Degi, I heard you were born in Mongolia and live in Singapore. Mongolia has two regions, one independent and the other ruled by China. Which part were you born in?
I was born in independent Mongolia (the former Mongolian People’s Republic); the other place is Inner Mongolia, now a province of China. I visit Singapore to record, but I don’t live there.
Why did you take up the violin?
It is a long story. When I was in kindergarten, teachers from the Music Conservatory were scouting for potential musical talent. They tested for musical skills, including our physique, especially checking if our hands and fingers would be good for playing a musical instrument.
They picked me as a potential musician, and my mother and family thought it would be very prestigious for me to go to the Music College, so they encouraged me to take up the violin.
The rest is history. As with many others, learning and practicing, endlessly; and then Wow! You can do this! Yes! I can play! And I enjoy playing!
Do you have violinists you especially like or look up to?
I am classically trained. My teachers all studied in Russia, which has produced many of the best classical musicians in the world. I personally adore Paganini, who was one of the most brilliant violin players in history. My dream is to feel the same as Paganini felt about music; how he possessed the violin and was possessed by it.
How do you think you compare with fusion violinists like Vanessa Mae, who is so popular worldwide?
Yes, fusion violinists like Vanessa Mae are popular. I like her music and I think that she’s very talented. As for me, I play the violin, which I still think of as a great classical instrument, so I play classical music. But I have emotions, as we all do, and I get inspiration from many sources. I use the violin to express those emotions the best I can.
I admire Vanessa Mae for introducing the violin as not just a classical instrument, but also one that can also play contemporary popular music.
Growing up in Mongolia, it was natural for me to appreciate classical music, still evergreen in the hearts of all Mongolians. Appreciating this was natural for me, so as I grew musically, I wanted to play the melodies in a contemporary style.
I wanted to reach out to all, not just to Mongolians but also to international audiences.
I enjoy playing these tunes tremendously. They come from my heart, as I remember them from my childhood. I am very happy that so many different audiences like them as much as I do.
They said that your debut album was folk music rewritten for the violin. Tell us more about it.
As I have said, I have given folk melodies a modern treatment; but the melodies are still the same.
The backing and arrangement are modern, and to top it all I play them on my Yamaha electric violin, which has a really different sound to the classical violin.
The CD has seven tracks. The first four (High in the Mountains, Melody of the Heart, Migrating Birds, Theme from Uran Khas/Waltz) are Mongolian classical compositions, truly Mongolian in character. The others are contemporary, especially written for me.
This year I released my second CD. These enchanting songs are an instrumental fusion of traditional Mongolian melodies with a modern, techno-based edge. This is my own distinctive, intimate style, and all the tunes are played straight from my heart. It gives me great pleasure to share part of my Mongolian culture with everyone.
For all these years, after playing my violin, I am very happy to be known as Mongolia's best-known violin player/fiddler, and for international community. I was classically trained in Ulaanbaatar for 12 years and spent a further 3 years...
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