1,100 Mongolian folk songs rescued from extinction

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Mongolian long-tune folk songs have been approved of as representative of human oral and non-material heritage by both China and Mongolia.

Alxa Mongolian folk songs are more than 300 years old, according to Gerel, secretary of the Alxa Association of Folk Songs in the Alxa League, based in north China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"Since September 2003 when the association was reconvened, we have covered almost every corner of Alxa and visited hundreds of seniors," he said. "We have now a collection of 1,100 rare folk songs."

Alxa folk songs are sung by herdsmen. About two thirds of them express homesickness, love and friendship, or are odes to horses.

The lyrics are mostly philosophical and rendered in couplets. Alxa tunes are in the ancient pentatonic style.

Gerel noted that Alxa folk songs are characterized by few lyrics and long tunes so that they are fit for arias. This allows the singer almost unrestrained freedom.

Alxa folk songs are a record of the geography, history and culture of the region.

"However, these traditional folk songs are disappearing," said Gerel, adding that at present Alxa folk song singers number less than 200, most of whom are elderly.

Fortunately, most of the lost Alxa folk songs have now been retrieved and are under good preservation. The collected songs have just been compiled and will come out soon.

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