Last Sunday, Mongolian rock reached homes around the United States (and beyond) when the PBS NewsHour broadcast a short piece based on Live From UB. If you missed the broadcast, you can see the full piece here!
I’m so excited to announce that Mohanik’s second album, At Amarbayasgalant, is available for purchase on iTunes! Please do yourself a favor and buy this wonderful album – you’ll be getting some fantastic original music and will be supporting independent Mongolian musicians.
It’s hard to stay up to date on the Mongolian music scene from the U.S. and so I might be a little late with this most recent bit of news, but I’m still excited to share it. HiFi Records (Mongolia’s premiere record company) now has an online store! Now, it’s all in Mongolian and I believe you need to sign up to be able to purchase music, but still! You can see all that Hi Fi Records has to offer and hear clips from the albums.
It’s a great way to get a taste of what the fantastic music scene in this small country has to offer.
A lot of bands are also on SoundCloud. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Back in February, I attended a concert at one of the major venues in Ulaanbaatar. It was hip hop artist turned R&B singer BX’s first major solo show.
BX is one of the few popular musicians who didn’t grow up in Ulaanbaatar – making that difficult switch from countryside to city. It’s not uncommon for Ulaanbaatar natives to openly state their disapproval of recent countryside migrants to the city. They are blamed for pretty much all of the city’s major problems: pollution, crime, and traffic.
Still, BX has managed to rise to the top of the Mongolian pop charts, while also earning the respect of many other Mongolian musicians. His concert last February called ‘Who is BX’, which was also the title of his latest album, was by far the biggest show he independently produced.
The show lasted for over 2 hours, and he sang and danced for about 500 fans. There were at least 10 guest artists who sang duets or rapped with BX and several dancers. I stopped counting the costume changes – maybe a dozen in total.
As one of my first big concerts in Ulaanbaatar, I was really struck by how openly everyone sang along to the songs. This is something I have since seen at every major concert I’ve attended, and I love it! Americans are always so shy or embarrassed to sing out loud. We would consider it rude for someone to belt out the hit song we came to hear the artist himself sing. But, in Mongolia, there’s a different kind of culture built up around musical participation. Everyone – men, women, children – feel free to sing loudly and confidently. It’s a sign of appreciation.
Behind me at the show were three young boys – about 12 years old. They were dressed in the cool Korean fashion that’s popular among their age group here – with big hipstery glasses. They let me record them singing along to one of BX’s hits – to which they knew all of the words.
Advertisement for the Concert:
Who is BX (Official Video)
It’s a great example of the frequent collaborations various musicians are involved in here. I learned about Gennie over a year ago from talking with the director of Mongolian Bling (which just finished post-production!). He follows her throughout his documentary and recommended I get in touch. Gennie is one of the only female rappers in Mongolia.
I heard of the Royal Beat Crew a little over a month ago now. I’m told they incorporate khoomii (throat singing) into their beats, but not in a terribly substantial way. Still, a fun idea.
I still haven’t been able to figure out exactly who Persius is. An expat who came an went? A wayward traveler? Perhaps I’ll run into him this weekend?
UPDATE: A friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about all Mongolian popular music explained that this song was written to help protect this Mongolian dog breed whose numbers are dwindling. ‘Asar’ and ‘Basar’ are popular names for these dogs.
I was feeling a bit tired this evening, so I spent some time doing research in front of the TV, which is to say, flipping through all 65 of my Monoglian TV channels to see what’s out there. I caught this interesting music video by the hip hop group Ice Top.
This is one of the more self-referential Mongolian hip hop music videos I’ve seen. The dogs are a special Siberian breed known for their light-colored eyebrows (or 3rd and 4th eyes). On top of praising the Mongolian dogs, Mongolian symbols are littered throughout the video: the soyombo (featured on their flag), the yin-yang, the prayer scarves, a statuette of a Chinggis Khan-era warrior, the horse-head fiddle, and on.
I’m still unclear if it’s tongue-in-cheek or in earnest. Regardless, it’s very entertaining.
Based on my rough rough translation skills, I think this song’s title means something like, ‘Leave My Country To Me’*. It’s basically about a near future where the environment has been destroyed to the point of extreme desertification causing the singers to wander the wasteland in search of the land they once knew. But, I’m sure you can get that from the video.
*An earlier version translated the title to: ‘My Hiding Place, My Survival’
Hi. I’m an American journalist, photographer and videographer and will be spending the next nine months documenting the intersection of urbanization and music in the Mongolian capital city, Ulaanbaatar. I’m interested in understanding how Mongolian youth use hip-hop and popular music to deal with a rapidly urbanizing society. Increased mining, population growth, and climate change are all dramatically impacting the traditional nomadic lifestyle nearly 1 million Mongolians still practice. Unable to sustain their herds, many nomads are selling their goats, cows, and yaks and moving their gers (yurts) to the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and other population centers in hopes of steady work. The transition from nomadic to city life is a dramatic one. I hope to capture the ways in which youth are using music to deal with this quickly changing culture.
I’ll be keeping this blog throughout my time as a way to process and share my experiences in the Land of the Blue Sky and invite you to follow along!