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Posts Tagged ‘mongolia’

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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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First there was the photo, which was tweeted with a link to tumblr. But tumblr offered no story and no credit. I did some searching and found the story at The Trumpet. It reminds me of this post on Sam and Leslie’s Uni, a pop-up library that has traveled from New York to Kazakhstan and many places in between.

At The Trumpet, Jeremiah Jacques reports on a Mongolian Andrew Carnegie (without the fortune). “What do you do if you are a young book lover? You go to the library. But what if you live in the rural regions of the Gobi desert? Your situation would be bleak — were it not for Dashdondog Jamba. He has devoted his life to writing, translating, publishing and transporting books to children all over Mongolia with his Children’s Mobile Library.

“ ‘I can’t remember how many trips I have made—I have lost count,’ Mr. Jamba said. ‘Sometimes we travel by camel, sometimes on horseback, and with horse carts or ox carts; we now also have our van.’

“Over the last 20 years, his library has traveled 50,000 miles through every province of Mongolia — mostly before the van was part of the operation. Jamba’s assistants are his wife and his son. They often spend several days in one place to give as many children as possible a chance to read their books.

“ ‘[It] is a little different from other libraries,’ Jamba says. ‘The walls of this reading room are made of mountains covered with forest, the roof is blue sky, the floor is a flower-covered steppe, and the reading light bulb is the sun.’

“Jamba created his library in the early 1990s, shortly after Mongolia abandoned communism and adopted free-market economics. Life in Mongolia changed dramatically, mostly for the good. But organizations focused on children’s literature fared badly. They were viewed as profitless, so no private investors wanted to take them over. Most children’s libraries were converted into banks.

“Jamba tried to keep the libraries alive. … Ever since, he’s been writing children’s books, translating foreign youth literature into Mongolian, and bringing books to children who would otherwise never read them. Several of his original books have earned the Best Book of Mongolia award. Some of his stories have been put to song. Some have been made into movies. In 2006, his mobile library won the prestigious ibby-Asahi Reading Promotion Award.” More here.

Photo: Dashdondog Jamba
Dashdondog Jamba has traveled more than 50,000 miles through every province of Mongolia with his Children’s Mobile Library.

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We caught a bit about this movie on Link TV yesterday. I zeroed in on the contrasts. The documentary Mongolian Bling is about both the traditional life and the hip-hop life in Mongolia.

The film’s website says, “Forget about nomads and monks! It’s hip hop that’s making Mongolia move in the 21st century. Mongolian Bling jumps into the thriving music scene in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and follows stars as they rap nationwide … But beyond this bling lies a failed democracy, and a dying ancient culture that the elders mourn the loss of. While many artists still aspire to the West, a handful are using hip hop to try and salvage their country’s flailing democracy, and bringing Mongolia’s rich musical history into their modern beats and rhymes.”

Poke around in the site, here, to learn more about the participants.

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