Twenty Years of The Ringing of the Bell

Last June, as Mongolians were preparing to head to the polls, I came across a music video on a friend’s Facebook page that caught my eye. It is was called ‘Khonkny Duu – Virtual Version’. ‘Khonkni Duu’, which means ‘The Ringing of the Bell’, is an iconic song in Mongolia. It was written in 1989 as a call for democracy, and quickly became the anthem of the movement.

Since then, dozens of artists have performed it in different styles and adaptations. The most recent rendition is the virtual version – a 21st Century appeal to the youth of Mongolia.

‘Khonkny Duu’ Lyrics

I had a nightmare last night
As if a long arm tortured me,
Strangling my words and blinding me.
Luckily, the bell rang and woke me;
The ring of the bell rouses us.
The bell that woke me in the morning,
Let it toll across the broad steppes,
Reverberating mile after mile.
Let the bell carry our yearning
And revive all our hopes.
 

 

 

More on ‘Khonkny Duu’

A Mongolian Rock Group Fosters Democracy – New York Times 1990

 

 

Note: I mistakenly included one music video that was not “Khonkny Duu” in the original post.

Election Day (News Round-Up)

Mongolians are heading to the polls today to participate in the 6th Parliamentary election since the country embraced democracy in 1990. Election day is a national holiday here, which means that businesses are closed in an effort to encourage voter participation. In Ulaanbaatar, voting is easy. There are several stations where citizens can cast their ballots. It’s a bit trickier in the countryside, however, where herders live dozens of miles away from the nearest polling place.

The two major parties, the Mongolian People’s Party and the Democratic Party, are both campaigning on how they will spend Mongolia’s rising income from mining projects on the people and developing Mongolia. New roads, a subway, pensions – these are among the lofty promises, which, it seems not many average citizens take very seriously.

A campaign flyer for a Democratic Party candidate shows the Ulaanbaatar of today and the Ulaanbaatar he promises for tomorrow.

Two young Mongolians wrestle outside a ger erected by the Democratic Party in a small town in the Gobi desert (Photo by Taylor Weidman)

Read more on today’s election and how the new economy is playing a part:

How does a poor country spend billions? Mongolian elections to decide how to spend mining boom (Washington Post)

Mongolia’s new wealth and rising corruption is tearing the nation apart (The Guardian)

Mongolia Votes, as Resources Bring Wealth and Challenges (Moscow Times)

Resource nationalism to irk investors as Mongolia goes to polls (Reuters)

Mongolian elections decide how to spend a windfall (Fox News)

Read more on campaign ads:

An Introduction to Mongolia’s Political Ads

When Music Videos and Campaign Commercials Combine

Campaign Monologues

The Lighter Side

Mongolia’s Political Ads, Part 4

The Lighter Side

This is a pretty self-explanatory ad produced by the Mongolian Peole’s Party. Set to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (just like the Newt Gingrich team used this year), a boxer representing the People’s Party is training for his match. His opponent is a lazy and slothful representation of everyone else. Guess who wins.

Here’s another music video aimed at the younger generation. Several young musicians teamed up to record this song about uniting the country they love to reach it’s bright future. The song is called ‘We Believe’. A rough translation of the lyrics is below.

I believe, I believe our country has a future
I am loving and I am young and I believe in my future
Your life may be comfortable, but you shouldn’t be complacent
Our future is improving, let’s create a good future together
CHORUS:
We believe we are one
Mongolians are equal to people in other countries
We have a goal and we are close
We have to be strong and we have to be united

READ MORE

An Introduction to Mongolia’s Political Ads

When Music Videos and Campaign Commercials Combine

Campaign Monologues


Mongolia’s Political Ads, Part 3

Campaign Monologues

The first ad to catch my eye was a video of a dramatic reading. A man stood alone on a stage with a microphone in front and a large movie screen behind him. He recited a monologue as quintessential Mongolian images flashed on the screen behind him. Not understanding what he was saying at the time, I let my attention shift to the images. Some of the shots were from archival footage, but many were from international productions like ‘Babies’, ‘The Story of the Weeping Camel’, and ‘Mongol’, which I thought was interesting, and not terribly surprising.

After seeing this initial commercial, I soon saw a second that mimicked the style of the first, but was for the competing party. According to a staffer for the Democratic Party, theirs was first. However, I have not contacted the Mongolian People’s Party to confirm this.

