An ancient flute and Genghis Khan`s descendants

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2012, 08:48 AM IST

Beijing: Chinese Tunivians, an ethnic group originating from Mongolia, who consider themselves descendants of Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, have dedicated their lives to preserving an ancient flute that produces a variety of sounds that mimic nature.

The group lives near Kanas lake near the Altay mountains in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur region that now wants to preserve the chuer, an ancient flute that comes from the very mountains they call home, Xinhua reported.

The chuer is a lightweight wind instrument made out of lovage, a perennial plant found in the area. It has only three holes, but produces a variety of sounds.

The flutes are created in accordance with sizes of players` hands, and therefore, no two chuers or chuer players sound or play alike.

A chuer player said the picturesque mountains and rivers have inspired many musicians in the past.

"The way my dad played sounded like the mountains and water here, especially the song `Altay Mountains`. It was so beautiful that you could almost see the outline of the mountains," said Mengkeyi, a budding chuer player who took up the instrument after the death of his father Erdeshi.

"The plants used to make chuer grow only here. Each autumn, we go to the mountains to find suitable lovage stalks. The ones that grow in the mountains are better than those growing at their base. Thin ones are better than thick ones. Roughly one out of every 10 stalks can turn a good chuer," he said.

He said the instrument was incredibly difficult to play.

"Many people cannot make any sound with the chuer. Playing the chuer is truly a difficult job. Our father started learning at nine years old but could not make any sound until he was 13. Many quit after seeing it impossible," Mengkeyi said.

The brothers and fellow players have now dedicated their lives to maintaining the legacy.

Songs written for the chuer are passed on from one generation to another, but each adds a unique flavour to the tune.

Mengkeyi`s father Erdeshi knew how to play 18 songs on the chuer, the most by any player in the region.

A resident, Dielike, has even established a band called Marmot that he hopes would help bring ethnic music out of villages.