Music Video: D-LOB

D-LOB (the alias of Boldoo) is one of UB’s more underground musicians. He’s the older brother of well-known conscious rapper Quiza and the two have worked closely together over the years. While D-LOB has written lyrics for his younger brother and been featured as a rapper on several projects, his current passion is lyric-less. He’s been DJ-ing weekly parties featuring jazz, soul, funk, and beats from around the globe, a project he calls DUNDGOL, after the river in UB he grew up next to. He says the goal of these parties is to bring people together to share ideas and opinions, and experience music most of them have never been exposed to.

With over 1500 albums, D-LOB also has one of the largest personal vinyl collections in Mongolia. He collected many of them when the College of Music and Dance was cleaning out its warehouse. They had been given various records during the communist era by similarly minded countries. Which means D-LOB now has a unique collection of early rock and traditional music spanning decades from places like Poland, Cambodia, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and a whole host of other places. He adamantly believes that we should expose ourselves to music from all places to better appreciate our own cultural heritage.

D-LOB now mixes with the music from his eclectic library. He’s been taking soviet-era songs and giving them a modern twist with new beats and effects, while paying respect to the original musicians who he earnestly admires. One of my favorite examples of this is a song called ‘Welcome 2 UB’. He features a song from one of his favorite bands, Soyol Erdene, Mongolia’s first rock band (1971). In fact, he’s such a fan that he created their Myspace page several years ago to help circulate their music.

You can listen to more of D-LOB’s tracks here.

Watch some of D-LOB’s videso below:

D-LOB’S introductory music video was shot by a European filmmaker traveling through UB back in 2008. ‘Boldoo Baina’ which translates to ‘I am Boldoo’ features D-LOB rapping in front of a statute of one of his favorite Mongolian poets, Natsagdorj, and then wandering through UB’s main black market.

‘Erkh Chuluu’ or ‘xxx’ is one of D-LOB and Quiza’s joint efforts. The song is about the aftermath of the 2008 legislative election that turned violent after people protested election fraud. The clashes between police and protesters led to the death of 5 civilians and injury of 220 civilians and 108 service members. It was a major black spot on Mongolia’s still young democracy, and has many wondering how this year’s upcoming elections will turn out. D-LOB and Quiza ‘Erkh Chuluu’ which translates to ‘Freedom’. But they had a hard time finding anyone willing to record the song or help them produce a music video. Eventually Ragu, a well-known music producer living in UB but originally from Singapore and thus safe from governmental retaliation, helped them out. They convinced a young filmmaker to produce a video, which despite its 23,000 views on YouTube, has never aired on television here (a rarity).

This last song is another D-LOB/Quiza joint effort. It was their tribute to 2 decades of democracy. The title ‘Dund Gol-Huh Tenger Medne’ means ‘Only the Sky Knows’. It’s a reference to a letter written by one of Ghengis Khan’s scribes to the Pope in response to a request to come visit. It basically means, ‘Only God Knows’.

Nisvanis: Leading UB’s Cultural Transition of the 1990s

The band Nisvanis, who is celebrating their 16th year in a week, was the first to experiment with grunge in Mongolia. In a recent interview they told me about the band’s initial struggles to be accepted and how they paved the way for new bands to experiment.

Listen to a radio piece I did for PRI’s The World.

nisvanis

Music Video: Nisvanis

I’ve been working on a story about Nisvanis for the past few days. Subsequently, I’ve made my way through several of their music videos, some of which I thought I’d share.

Nisvanis, which formed in 1996, is Mongolia’s first grunge band. Heavily inspired by Nirvana, they brought a new sound of rock music to Mongolia, helping to change the musical landscape. As lead singer Amgaa told me, “Nisvanis is the bridge of Mongolian rock music from the hard times to the good times – from socialism to now. In the beginning of the 1990s, rock music was almost dead. We took what existed of rock music then, and ushered in the new era of Mongolian rock music.”

Niciton’s Sold Out Show

Niciton (pronounced Nee-kee-tone) is one of Mongolia’s top rock bands. It’s been around for nearly two decades now, which gives it the distinction of also being one of Mongolia’s early rock bands. The guitarist, Oojgii , is commonly hailed as the best in Mongolia. Their songs are sung in karaoke rooms across the country. And so, when tickets went on sale for their concert, which was held last Tuesday, they sold out pretty quickly. Ticket prices ranged from 20,000T (about $15) to 100,000T ($75). That’s pretty hefty here.

I attended the show (in the cheaper seats) with a couple friends of mine, who were extremely excited to be there. So excited, in fact, they proposed arriving around 5:00, two hours before the show’s scheduled start time, and three hours before its actual start time. There was talk of making T-shirts, but that ended up not happening.

Fans waiting for the Niciton concert to begin.

The show was held at the Ulaanbaatar Palace – one of the city’s largest venues. As it filled up, it was clear how big of a deal this was. Fans anxiously awaited the performance in the dim light (Aside: I have yet to see a typical opener-headliner show in UB). There were at least twenty crew members their filming the show for, what I’m guessing, is a concert DVD. They even had a jib set up on stage.

When the band finally took the stage, the crowd (and especially my concert companions) went wild. They played a series of rock songs and love ballads, featuring at various times four back-up singers, a string section, a grand piano, and electric keyboard in addition to the classic guitar, bass, drums setup.

Batchuluun plays piano and sings for Niciton.

