By Marcy Stamper
The names of the vocal styles and instruments are as ethereal as the beautifully haunting music itself — hoomai, the guttural throat song; urtinduu, long-song; and maodun chaoer, a three-holed flute.
The nine members of the unique Mongolian ensemble AnDa Union are all accomplished practitioners of these musical arts, having learned their traditional music from a young age. About 15 years ago, the group blended their talents and their backgrounds — they come from different ethnic and nomadic cultures — to bring the essence of their musical heritage to the world.
Methow Valley residents will have a chance to hear and see these performers this weekend when Methow Arts brings AnDa Union to the Winthrop Barn. AnDa Union’s music is quite varied, with sweet melodies, primal throat singing, insistent and hypnotic strings and percussion, and pulsating rhythms.
They also play the morin huur, the horse-head fiddle, which pays homage to the animal that is so important in Mongol culture that almost all houses have a fiddle hanging in the hallway. AnDa Union’s musicians also play Mongolian versions of the lute and mouth harp.
AnDa Union finds inspiration in old and often forgotten songs, drawing on a repertoire of music that is quickly disappearing with outside impacts on Mongolian culture. One of AnDa Union’s goals is to keep their endangered way of life vital by keeping their music alive.
They’ve still only scratched the surface of their extensive musical heritage. “Our music draws from all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified,” they say in a description of their music. “There is a wealth of folk music for us to learn — so far, our repertoire of songs is like a drop in the ocean.”
AnDa Union also hopes to inspire young Mongols with their music, since many have lost ties to their culture and no longer speak their language.
The group recently released its second album, “Homeland,” which includes new lyrics for old songs and contemporary compositions based on ancient tales.
Videos of the group’s extraordinary music are available on Methow Arts’ website at www.methowarts.org.
AnDa Union performs at the Winthrop Barn on Friday (March 24) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for reserved seats in the first five rows, $18 for adults, and $7 for students and children ages 5 to 17. Tickets can be purchased at Methow Arts in Twisp, Riverside Printing in Winthrop, and online through brownpapertickets.com.