Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Jim Eagles: A sound memory

Throat singing brings back memories of Mongolia. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Alegria De La Huerta
Throat singing brings back memories of Mongolia. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Alegria De La Huerta

I rather like buying souvenirs of my trips overseas because even years later looking at the bronze buffalo from the United States, the wooden Buddha from Laos, the bronze King of the Nats from Burma, the carved crocodile tooth from Papua New Guinea or the eagle and beaver totem pole from Canada can bring back a lot of marvellous memories.

But if you travel quite a lot, as I do, after a time it's difficult to find something different. Years ago I started collecting drinking mugs but I've now got so many I can't display them. I changed to religious artefacts but that's a problem in countries which are Muslim or largely secular and there are only so many crucifixes and Buddhas one person needs.

These days I look for musical mementoes such as CDs of local music.

One of the most intriguing features the extraordinary Mongolian throat singing plus the music of the three-string horsehead fiddle. Ashid, who made the CD, gave us a concert in a felt tent on the outskirts of the capital Ulaan Bataar. I listened with astonishment as he produced three noises simultaneously - from mouth, throat and stomach - to sing about horses galloping across the sweeping grasslands of Mongolia.

The CD brings all that back.

The links between Mongolia and nearby Kyrgyzstan are clear from a CD by the Kyrgyzstan Folklore Company which also features music about horses and wide open spaces with instruments like the three-stringed lute, mouth-harp, flute, clay ocarina and a small skin drum. They gave us a concert under the tall trees and snowy peaks of Ala-Archa National Park, but it was a cold wet day so we huddled inside and warmed up with shots of vodka while they performed.

Then there's the lively South American music performed by the Ecuadorian group, Cotopaxi, who I heard in action - while supping some delicious traditional potato soup - at the marvellous old Hacienda San Agustin de Callo.

Hawaii is, of course, associated particularly with ukelele music - you can often run into fine players performing in the streets of Honolulu - so there we bought two marvellous CDs by Daniel Ho and Gordon Mack.

If I want to call to mind the castles and cathedrals of England - and attending a Proms concerts in London's Albert Hall - I can't go past Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches performed, of course, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

From Austria? What else but a CD of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra playing a selection of Strauss waltzes including the evocative Blue Danube.

There is, however, one gap in my collection. I'm looking for a CD featuring baroque trumpet and organ to revive the incredible experience we had at a performance in the ornate St Nicholas Church in the Old Town Square in Prague.

We have searched ever since to find something that evoked that occasion. One day...

* Jim Eagles is a former editor of Herald Travel.

- NZ Herald

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