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yatga

chordophone

The Mongolian yatga (pronounce yatak) is a citer with a mobile bridge for each string, an instrument typical of the whole of East Asia. The number of strings and the dimensions of the instrument can vary. The yatga  is tuned to a pentatonic scale. This example has twelve strings (G-C-D-E-G-A-C-D-E-G-A-C). The strings are plucked with the right hand. The player can increase their tension by pressing down on them with the left hand. By doing so he can modulate and ornament the tones.

Archaeologists have found long citers in Chinese graves from the first millennium before the current era. In the course of its history the long citer with mobile bridges has developed into instruments such as the Chinese zheng, the Korean kayageum, the Japanese koto and the Vietnamese dan tranh. The yatga is first mentioned in a Mongolian-Chinese dictionary from 1389. In epic literature the instrument appears in aristocratic or religious contexts. The yatga was also played at the Chinese court during the rule of the Manchu emperors (1644-1911).

The yatga remained in use in Mongolia until the beginning of the twentieth century. After the revolution of 1924 it became obsolete, but has been revived since the 1950s. Before the early 1990s, when Mongolians resumed the building of yatgas, they played their own music on kayageums received, as presents, from North Korea. This example was made around 1990-1992 by Purevdavaa Baigaljav, a maker from the capital Ulaanbaatar. As a matter of fact, it is one of the first revival yatgas after a decades-long interruption of the tradition.

Nowadays the instrument is played by both amateurs and professional musicians, and by both men and women. The repertoire consists of solo music, accompaniment of syllabic singing, and pieces for small ensembles.

This yatga belongs to a collection of instruments and documents about Mongolian music that was formed by the French anthropologist Alain Desjacques during his numerous travels in Mongolia, and which he generously donated to the mim in 2015.

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Images: 
yatga
Č. Amartungalag in Zag, Bajanhongor region, 1990. Photo Alain Desjacques
Music group "Work and Culture". Photo Alain Desjacques, 1990