Mongolia Monday- Music, Part 3: Something Old, Something New

For the final part of this three-part series, here are three videos that, to me, show one of the most interesting and fun parts of contemporary Mongol music, the synthesis of traditional and modern forms.

Altan Urag is probably the best known group outside of Mongolia, due to their attendance at many internatinal music festivals. They play what we would call “Neo-folk” music, traditional songs uniquely interpreted. This one, “Khiliin Chadad” combines traditional Mongol instruments like the morin khuur (horse head fiddle), Jew’s harp (used by Mongol shaman), plus khoomii (throat-singing) with a Middle Eastern-sounding drum rhythmn and Spanish-style guitar. It’s quite a combination.

Hurd, whose lead singer is Chono (“wolf” in Mongolian), is one of the most famous rock bands in Mongolia. The song, Eh Oron ( which I think should have been spelled Ikh Oron), is a rock anthem, with morin khuur. The video’s visuals are a photographic journey through both the land and traditional culture of the country. Picture Led Zepplin extolling the virtues of the English countryside and the various activities at county fairs with a violin section added in the middle. But somehow, in Mongolia, it all makes perfect sense.

Javhlan, one of Mongolia’s most loved singers, has a world-class voice and then some. He only records traditional songs. But he sets them to a variety of western rhythms…samba, waltz, pop and others. He often wears traditional Mongol men’s clothing in his videos, as in this one, and usually includes lovely shots of the land. I’ve been told that these days he lives out in the countryside in a ger and I’ll bet it’s a really nice one. I have six or seven of his CDs loaded into iTunes and listen to him often while I’m painting.

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