Music Moment: A Mongolian Swan Song

The Urad tribe of Inner Mongolia has been known for its skilled craftsmen since the days of Genghis Khan. But its glory is fading fast in the face of modernization. The urgency to preserve Urad heritage also applies to its other intangible cultural treasures, notably its ballads. “Urad ballad is rooted in our daily life when we herd sheep,” says Narantogoas, a veteran ballad singer living in a country administrative district along the Sino-Mongolian border. “The lyrics are often impromptu, and flow from our minds. We sing for the grassland and what we see in nature.” Though she moved into town more than 10 years ago, the memories of her home on the great grasslands still haunt her.

Perhaps no other Urad ballad is as evocative of this sentiment than “Swan Goose”, a sublime song which originated more than 200 years ago. The song is often sung at the dinner table when proposing a toast or around campfire. There is a saying, “When the goblet is empty, make it full again. No one returns home tonight until everyone is happily drunk ” – these words best reflect the spirit of the Swan Goose and the Mongolian people.


Violinist Yukimine Ishino (who goes by the name, “Sky”) gives a soulful rendition of “Swan Goose” in this video, accompanied by wonderful shots of the Mongolian landscape.

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