It is similar to the sybyzgy (Kazakh) and kurai (Bashkir). In western Mongolia it is mainly used by the Altai Uriankhai people, although other ethnic groups like the Kazakhs and the Tuvans are known to play them or have played them.
There are only three to five holes to finger. The blowing technique utilises the teeth, tongue and lips in the same way as Ney in Classical Persian music. The Tsuur is usually immersed in water before playing in order to seal any leaks in the wood.
The melodies that are played on the Tsuur are usually imitations of the sound of water, animal cries and birdsongs as heard by shepherds whilst on the steppes or the mountain slopes of the Altai. One of the melodies, “The flow of the River Eev” as was said before is the river where the sound of khöömii was mythically supposed to have originated. The Uriangkhai called the Tsuur the “Father of Music”. A three-holed pipe was in use in Mongolia in the 18th century and was believed to possess the magical properties of bringing Lamb’s bones back to life. In the Jangar epic of the 14th century the Tsuur is said to have had a voice like a swan. This reference may also be indirectly a very early reference to khöömii as the singing style sung with the Tsuur is Khailakh.
Traditional Mongolian Tsuur music was added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009.
- Chuluunbaatar, Otgonbayar (2013): The Cuur as Endangered Musical Instrument of the Urianxai Ethnic Group in the Mongolian Altai Mountains. In: Gisa Jähnichen (ed.), Studia Instrumentorum Musicae Popularis (New Series) III, Münster: MV-Wissenschaft Verlag, 97-110.
- Mongolian Music, Dance, & Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities