This is the first in an on-going series about one of the many delightful and unexpected discoveries that I’ve made since I’ve started going to Mongolia-
I was channel-surfing one evening when I was staying at the Narantuul Hotel in Ulaanbaatar during my 2006 trip and came across a music video channel. That’s where my introduction to the music scene in Mongolia began. Most of what is available for sale through outlets like Amazon are traditional “folk” music CDs, particularly performances of khoomi (throat-singing) and long song (in which female singers greatly elongate the notes). One could be left with the impression that Mongolian music consists only of these “indigenous” forms. One couldn’t be more wrong.
Great cultural synthesizers that they are, the Mongols seem to have picked up a number of western popular music idioms within five years of the changeover from socialism to parliamentary democracy and capitalism. In rapid succession that evening and on subsequent trips, I watched boy bands, rap groups, rock groups, neo-folk groups and a variety of male and female soloists. I found myself trying to scribble down names in Mongolian cyrillic. The first group that really grabbed me, and it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows the music scene there, was Nomin Talst. This last trip I “discovered” The Lemons, A Sound, A Capella and Pilots. Poking around on YouTube, which has hundreds of Mongol music videos, unearthed superb soloists like Ganaa (who was, and I guess still is, with one of the first successful boy bands, Camerton) and a woman who has an extraordinary voice, Maraljingoo. Here they are in a duet. I’ve never been able to figure out the plot in this one. (Any Mongols reading this want to help me out?)
Here’s a solo video by Maraljingoo:
And one from Ganaa:
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a way to buy any of this music via downloads. I purchased a few CDs when I was in UB in July and a Mongol friend brought back a stack last month from a list that I gave her. Otherwise, I have a 100 song playlist on YouTube and listen to a Mongol Facebook friend’s internet radio station here. His 32,000 song selection really runs the gamut from old-style vocalists to hard rock and everything in between.
I really enjoy listening to Mongol pop music while I work on paintings and drawings with Mongol subject matter!