Here are the two ads along with rough translations:

Jujigchin Amaraa Olyylaa Yalna Shuu – Together We Will Win (Democratic Party)

I am the eighth child in my family
I have 5 sisters and 2 brothers, we are many
From childhood we would share everything
If we shared what we ate it would taste better
I can still remember the taste
I believe in my ability
First there were the words, ‘I have a dream’
These words represented many people’s dream
Because of Martin Luther King, the African Americans were free
One example is Barack Obama
I believe in the Mongolian mind – what we are all thinking
There were many good people that changed our future during the revolution
My words are important
We don’t want to repeat what happened on July 1st and so we chose Pres. Elbegdorj
We don’t want to see more fighting
Everyone wants to protect themselves so we must create the law together
Pay attention to what I’m saying
Many Mongolians live in other countries
But although they are gone, we are still here
Mongolia is still here
Mongolians who are abroad feel lonely – it’s hard for them
They want to come back and live happily
We are many but we feel like we are few
It’s now time to say, ‘Enough’
Remember what you did in the revolution
We will win together
My words are important, pay attention to them
The Democratic Party will win – You make the right choice
We must have a lot of support

Minii Khen Baikh Khamaagui Bid Bugd Neg Mongol – Who I Am Is Not Important, We Are All Mongolian (Mongolian People’s Party)

My name is Amara and my name is not important
But for me, the most important thing is the Mongolian destiny
I don’t want to say bad things about my friends from university after four years together
But my blood is Mongolian Blood and it’s very loyal
Every Mongolian’s blood is like this
I am a part of them
Mongolians have a treasure – we have power and we must be united
I don’t like using words like ‘election’ and ‘voter’ because during election time politicians will always lie
Democracy and freedom – these words are allowed
In a free country we can talk about democracy and freedom
Before you say, ‘I love Mongolia’, you have to be responsible for Mongolia
Passing judgement is easy, but taking action is difficult
I haven’t forgotten the first time I saw a cell phone in a movie
I haven’t forgotten when I was a child and we would try to make our own candy
I haven’t forgotten our parent’s generation, when everything was scarce
How long will we be fighting each other?
How long will the political parties fight?
Countryside people are fighting with each other
Towns are fighting each other
Friends are fighting each other
How long will we be divided?
We do not have as many people as Russia
We do not have as many people as China
We are just 2.8 million
We live our own lives, but our future, our air, our roads, our sidewalks are all shared
We are one Mongolia
Under the blue sky we used to play as children
Our history has been very hard, but our history has made us strong
We have learned from our history
I believe our bright future is very close
I am the new generation of Chingis Khan’s Mongolia
I have never bowed my head, I have never kneeled
I am Mongolian
We are Mongolians
Mongolia is equal to other countries – everyone is equal

SLOGAN AT THE END: Let’s create a nice life here in our country

READ MORE

An Introduction to Mongolia’s Political Ads

When Music Videos and Campaign Commercials Combine

The Lighter Side

Mongolia’s Political Ads, Part 1

An Introduction to Mongolia’s Political Ads

The Mongolian Parliamentary elections are taking place on June 28, just two days away. While the election cycle is considerably less lengthy than I’m used to back in the States (candidates campaign for a maximum of two months here compared to the year and a half I’m used to), the parties are now out in full force.

Everyday I see vans drive past adorned with party flags and faces of candidates plastered to the windows, blasting music and party slogans. When I’m home during the day, someone will inevitably knock on my door with party propaganda, look a bit confused when I open the door, and then just turn around and leave so as not to waste their time on a non-voter.

But the thing that I’ve enjoyed the most about the campaign season is the advertising. Campaign commercials have always been my favorite part of the run-up to elections. I still remember my favorite spots from the U.S. presidential election in 2008: some post-modern videos produced by the Mike Gravel election team.

As I’ve been in Mongolia for most of the 2012 campaign and Republican contest, I have missed a lot of the gems being broadcast back home. And so when I started seeing what the Mongolian campaigns were producing, I was instantly intrigued.

I think the thing I enjoy most about campaign commercials is the insight they provide into the larger trends in a nation. Each party is trying to succinctly express the values that they represent while inciting the populace to adopt and support those values. They have to both broadcast their intentions and respond to the cultural and philosophical trends of the day.

Watching the videos put out by the two main parties in Mongolia, Mongol Ardiin Nam (The Mongolian People’s Party, formerly the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party) and Ardchilsan Nam (The Democratic Party) has been an incredibly valuable way for me to better understand the goals, passions, dreams, and frustrations of Mongolia in 2012. It’s a succinct window into the national identity.

Largely, the commercials have been reaffirming some of the ideas I’ve developed about Mongolian national identity in my time here. However, it’s much more difficult to get an average, non-political, citizen to articulate their own nationhood. And so many of my theories about what it means to be Mongolian today have, until now, remained tentative.

The themes that emerge from the campaigns (on both sides) are very in line with my own observations as an outsider. The desire to unite as Mongolians, the feeling that a bright future is within reach, the notion that it is only a matter of time until Mongolia is on par with the developed world, the connection to ancient Mongolia and harnessing the strength of Chinggis Khan, and the notion that although we are small, we are mighty. These ideas have all come out, much more subtly, in interviews and interactions I’ve had throughout the past eight months.

I hope that by sharing a few of these commercials, I can help shed some light on the Mongolian understanding of nationhood to you, my foreign audience.

READ MORE

When Music Videos and Campaign Commercials Combine

Campaign Monologues

The Lighter Side