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