In February 2016, I was interviewed by the blog “La Voz de Siberia”. They were mainly curious about the calligraphy, and the hoomii! It’s with real pleasure that I shared and answered to their questions.
The online version is available on their website HERE. (I think it’s in Spanish!)
The English version of the interview below:
What did you do before coming in Mongolia, when you lived in France?
- Hello, so my name is Steve Morel, I’m now 29, and I arrived in Mongolia in October 2014. Before, I was living in France, and I was mainly working on computer graphic things like cinema visual effect, photography, TV video, website animation etc.. I also started a “spiritual” journey, and also worked a lot on myself. I was providing some help / coaching from time to time to people.
Was it hard to learn Mongolian language?
- Well I’m far from fluent yet, even tho I can speak and understand a bit now!
The first difficulty for me, as a French is the pronunciation that is the most difficult (basically the education of my ears, and also the work of lips / tongue / throat). The French language seems to be the “perfect” opposite of the
Mongolian language in term of sound and mouth using.
Second is the structure of the language. The grammar is really really different from the French and the logic to construct sentence is also quite different. Also most of words are very contextual and carry sometime more than 10 different meaning… so it’s a lot to learn and remember.
Finally as I learn the old script, I actually learn 2 Mongolian language kind of. As the Mongolian Cyrillic and the Mongolian old script are almost 2 different languages.
As far as I know you’re learning not just traditional Mongolian music, but also the ancient Mongolian Calligraphy. This art isn’t well known in Latin America, can you talk us a little bit about this matter, about your experience and Masters?
- Well, it’s a vast question so I don’t really know where to start!
This language and writing are very fascinating! Each letter symbolise a physical thing or a part of a human body. For example there is a letter that is a “crown” and other one that is a “belly”, an other one that is a “tail” like a horse tail, or a “bow” etc.. So this is really interesting as each letter reflect some of the main things of the Mongolian culture and tradition. This language was created so each Mongolian tribes could write to each other, even
thought they were not speaking the same way (due to different dialect). This writing would be the same for all and connect them all. That was an action taken by Chinggis Haan to unite every tribes.
Also some stories says that this writing can be written faster than any other. A rider could write it easily while galloping. Also it goes from top to bottom (it’s pretty unique in the world) to show that Mongolian stand strong on their feet, and they don’t lay down on the ground. Of course there is much more to say about this language but those were the first thing that came to my mind.
Is there any relation between the arts of music and calligraphy?
- I’d say as there is rhythm in the music, there is also rhythm in the calligraphy of course. Sometime I tend
to imagine that the way urtiin duu (long song) is sang is close to the shape of the calligraphy. As I don’t know
enough in urtiin duu and in calligraphy I can’t confirm that just yet, but I really got that feeling!
When I met you in Ulan Bator, you told me that you started to learn throat singing by yourself, but it was very important to meet the traditional Mongolian masters in order to correct some mistakes. In your opinion, which are the common mistakes of people who are starting to learn throat singing? How long have you been practising Hoomii?
- Well I heard a lot of people singing overtone singing, and were talking about Hoomii. Lot of people sing in there nose, also very often the “strength” in the throat is not low enough and it end up being hurtful. I’m not master so I don’t want to say too much! That’s just the main difference I could see from when I was learning by myself, and were actually doing it very wrong, and when I started to take lesson with a Hoomii master.
I started to “explore” Throat Singing maybe 3 years ago, but I wasn’t very regular on the practice. My level is pretty low, as I mainly focus on Morin Huur at the moment. When I’ll be good enough with the Morin Huur, I’ll get serious in Hoomii. But learning the two at the same time is not advised as both require a lot of dedication and time, especially in the beginning.
Are you vegetarian? (if the answer is yes)… is it hard to be vegetarian in Mongolia?
- I’m not totally vegetarian anymore, I eat meat sometime maybe 2 to 4 times a month. I used to be a vegan, eating only raw food, but here in Mongolia, I don’t feel that it is very “healthy” neither very ecological. More of the vegan food comes from pretty far, so the oil used to bring it in Mongolia is pretty greatly destroying the planet.. Being a meat eater in Mongolia is actually greener than eating meat in Europe. I eat some milk product tho as here it’s cheap, and good in quality.
What are you planning to do in the future?
- Well now, I learn Morin Khuur with a personal teacher. My goal is to become a professional Morin Huurch or Magtaalch. I’m learning the language and script as well, so I wish to graduate from my school, and after this one go study in an art and music university to graduate in Morin Huur or going in the country side for the real thing. I also want to write some books about the different cultural song, poem, riddle, write them in Calligraphy, and translate in French, and English, to somehow preserve them, and also spread their philosophy all around the world. I also wish to make Morin Huur, but I’ll see in time, I focus on today for the moment!