Type: Open-Ended > Flute > Aerophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.111.12
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The tsuur [Mongolian], choor [Kyrgyz] or chuur [Tuvan] is an end-blown flute of varying lengths that is common among Inner Asian pastoralists. It is similar to the syzygy [Kazakh] and quray [Bashkir]. In western Mongolia it is mainly used by the Altai Uriankhai people, although other ethnic groups like the Kazakhs and the Tuvans are known to play them or have played them. There are only three to five holes.
The Uriankhai called the Tsuur the “Father of Music”. A three-holed flute was in use in Mongolia in the 18th century and was believed to possess the magical properties of bringing Lamb’s bones back to life. In the Jangar epic of the 14th century the Tsuur is said to have had a voice like a swan. This reference may also be indirectly a very early reference to khöömii as the singing style sung with the Tsuur is Khailakh. Traditional Mongolian Tsuur music was added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of urgent safeguarding in 2009.
Repertoire: The melodies that are played on the Tsuur are usually imitations of the sound of water, animal cries and birdsongs as heard by shepherds whilst on the steppes or the mountain slopes of the Altai.
Construction: The Tsuur is usually immersed in water before playing in order to seal any leaks in the wood.
Citations: Chuluunbaatar, Otgonbayar 2013: The Cuur as Endangered Musical Instrument of the Urianxai Ethnic Group in the Mongolian Altai Mountains ;