Mon­go­lian sound finds new fans around the globe

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN

Cana­dian rock pro­ducer Bob Ezrin is known for work­ing on iconic al­bums from Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Deep Pur­ple. About five years ago, he came to Bei­jing to work with Chi­nese folk singer-song­writer Sa Dingding.

Sa, the win­ner of the BBC Ra­dio 3 Award for World Mu­sic for the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion in 2007, had a party for Ezrin and she in­vited some lo­cal mu­si­cians. Ilchi, the vo­cal­ist and to­b­shuur (two-stringed lute) player of Hang­gai, a band of ethnic Mon­go­lian mu­si­cians, was there.

“Hi, I am Ilchi from Hang­gai,” he said to Ezrin.

“I know you and your band,” replied the pro­ducer, who had heard Hang­gai years ear­lier with Gram­myaward win­ning mu­si­cian Peter Gabriel.

“Re­ally? Would you work with us?” asked Ilchi.

“Ab­so­lutely yes,” Ezrin said.

Two and a half years later, they started col­lab­o­rat­ing on Hang­gai’s al­bum Horse of Colors, which was re­leased in May.

“I love tra­di­tional folk mu­sic. I see a di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween Mon­go­lian cul­ture and Amer­i­can-In­dian cul­ture. They were telling sto­ries to their peo­ple and they were telling the sto­ries about grass­lands, moun­tains, an­i­mals and rivers,” the 67-year-old pro­ducer says in Bei­jing, where he is work­ing with the band on an al­bum that will be re­leased next year.

Speak­ing of Horse of Colors, Ilchi, 36, says: “The horse is an im­por­tant part of Mon­go­lian cul­ture. It seems like just a horse but it’s more than a horse — it’s a horse with sto­ries.”

The al­bum fea­tures tra­di­tional throat-singing (a sin­gle vo­cal­ist pro­duces two dis­tinct pitches si­mul­ta­ne­ously), folk in­stru­ments and Mon­go­lian lyrics.

It in­cludes the band’s orig­i­nal songs, such as Sam­sara, and ren­di­tions of tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian folk songs.

The band has just con­cluded a 12-city tour. In Novem­ber, they will go to Nashville, Ten­nessee, to record a new al­bum, which again will be pro­duced by Ezrin.

“All the mem­bers are ex­cited to record the new al­bum in Nashville, which is the home of coun­try mu­sic,” says Ilchi.

“The band is rooted in Mon­go­lian mu­sic but we are open to dif­fer­ent mu­sic.”

The band, whose name in Mon­go­lian refers to a scenic place with beau­ti­ful pas­tures, moun­tains and rivers, was formed by ethnic Mon­go­lian mu­si­cians in Bei­jing in 2004.

Nowit has eight mem­bers, in­clud­ing Ilchi, throat-singing vo­cal­ist and morin khuur (horse-head fid­dle) player Batubagen, and vo­cal­ist and gui­tarist Yi­lalata.

In­tro­duc­ing Hang­gai, the band’s de­but al­bum, was re­leased in 2008. Dom­i­nated by tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian in­stru­ments such as the to­b­shuur and morin khuur, the band has added more mod­ern and rock style el­e­ments, like gui­tar, bass and drums.

Erzin first ex­pe­ri­enced tra­di­tional throat-singing around 25 years ago, when Ti­betan throat singers and Tu­van singers per­formed in Los An­ge­les.

“I wish I could do it. It sounds like an­cient his­tory. It sounds like the be­gin­ning of the world,” he says.

With his ca­reer in mu­sic span­ning four decades, Erzin says every song is like a book in four or five min­utes, and he wants to take peo­ple on a jour­ney, to touch them emo­tion­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally.

“I like work­ing with cre­ative peo­ple, mu­si­cians and peo­ple of prin­ci­ple. They be­lieve in some­thing. They are smart and in­ter­est­ing. They in­spire me. With Hang­gai, the bonus is I am learn­ing an­other cul­ture, which I love to do,” he adds.

PHO­TOS BY NAN ZI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Hang­gai band mem­bers in­clude throat-singing vo­cal­ist and horse-head fid­dle player Batubagen (left) and gui­tarist Yi­lalata.

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