Talk about Horse-head Fiddle of the Mongolians
The Horse-head fiddle(马头琴mǎtóuqín) is a bow shaped musical instrument usually used by the Mongolian people(蒙古族Ménggǔzú), one of the ethnic minorities of Chine. The musical instrument is named like this because its head is usually carved like the shape of a horse head. It is also called "Chaoer", "Molinhuer", "huqin (Huqin is a general term for certain two-stringed bowed instruments, such as erhu, jinghu)", "horse tail huqin" and so on. It is popular among the Mongolian people in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Xinjiang and the northeastern part of China. The horse head fiddle of Mongolian has a long history. It is evolved from Xiqin, a kind of string instrument of the Tang and Song Dynasties. During the reign of Genghis Khan, the musical instrument was popularized among the people.
The horse-head fiddle is made by hardwood(wood such as oak, teak, and mahogany, which is very strong and hard) and its sound box can be shaped into inversed trapezium, rectangular, so on and so forth. The larger horse-head fiddle can be as long as 120cm and the smaller one is about 70cm. Horse-head fiddle has two horse tail strings and the two sides of its sound box are covered by horse skin or goat skin, mostly with pictures decorated on the skin. When playing, the player sits on the ground, holds the lower left quarter of the sound box between his two legs, and uses his right hand to hold the horse tail bow to play. The function of the left hand can be used to apply the techniques such as "Dingzhi" except for pressing the strings. There are also a lot of techniques for the right hand to use the bow. Horse-head fiddle is not only used in some formal and grand places but also appears in the daily activities, for example, the folk wedding and ceremonies and gatherings of friends and relatives. It can be used to accompany songs, played independently or tutti with sihu and other musical instruments. The traditional pieces of music of horse-head fiddle are mostly evolved from folk songs and can be divided into original folk songs, tune names of heroic epics, horse-step cadence, Qin melody of folk songs and tune of the ancient Han people. The famous pieces of music include Red Love, Dashing Horse Melody, Heyinhua, Liuqingniang and so on. When accompanying for songs, the music played usually uses trill to mimic song. The music played can also mimic the neighing sound of horse.
Horse-head fiddle is the folk musical instrument of the Mongolian that is of the most distinctive characters of the grassland. From the modeling, making materials to the tone quality, music expression style and playing methods, every part of horse-head fiddle is the reflection of the personality connotation of the Mongolian minority. It fully reflects the historical form and folk tradition of the nomadic life of the Mongolians. It accompanies the Mongolians to come all the way from the remote history and grassland.