After some songs, fans would run up onto the stage carrying a bouquet of flowers, which they would give to their favorite band member (usually the lead singer). A friend of mine explained this was “a socialist thing.” Indeed, I’ve seen performers receive flowers at several classical and traditional concerts I’ve attended – but never at a rock show. I was also surprised to learn that the people delivering the flowers were everyday fans. I suppose I could have gone up on stage with a bouquet if I’d wanted. In fact, I realized later that they were selling flowers outside of the hall for just that purpose.

What struck me most at the concert wasn’t the music, although the musicians were clearly skilled, and it was the lights and effects, although I do enjoy sparks that shoot up from the stage in time with the music. It was the way everyone, I mean everyone, would sing along to the songs. This isn’t the first time I’ve attended a concert where the entire audience (men, women, children) sing along in full voice. It’s refreshing to see a full auditorium, cheerfully singing along, not afraid to hold back like so many American audiences are.

PHOTOS:

Lead singer, Batchuluun, plays a grand piano.

A fan gives Batchuluun flowers after a favorite song.

A full television crew filmed the 3 hour long Niciton concert.

There were plenty of official photographers and videographers capturing the concert.

Niciton fan club members waved flags and dressed in band T-shirts.

An early Niciton music video:

Metal_Concert

Live from UB: Metal Showcase

Last Sunday I attended the Season 3: Metal Concert here in Ulaanbaatar. The show featured Mongolia’s top metal/grunge/hardcore bands. It ended up being more of an experience than I had anticipated.

I’ve always been more of a folk/acoustic kind of girl. I appreciate all genres of music, but if I had my choice between attending a grunge concert and attending a folk concert, I would choose folk at least 95% of the time. I’ve never felt quite at home at any sort of concert that involves a mosh pit. Even in the United States I feel like a foreigner when I attend more hardcore shows. And so attending a metal showcase in Mongolia had me feeling like the ultimate outsider. The skinheads who greeted us (the only two white girls) with harsh stares when we walked in didn’t help. But, the musicians who generously let us film and checked in on us throughout the concert did!

Below are three songs by three different bands: Nisvanis, Prophets, and Zugeer I…  And, while I was busy filming, Hedy Dohm was snapping away. Check out her photos from the show here.

Enjoy the foray into the Mongolian metal scene!

Canasta

American Band Canasta Comes to Mongolia

The U.S. Embassy is bringing another group of American musicians to Ulaanbaatar as part of the Arts Envoy Program. The Chicago-based orchestral pop group Canasta will be in Mongolia for a little over a week, sharing their sound in UB and the nearby city of Dalanzadgad.

I’m hoping to find a time during their busy week for an interview. After seeing only Mongolian music for several months now, it will be interesting to attend an American concert once again. And, I’m looking forward to hearing their thoughts on Mongolia and the music here.

For those of you who are in UB. You can see them perform next Friday (2/10) at The Children’s Recreation Center near Metromall.

Read an interview with the band about their trip here.

Duunii Klip: ‘Manan’ by Bold

I just finished an interview with my alma mater for their alumni magazine and found myself going on about Bold and the Mongol Pop craze for a bit. I admit, when I first arrived I was a bit hesitant to focus too much on someone as famous as Bold. I have my own prejudices about the American music industry and have always been a fan of the independent artist.

But, Bold is doing something that I can’t help but find interesting. In a very self-conscious way, he is creating a new genre: MONGOL POP. It was the name of his most recent album and concert series last November. He’s sporting the deel and using the horse-head fiddle and yatga in his instrumental tracks.

This video of ‘Manan’ is just the best example of pop-traditional fusion that I can think of. There’s no doubt that this is a pop song. Then he includes the horses running and the dancers in this referential way, like a nod to traditional Mongolia, but not an embrace.

Jonon

Live from UB: Jonon

Jonon is one of the first bands I noticed after arriving in Ulaanbaatar. I saw them perform at a concert featuring the yatga (an Asian zither found in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian folk music), sponsored by the College of Music and Dance.

Jonon follows in the footsteps of Altan Urag, whose members also attended the College of Music and Dance. They are blending traditional Mongolian instruments and sounds with drums and electric bass to create a new style unique to Mongolia. The band’s 8 members play the yatga, 3 morrin huur (horse-head fiddle), yoochin (dulcimer), flute, jaw harp, drums, and electric bass. They also include khoomii (throat singing) in some of their tracks.

About a year ago, the band teamed up with rapper Gee for an album titled ‘Mongolz’. The album blends hip hop, rock and traditional Mongolian music producing a sound that you can only find in Ulaanbaatar.

They let me film some of their rehearsal the other night. The following song is called ‘Baruun Mongol’ or ‘Western Mongolia’. The instrument at the very beginning is called a jaw harp, commonly used in shaman ceremonies throughout the country.

Duunii Klip: ‘Az Jargaltai Togsdog’ by Nisvanis

Nisvanis is Mongolia’s first grunge band. Because of the size of the popular music scene here, it seems that several bands can claim at least one ‘first’ or ‘only’ in their title. Nisvanis can definitely back the claim up. They started in 1996 and have recorded three albums (right no par with most groups here). ‘Az Jargaltai Togsdog’ roughly translates to ‘Ends Happily’, and the album that they released the song on is titled ‘Frisbee’.

Nisvanis is one of those groups that keeps coming up. Almost every meeting I have with a musician or someone in the music industry here involves at least a mention of Nisvanis. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see them for myself soon.

Duunii Klip: Super 21 by the Royal Beat Crew and Persuis ft. Gennie

Here’s the latest Duunii Klip: Royal Beat Crew and Persuis featuring Gennie.

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?