Singer - Enkhjargal Erkhembayar (Enji)

Mongolia is where past and present meet, as do tradition and modernity. The result is a culture that is not only special, it’s unique. Through her singing, the young musician Enkhjargal Erkhembayar allows her audiences to experience this convergence in a way that is nothing short of sublime. She has mastered the traditional female part in throat singing – the “long song” – as well as the jazz idiom. Thanks to her tender, almost girl-like voice, which is also immediate and commanding, she sings works from more recent genres such as jazz and blues, and every note recalls the expansive, melancholic melodies of her nomadic ancestors. She thus transcends standard preconceptions and world-music clichés, using her inimitable style to create sounds that are new and enchanting.

Enkhjargal as born in Ulaanbaatar in 1991. She completed her training as a music educator before dedicating herself fully to her career as a musician, becoming the first student enrolled at the Goethe Music Lab Ulan Bator (GMUB). In 2015, she recorded her first CD in Munich, together with the internationally peripatetic bass player Martin Zenker, who took the opportunity to create new arrangements of existing Mongolian works. (The CD will be released shortly.) That same year she was invited by the Goethe-Institut Munich to travel to Europe, where she was accompanied during her concerts by jazz greats such as Zenker, drumming legend Billy Hart, saxophone player Johannes Enders and pianist Paul Kirby. In 2016, with financial support from the Goethe-Institut and the German Foreign Office, Zenker and Gerlee Tsegmid-Rösch organised concerts in Frankfurt am Main, during which the young singer performed with Zenker himself, and with Tony Lakatos and Peter Raidler.

Ten questions for Enkhjargal Erkhembayar

How would you define “art” in just one sentence?
If the world were a painting, then art would be the colour.

Art or love?
Love! It would be wonderful if everything were done with love. People who can love are the best at sensing art and creating it.

What would life be like for you if there were no art?
I can’t say. I only know that it’s wonderful that art exists at all.

Which art project would you attempt if money were no object?
Starting a music school. Helping the poor. Supporting artists.

What is the nicest place in your native country, Mongolia?
Everything is nice in Mongolia. I wish I could travel across the entire country so I could get to know all of it.

What is your favourite place in your adopted country?
My home.

What does “Mongolia” mean to you?
It’s my language, my homeland. It’s a part of me – an inseparable connection.

How much of Mongolia can be found in your art?
I love jazz music and I interpret it in a way that is “Mongolian”. That’s what makes the songs I sing special.

If you could wish three things for Mongolia, what would they be?
I would wish that all young people there had a goal, that all children were happy and that the country would develop in the best possible way.

Who is your biggest role model?
I’m the person I am today because of the help I received from my family and friends. I have too many role models to count!