Enji: Ulaan review | Ammar Kalia’s global album of the month

(Squama Recordings)
The Ulaanbaatar-born singer shows there is more to her country than throat singing: her dextrous voice sits between jazz improv and ceremonial song

Mongolian music has a long history of producing captivating vocal styles. The best-known is throat singing – a reverberating technique that produces multiple pitches during a single phrase. Raw, earthy and a predominantly male pursuit, throat singing is more of a droning instrumental sound than a means of conveying lyrics. For the Ulaanbaatar-born singer Enkhjargal Erkhembayar, AKA Enji, there is another side to her country’s song – a delicate, dexterous vocal that sits between jazz improvisation and the ceremonial long song (Urtiin duu), a vibrato-laden style of singing where syllables are drawn out to create melismatic lines that can spend minutes expressing single words.

Born into a lineage of long song singers, Erkhembayar’s 2017 debut, Mongolian Song, featured traditional compositions with sprightly jazz arrangements, while 2021’s Ursgal comprised nine original songs. On Ulaan, Erkhembayar produces the most singular vision of her Mongolian jazz music yet, through 10 new compositions of scat singing, atmospheric soundscapes and acoustic instrumentation blended with her yearning voice.

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