Playlist | Mongolia

The sound of the Gobi Desert

Songs about camels, sandstorms and minerals: The Gobi Desert is a rich source of inspiration for the Mongolian music scene. A playlist

Please Do Visit Our Gobi

This song is sometimes treated as the unofficial anthem of the Gobi. People seem to naturally identify with the welcoming message of this positive, dignified tune which praises the Gobi landscapes and its people: “Opening the white palace’s ornate, colourful doors; It’s friendly host invites you; To take a rest in their zenith sun-lit yurt,” it says. It showcases characteristic features of traditional Mongolian music, such as the morin khuur horse-headed fiddle, khöömii throat and overtone singing and urtiin duu or long song singing.

Tserendorj, Ashit, Soyol-Erdene, Oyun-Erdene, „Manai govior zochlon ochooroi“, 2018


My Mother the Camel Herder

Written by two state-renown artists from Gobi’s Bayankhongor aimag, P. Pürevsüren and Ch.Sangidorj, and performed by one of Mongolia’s greatest stage divas Sarantuya, “Minii eej temeechin” speaks to two of the strongest feelings animating the Mongolian heart – love for the sweeping landscapes of the homeland and love for your mother. “My simple-hearted mother resides in her summer encampment in the salt plains of the Gobi”, one line reads. The lyrics were written by Pürevsüren on the request of Sangidorj as a tribute to his mother. Like most of the songs in this playlist, it has become well known through countless interpretations. Sarantuya’s is one of the most classical. The song is often taught to children in early education or sung as a lullaby.

Sarantuya: „Minii eej temeechin“, 2002


Ugalz – The Gobi Sandstorm

N. Jantsannorov is one of Mongolia’s most famous composers, known especially for his stage and screen scores. These include for “Queen Mandukhai” (1988), “Warm Ashes” (1990), “The Guardian spirit of the Saint” (1998) and countless others. Jantsannorov manages to elevate Mongolian music to a grand scale without compromising its intimate atmosphere. This song underscores how Mongolians use music to mimic the behavior of nature and horses in particular. This composition confronts listeners with one of the Gobi’s greatest dreads, the Ugalz sandstorm. Ugalz is an atmospheric phenomenon following the meeting of two of the greatest beings, Father Sky and Mother Earth, and capable of engulfing the world in darkness.

Natsag Jantsannorov, Morin Khuur Ensemble: „Ugalz“, 2015


Praise song of the Gobi

Often wrongly titled the “Song of Praise for the Gobi”, this song actually praises Mandalgovi – the capital of the Dundgovi province. “My dear home town resembles a flowering mandala,” sings Dagiiranz, a musician and actor from the Dundgovi province. The song has its roots in the socialist-period fusion of musical and lyrical traditions with state propaganda, praising the qualities of a small urban center in the plains of the northern Gobi. The lyrics describe local landscapes, industrial development and the resilience of the local population. It also conveys ideas like socialist progress and collective work, urban infrastructure. These topics are praised and compared to terrestrial bodies or earthly phenomena, historical events, folk and Buddhist ontological concepts.

Nyamiin Dagiiranz: „Goviin magtaal“, 1966



Please Leave My Homeland to Me

The rapper Gee and the ethno-rock band Jonon sing about pride in their home culture. Their music has slightly nationalistic overtones and corresponding ideas about "purity". It can also be seen as spearheading the 2010s nationalistic shift in Mongolian hip-hop. Songs crammed full of anger were written in response to the turbulent socio-political situation at the time. The lyrics often deal with the exploitation of natural resources in the Gobi Desert. “Your blood, your consciousness, your land

And the seed that grows from it – these are true wealth,” it says.

Gee feat. Jonon: „Minii nutgiig nadad üldee“, 2011


From on Top of a Camel

Coming from the small but vibrant Ulaanbaatar jazz scene, singer Enji is a prime example of how expressions of traditional, landscape-related sentiments are reshaped through the sensitivities of millennial and GenZ musicians.  “Temeen deerees” follows Enji as she traverses the Gobi on her trustworthy camel. The song expresses a deep appreciation of the Gobi landscapes and its animals: “My dear humped camel, oh, covering a moon’s distance trotting”.

Enji: „Temeen deerees“, 2023


The Camel Caravan

Soyol-Erdene (Cultural Jewel) is often considered Mongolia’s first rock band. Established in the 1970s in socialist Mongolia and funded by the state, Soyol-Erdene is often viewed as a local answer to the dangerous phenomenon of the Beatles. The band produced multiple reinterpretations of folk songs and used works of Mongolian poets as lyrics and managed to press a few records in Russia.

Soyol-Erdene: „Temeen jingiin tsuvaa“, 1987



Comprising of musicians of Mongolian and Iranian origin, Sedaa manages to unite some of the more ear-catching export features of both Mongolian and Persian music. “Bolzoo” is based on a folk song of the Mongolian Zakhchin people of the Altai mountains, its narrative delivered through a dialogue between two partners willing and yet unable to be together. “Just like the young camels who gather playfully around their young bull, it’s inevitable that our young, spoiled selves end up together,” is sung in duet at the end.

Sedaa: „Bolzoo“ (Rendez-vous), 2012


White Orphan Camel Calf

Camel calves are prone to being rejected by their mothers after a difficult labour. Overwhelming feelings of hunger and rejection-induced sadness cause the calves to cry loudly, while some mothers don’t make it through labour. The narratives of weeping, (literally or symbolically) orphaned camel calves have become a synonym of the fracturing of the bond between the mother and her child. In order to mitigate these difficult situations Mongolian herders perform musical rituals aiming to convince camel mothers to accept orphaned calves. The 2003 “Story of the Weeping Camel” docudrama by Mongolian director Byambasuren is based on such a story. 

Namjilyn Norovbanzad: „Önchin tsagaan botgo“, 1980


The Camel Caravan

The recording is composed of two traditional melodies: “Shiliin Davaa” (“The Mountain Pass”) and “Goviin Öndör” (“The heights of the Gobi”). The ambient performance is designed to evoke the atmosphere of caravans crossing the silent rocky plains and mountain passes of the Gobi, with melodies hummed to soothe the hardships of their journey.

Dörvön Berkh: „Temeen jingiin tsuvaa“, 2010


This playlist was compiled by Pau Szczap, a Mongolist and urban scholar