Mongolian Enigma II

Fausto and Meenday
May 20, 2008

I'd been meaning to re-record Meenday singing for some time now. I don't know why I didn't ask Fausto to help me with that long ago. His and my stays in Urumqi haven't always meshed, but we've had enough shared days of Frisbee over the past couple years that I should have thought to ask him sooner. There could be no better person for the task: the year before I began living here, Fausto had just finished a year around the area, himself. He had won funding to spend that entire year traveling around Xinjiang, making field recordings of local musicians.

On top of his skills with audio engineering, Fausto has ability in design. He is the one who crafted the design for the UUU shirts we wore over our bi-weekly Frisbee matches. Before that, I hadn't realized he had talent in both audio engineering as well as design. When the idea for the shirts came, I remember going to Fasuto with a crude mock-up I had drawn in pencil. I was just hoping that he would have a copy of Photoshop on his laptop. He not only had the software, he had both the ability to create a fetching design as well as the eye to couple colors together brilliantly. The shirts were so popular that we were sending them to Frisbee players in other places faraway--the Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association snapped up five dozen.

On this visit, I asked Fausto if he would be willing to use his equipment to record Meenday singing traditional Mongolian songs. When I made the initial recordings of Meenday singing last year, I used the built-in microphone on my laptop. The quality was bad. There was a lot of hiss. I knew nothing about audio engineering. Fausto was happy to oblige, but with one stipulation. He requested that Meenday record a station announcement for his on-line streaming station, Royal Oculus and Gramophone Corporation.

David and Fausto Take
Dinner After Recording
It was tricky to translate Fausto's station name into Mongol. Even with the help of a Chinese dictionary (Chinese is the language Meenday and I speak with each other) Meenday was befuddled. Royal wasn't too hard, but I wasn't too sure about the meaning of oculus, myself. There was a picture of an antique gramophone on Fausto's website, but Meenday needed to call a co-worker at Xinjiang Public Broadcasting to make sure of the precise word. Stringing them all together in Mongol made the same illogical jumble those words form in English: Meenday of course worried that her translation was somehow lacking.

In the end, it all came out beatifully. I've uploaded six tracks, all of which are available at Fausto's site as well. There is a new take--with extended lyrics--of the song that sparked it all, the one that was sampled by Enigma. Fausto mixed in some sounds of nature to all tracks--birds chirping, horses whinnying. He asked Meenday to sing one particular song four times over, then layered the tracks to create the effect of a quartet. On the outro for that song, Meenday makes the announcement we had trouble translating: "You're listening to the sounds and music of Xinjiang on Royal Oculus and Gramophone Corporation."

Traditional Xinjiang Mongol, recorded as layered quartet:

In Gin Du MP3 file 2.5MB

New recording of Meenday singing song sampled by Enigma:

Alsyn Gazryn Zereglee (a.k.a. "The Eyes of Truth" MP3 file 3 MB

A popular song of Mongolia:

Botgon Du MP3 file 3.8 MB

Traditional Xinjiang Mongol:

Achin Du MP3 file 3.4 MB

A popular song of Mongolia:

Ulaan Baatar MP3 file 5 MB

Another recording of Meenday singing song sampled by Enigma:

Alsyn Gazryn Zereglee (a.k.a. "The Eyes of Truth" - Outtake MP3 file 3 MB

After some poking around on-line, I've come up with the lyrics in Mongolian. Below are lyrics in the Cyrillic, a version of which is the standard for writing today in Mongolia, the independent country. Meenday says that she'll transcribe them into the script used by Mongolians here in Xinjiang. I hope to get that up in my next post. The traditional Mongolian script looks unbelievably cool.

Алсын газрын зэрэглээ (The Eyes of Truth)

Алсын газрын зэрэглээ нь
Адуу шиг мал шиг харагдана аа хоо
Алиа хонгор хуугээ
Айсуй байхад нь баярлалаа

Холын газрын зэрэглээ нь
Хонь шиг мал шиг харагдана аа хоо
Хонгор жаахан хуугээ
Хоноод язахыг хуснэ