This evening marks the third time we've set off with Neisha and Rob to find the theater where Tumen Ekh performs. Jake, one of the Mongol Ralliers that gave our cycling friends a lift in the steppe, has all but demanded that we see the show. He insists that it is the best thing he has ever seen, and that it will bring tears to our eyes.
We've been trying to take his advice for the past few days. Frustratingly, the four of us have been busy running around preparing to leave Ulaan Baatar, so we always wind up starting the hunt for the elusive theater too late. Determined to see the show before we leave, Rob did some reconnaissance this afternoon.
This evening, with Rob leading the way, we make it on time, pay for our tickets, and get settled into the cozy, intimate theater. Huge drums and gongs flank the stage, as does an enormously long trumpet of some sort. The lights dim, and in hobbles someone wearing a puppet-costume of an old man. He seems to introduce the spectacle, and then we're treated to a whirling shaman dance.
The show unfolds in many acts: some musical, some dance, some theatrical, but all traditional Mongolian pieces performed by incredibly talented artists. Everyone is decked out in sumptuous, colorful attire as they take turns on center stage, expertly sharing with us throat singing, tea-bowl dancing, traditional instruments – even the mind-and-body bending art of contortionism.
We like to think that journaling every day is helping us to becoming better writers, but the Tumen Ekh Ensamble is honestly beyond words. Rather than get in their way, we've made a slideshow of our photos to share them. Clicking on a thumbnail will move the player to the corresponding image, and clicking on any of the larger photos will load the big version, as normal.
There are a lot of images, so it may take a minute or two to load.
When the lights come up, and everyone takes center stage for a group bow, we are in a slight state of shock, utterly floored by the show we've just witnessed. Never in our lives have we seen a performance of such skill, with such genuine radiance and joy emanating from the performers. Some of the songs were so enchanting, so powerful, so transcendent, that they moved us to tears.
Jake was right, and then some. Thank you Jake!
We must extend a huge thank you to Youtube user AGlobalView for posting this series of videos. We were crushed when our field recording of the show came out irrecoverably corrupted. Below are twelve films of the performance, all of which are worth viewing in their entirety. Clicking the arrows on either side of the player will cycle through them.