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Photos: The Hu/YouTube
The Mongolian heavy metal band the Hu, which combines traditional instruments with Western sounds, has attracted a following on YouTube. “If lions come, we’ll fight until the end … If elephants come, we’ll fight in a rage … If you come as snakes, we’ll become Garuda birds and fly over you.”

I don’t know the first thing about heavy metal, although I have always supposed it was a rebellion thing, like punk. But as I’m always interested in cultures that are foreign to my own, I was intrigued by a National Public Radio [NPR] story about how a band in Mongolia has adapted heavy metal iconography and sounds for its own purposes.

Katya Cengel wrote, “A band from Mongolia that blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing has picked up 7 million views for its two videos.

“Leather jackets, skull rings and bandannas alongside intricately carved Mongolian horsehead fiddles are just some of the images in the first two music videos the Mongolian band The Hu released on YouTube this fall. Excited listeners from around the globe have posted comments like: ‘This makes me want to ride a horse and shoot people with a bow’ and ‘This sounds like ancient mongol rock of 1000 b.c.’ …

“As the Soviet Union crumbled and Western influence flooded in during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mongolian musicians chose to preserve Mongolian culture while also adapting new influences, explains University of Chicago ethnomusicology doctoral student Thalea Stokes. …

” ‘Mongolians are not just taking elements from Western music and just copying and pasting,’ says Stokes. Instead, they’re using some of these elements and making their own authentic music. ‘So it’s not rock music performed by Mongolians. It’s Mongolian rock music,’ she says.

 

“Mongolian rock combines traditional Mongolian instruments … It also involves singing in a guttural way known as throat singing while throwing heads back and forth reminiscent of the headbanging of ’80s heavy metal bands.  …

“The Hu call their style ‘hunnu rock’ — from the Mongolian root word for human being: ‘hu.’ The band spent seven years putting together its first album, which it expects to release this spring. They plan to call it Gereg, the name for a diplomatic passport used during the time of Genghis Khan. [The] idea was to find, study and incorporate as much of Mongolia’s musical culture as they could into a rock style, says the band’s 52-year-old producer and songwriter, B. Dashdondog, who goes by ‘Dashka.’ …

” ‘We wanted to come up with our own thing that we can offer to this big music family. Make something new,’ says Dashka, who spoke through a translator via Skype.

“It is not just their instruments that incorporate traditional elements. In the band’s first song, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ (What’s going on?), they mention Genghis Khan and how he was fated to bring nations together. The video begins with images of people inside playing video games, watching television and looking at their phones. A door is opened and the band’s four members step into different natural settings: cliffs, desert, forest and lake. The message they hope to convey through their lyrics and imagery is that people need to pay attention to nature and their history and culture, explains lead singer TS. Galbadrakh, known as ‘Gala,’ 29.”

More at NPR, here.

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