Spring Street, 8:00 pm. Program fee is $14.00. For information please call (212) 219-2527

June 23rd & 24th - Central Park Naadam, East Meadow, 5th Ave & 99th Street

Mongolian Naadam celebration with Mongolian wrestlers, archers, singers and musicians. Traditional music and dance of Mongolia will be performed and wrestling and archery competitions will take place. Mongolian gers will be placed onsite with demonstrations of Mongolian feltmaking and other crafts. Information about  wildlife conservation work in Mongolia will be distributed and the audience will learn about Mongolian traditional pastoral nomadic culture. The American Museum of Natural History's Moveable Museum will be on-site with an exhibition of traditional nomadic cultures including one focusing on Mongolian nomadic life.

11:00 am - 3:00 pm. For information please call 888-NY-PARKS or (212) 252-5083

June 29th - The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a lecture by the Mr. James Watt, Director of the Asian Art Department. Mr. Watt will speak on Chinese Art Under  the Mongols. Mr. Watt will illuminate the influence of the Mongolian nomadic rulers on Chinese art traditions of the Yuan Dynasty. The artworks discussed will include ceramics, textiles and paintings.

1000 Fifth Avenue, Uris Center Auditorium at 6:00 pm. Please call (212) 570-3764 for information.

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Mongolian Performing Ensemble

The Mongolian performers that will be traveling to the U.S. are recognized as preeminent artists and champions in their arts. The Mongolian nomadic cultural legacy is reflected in various aspects of their respective forms. Thematically the close relationship that Mongolians have with nature and wildlife is displayed in the performers rituals and method.

Mongolia's legendary singer Ms. N. Norovbanzad has been recognized as the greatest Mongolian singer of the century. She is the preeminent exponent of the Mongolian long song form. The long song exemplifies the expansive and deeply emotional method of conveying Mongolian singers feelings about their homeland, nature and loved ones. Ms. Norovbanzad who has rarely performed outside Mongolia will make her U.S. debut at the World Music Institute on June 10th. Now more than seventy years old and about to retire, this concert represents the culmination of a glorious musical life.

The Mongolian musical group Tumen Ekh are a well traveled ensemble comprised of singers, dancers and musicians. They perform traditional Mongolian song and music as well as newer hybrid forms that include a synthesis of regional styles from related cultures. Tumen Ekh draws from many resources in its ensemble including adding members from different performing disciplines when needed to display diverse performance styles and traditions. Western audiences have been especially enthusiastic about Tumen Ekhs Tsaam dance performances that are traditionally a part of Buddhist annual religious celebrations. Tumen Ekh is one of the most popular performance groups in Mongolia and have traveled to Japan and Europe many times.

The Mongolian wrestlers and archers that will be performing at the World Financial Center, Central Park and other venues are all national champions in their respective sports. The wrestlers that will come include Mr. Usukhbayaar who holds the rank of elephant and the other three champions hold the rank of falcon.

The archers will be led by Mr. Tsaagandali and renowned Mongolian champion archers. A woman champion archers and a junior girl champion archer will complete the archery ensemble. They will perform in Central Park, the World Financial Center, the Jacques Marchais Center for Tibetan Art and other venues.

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Mongolian Wrestling

The Mongolian wrestlers and archers are viewed by Mongolians as holding very important cultural status and seen as embodying ancient values of nobility, strength, and sportsmanship. Their competition rituals are believed to have passed down in a form virtually unchanged in hundreds of years.

Mongolian wrestling is one of the three main sports of the Mongolian Naadam celebration, the other two are archery and horseracing. Naadam comes from the word "Naadakh" which means to have fun. Celebrated over three days July 11th - 13th, the Naadam is the grand annual national celebration of Mongolian sports and culture.

In Mongolian wrestling there are no weight classes, and there are no time limits. If the wrestler's knee or elbow touch the ground he loses the match. Before the match begins each wrestler does the traditional "Eagle Dance" which symbolizes power and invincibility and is based on the flight of the mythical Garuda bird. The wrestlers slap their thighs to show that they are ready to begin. Each wrestler has a "Zazul" who is both coach and herald. At the beginning of the third, fifth and seventh rounds he sings out his wrestler's heroic deeds. During lulls in the match the zazuls slap the wrestlers on the back and exhort them to struggle. If a wrestler loses the match he symbolically passes under the arm of the winner as a sign of respect. The ranking hierarchy starts with the title Falcon (Nachin), and then Elephant(Zaan) and the Lion(Arslan) and then Titan(Avarga).

Mongolian Wrestling Terminology

Bukh - The word for wrestling or wrestler

Mekh (Trick) A ruse wrestlers use to catch opponents off guard

Tahina uguh - To go under a winner's arm after a loss

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Mongolian Music

Mongolian music reflects the Mongolian's sense of connection with Nature. Many Mongolian songs are sung in praise of their land and the everlasting blue sky. The pastoral nomadic lifestyle like the American cowboy's existence gives life to music that harmonizes with herding and their enviornement. Mongolians cowboys like their American counterparts also sing to their animals. There are songs of praise for famous and beloved horses and often feature a cadence that imitate the gait of a horse. Whoops, whistles and clapping are all part of the many sounds of nature included in Mongolian music.

The Mongolian instrumentalists play the horse head fiddle called the Morin Khurr. They also play the Tovshuur and the Khuuchir which are banjo like instruments. The Morin Khurr is an essential part of Mongolian music very much like the American guitar. The top of the instrument is carved into a horsehead and the two strings are made of horsehair and are played with a bow. The trapezoidal body has a leather covering. Legend has it that it was created in homage to a lost beloved horse and when played by the forlorn master the instrument echoed the sound of the horse's neighing and hoof beats .

Khoomi singing or harmonic singing is usually only sung by men because of the great abdominal and lung strength that is required. The Khoomi singer can actually carry two tunes at the same time and is one of the most remarkable of human musical traditions.

The singer uses his chest and diaphragm to set up a constant, bagpipelike bass note, and then simultaneously uses his throat and nasal passages to create high harmonic note and melodic whistling.

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Mongolian Culture

Mongolian culture has many distinctive features. They are closely connected with the life style. From ancient times on, Mongolian have lived in the vast lands of Central Asia. Raising livestock and nomadic living patterns have found reflection in everyday thinking and the culture.

One of the unique features of nomadic culture is that Mongolian people live in full harmony with Mother Nature. In comparison with settled peoples, the nomadic herders, face nature directly on a day in, day out basis. Through this, the herders, are involved in a multifaceted relationship with nature. This is why Mother Nature is the theme of many epics, blessings, and well-wishes. There are many traditions, customs, and teachings regarding the protection and care of mother nature. Tearing up flowers and grass, allowing filth into water systems, digging up and destroying land, killing of animals and destruction of forests are considered sins and are thus strictly prohibited even today.

Livestock Herding, the main source of the nomadic lifestyle, is another important trait of Mongolian culture. Mongolians have a history of raising and caring for their livestock. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are praised as the "five treasures". Horses are considered the "emeralds" and are highly respected among the people. Thousands of teachings, sayings, proverbs, tales, epics, songs, and dances have been created in praise of the "five treasures'.

Shamanism is closely related to Mongolian nomadic culture. The tribes in Mongolia followed shamanism from the times of the Great Huns until the formation of the Uighur Empire. According to the "Secret History of the Mongols", and other historic sources, shamanism was the state religion until the introduction of Buddhism. Shamanism reflects the Mongolian feeling towards Mother Nature. For this reason shamans performed rituals of worshipping the master of mountains, water, sky and land. Some of these traditions, mixed with the Mongolian lifestyle, oral literature, folklore and symbolism, are important components of Mongolian nomadic culture.

Buddhism, introduced in Mongolian in the 16th century, played an enormous role in the development of Mongolian culture. The Mongolians' perceptions, psychology, traditions, thinking, and world outlook were enriched by the Buddhist philosophy and world view.

An outstanding historical and cultural relic is the Mongol-un nigucha tobichiyan ( The Secret History of the Mongols). This work by an anonymous author dates to about 1240. The Secret History is a fusion of tense historical narration, folklore and old poetry. It is an honest, sincere account depicting Chinghis Khaan without embellishment or laudation. The book is not an apology of annexation campaigns or the conquerors' ambitious claims. All people are described as worthy and only the rulers are depicted as cunning, sly men, evoking feelings of disgust in the simple hearted Mongols.

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New York City, May-June 2001

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all who are participating in the Festival of Mongolia 2001.

This Festival takes place during a year that the United Nations General Assembly has designated as the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. Certainly, Mongolia has much to contribute to that dialogue. The unique nomadic way of life, which emerged in Mongolia and other areas where conditions made settled life extremely difficult or impossible, involves living in harmony with the environment and worshipping the natural world. Those traditions and values, nurtured over the millennia, are especially relevant today, as countries try to place their economies and societies on a more sustainable footing.

This Festival will also help introduce Mongolia, its people and the nomadic civilization in general to a broader audience, helping to promote mutual understinding among peoples with different beliefs and customs. As globalization knits the peoples of the world more closely together in a tapestry of common goals and vulnerabilities, deepening that mutual understanding -- which is one of the admirable goals of this Festival -- will be crucial if those peoples are to live, develop and prosper together on a healthy, environmentally sound and secure planet earth. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful Festival.

- - Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations

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