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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East


Published March 3, 2006

Börte 1: Mongolian Ethno-Jazz
Börte 2: The New Soul Of Mongolian Music


Sometimes, a CD’s title is so intriguing, you can’t ignore it. And, honestly, it doesn’t get much more intriguing than the phrase “Mongolian ethno-jazz.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot “jazzy” about the music of Börte, Mongolia’s increasingly popular musical ambassadors. However, on both of these discs, Mongolia’s ancient musical history finds fusion with more sublime, modern elements. No, there’s no breakbeat techno, nor any crunching metal guitars. Yet these musicians work a delicate, improvisational nature into a musical form that’s best known for its low vocal gruntings and rudimentary stringed instruments. The sound here is at times regal in tone and presentation, preserving all the cultural touchstones of Mongolian music with a worldliness that is unmistakable. Börte keeps a busy calendar of international live performances and the first disc beautifully captures a show and its many tones and moods (as well as the more improvisational aspects of their performance). However, it’s on The New Soul Of Mongolian Music that we find a more modern sound. Again, it’s subtle: in phrasings, tempo changes and arrangements, we find a group exploring the outer boundaries of their centuries-old musical tradition. (