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Baigaljav instrument maker

Interview with Baigalijav | Craftsman of the Hu Band’s Instruments

It isn’t easy to imagine the pioneer of Hunnu rock, The Hu band, without their instruments. P.Baigalijav is the person who crafted their uniquely designed instruments, a combination of traditional and modern style, symbols of nature, sky, and fire. He spent his 31 years of life for crafting traditional music instruments to craft over 40 000 Khuur at his own craft studio named “Egshiglen.” We visited his workplace to talk about The Hu’s instruments and his life.

Since when did you start making instruments? Currently, how many types of it are you crafting?

I started in the socialist era. At that time, there were just a few instrument crafting masters at “The experiment laboratory of traditional music instruments and tools” used to craft instruments. I started from there, and after the fall of the socialist regime in 1990, I opened my studio “Egshiglen” in that very risky period of economy. In the beginning, I had only two pupils, whereas now I have over 50 employees. 

What was the reason you dived into the universe of traditional music?

I’m an ordinary person from the Gobi. When I was a kid, who grew up herding our animal with barefoot, I had so much interest in music and used to try making instruments. Winning the 1st prize at the “Morin khuur crafters the first championship” in 1989, which was organized for the infamous morin khuur player Great Jamyan’s 70th birthday, became such a big encouragement for me. From there, my career journey really started. That khuur is now kept at the Museum of Theatre.

Baigalijav explaining his works

How many types of instruments do you make? Which one is the most common?

We are making horns, trumpet, yatga, dulcimer (yochir), shanz khuuchir tovshuur, morin khuur etc. Not only making these instruments, but we also contribute to restoring ancient music instruments whose remaining were found during archeological researches. The majority of our production goes to Morin khuur. Since we started, we made more than 40 000 morin khuur, over 300 of which I made.

Where do you sell the instruments? Maybe lot of fans around the world might be interested to learn the Morin Khuur and other instruments.

We have two stores operating in Ulaanbaatar. One in the State Department Store, another store located near the National Museum. Also Mongulai.com is our official distributor for international customers.

How long does it take to make one instrument? What was the one that took the longest?

An experienced professional can make the simplest khuur in 3 to 4 days. But the high quality, delicate ones can take as long as one year.

You’ve crafted the instruments of The Hu band. Please talk about it.

In 2017, Mr. Dashdondog came to me with a drawing and said, “Please make these instruments. It should be a little bigger with deeper tune than the regular khuur”. Bow and arrow-shaped tovshuur, morin khuur with the side looking head were on the drawing, which seemed pretty impressive. I just took the tape measure and asked, “How about this much longer?” by measuring a little longer compared to regular morin khuur. Not long after, I drew the sketch and started the work.

Instrument maker

How long did it take? Could you talk about the materials used?

With one of my pupils, we completed the work within two months. We used birch and spruce grown in Mongolia. Mongolian traditional instruments are usually made of bamboo, spruce, pine and such. We buy the woods from some Asian countries to make the main part of yatga and dulcimer. There are times we need to buy some hardwoods from abroad. 

The Hu band is recognized throughout the world playing the instruments you crafted. Do you feel proud?

Of course, I am proud of that. All Mongolians are proud of it. I think the most beautiful thing about my work is that seeing the instruments we made getting into the hands of its owner and listening to the melody emitted from it. When The Hu started to get noticed by the world, our younger generation started to get interested in traditional music, khoomei and morin khuur more than before. It’s an honor to be part of this work to introduce and spread our traditional music. 

We made instruments for bands such as “The Hu”, “Khusugtun”, “Tengger ayalguu” and “Altan Urag”


Were there customers who wanted to get the same instruments as The Hu?

Since their music video was released, people started to request to have exact same or similar but little bit different instruments like The Hu’s. But those instruments are patented and protected by copyrights. So we can’t make the same ones against the copyright. The idea of these instruments belongs to Mr. Dashdondog, and I only converted that idea into physical form. 

Other than The Hu, what artists have you made instruments for?

We made instruments for bands such as “Khusugtun”, “Tenger ayalguu” and “Altan Urag”. Altan urag is the first band to come to us with an exciting concept, where the morin khuur has an alien like head. When I saw the drawing at the beginning, I said: “I wouldn’t make such a weird thing”. But after Altan Urag, people started to come up with many different ideas, for example, wolf, deer, lion, tiger, and garuda headed khuur. We also made instruments for the “National ensemble of Morin Khuur”. For the 80th anniversary of Zavkhan province, 2000 morin khuur were made and 1700 of which we made. When I see many musicians on a stage, I directly recognize our own creation. Maybe it’s a type of professional’s characteristics. 

What is the thing that you pay the most attention to when you make an instrument?

Material. When it comes to material, I don’t mind spending a fortune. I want to make a quality instrument with quality material. And then, from the beginning of sketching till the very end, every stage is essential. Now there are two factories in Mongolia and one in Inner Mongolia that mass produce morin khuur using machines, whereas our instruments are all hand-crafted. I even made our tools too. Machine produced khuur can never be equal to hand-crafted one.

What features should music instrument crafter possess? 

I never studied at a music institute. I make instruments based on my passion, practices, and experience. When you configure the tune very well, you become an excellent crafter. The most important is to give your heart to it and have a good taste/sense. My teacher/master’s name is Indre. He gave his all heart and soul to traditional music. I try to do the same. I emphasize working with patience to craft something that can satisfy the customer. Though I feel tired after working long hours, I think all that fatigue gets washed away thoroughly when I see my end product. 

Tools used to make Morin Khuur

It’s an honorable success that The Hu band with instruments crafted by P.Baigalijav spreading the Mongolian music, Mongolian khoomei, Mongolian human throughout the world. Mr.Baigalijav is one of those who are keeping and spreading our traditional music to the following generations.  


Source : Isee.mn


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