Mongolian band, Hanggai, are at the forefront of China’s folk-rock musical scene – a movement that has been gathering pace since the early 2000s and has been covered in previous posts (see Dawanggang and Zhu Xiaolong). Inflecting their native folk songs with the energy of rock and roll, Hanggai provides a unique take on traditional Mongolian music, maintaining the presence of Mongolian culture as a contemporary force in Beijing.
Internationally, Hanggai’s success is growing, and they now play some of the largest music festivals. They are regular performers at WOMAD, have played Roskilde and even Wacken, the world’s biggest metal festival. I caught them in Sydney Festival’s beguiling Spiegeltent, which they filled with the rousing sounds of throat singing, the morin khuur (a horsehair fiddle), the tobshuur (two-stringed lute), banjos and electric guitars. The crowd was hankering for more, and word is they might be touring Sydney later this year.
Later I spoke with the band’s leader, Ilchi, about China’s contemporary music scene, the commercialisation of ethnicity, and the essence of Mongolian music.