Live from UB: Mohanik

Here’s the second in my ‘Live From UB’ series. I included a music video from Mohanik in an earlier post. They are one of my favorite bands that I’ve discovered so far in UB. The five members of the rock group have been friends since elementary school, a fact that I find particularly endearing.

I really like their sense of humor and the juxtaposition of their light lyrics with a more serious, even heavy, sound. Since my Mongolian is still at the beginner level, it’s not until long after I hear the music and have had the lyrics translated that I understand the full meaning.

I would have never guessed that this song, titled ‘Duugii Daagii’, was a playful song about kissing or making out. The title refers to a children’s hide-and-seek type of game, but in the context of the song takes on a romantic connotation.

DUUGII DAAGII – Translation

Dad, Mom are making out
Grandma, Grandpa are making out
Girls and boys are making out
We are also making out

Making Out

Making out in a tent
Making out on the roof
Making out by the fire
Making out back & forth, up & down, inside the bearcave
(reference to a children’s game)


Want to make out quickly
Want to make out suddenly
Come, come to my place
Let’s make out before my parents come home

Making out
Making out

Duunii Klip: ‘Minii Nutgiig Nadad Uldee’ by Gee vs. Jonon

Here’s today’s Duunii Kilp! It’s from an album released last year. Rapper Gee teamed up with the folk rock group Jonon for a record called ‘Mongolz’.

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’

Live From UB: Altan Urag

I’m starting a new feature on my blog called ‘Live From UB’.

I’m hoping to share a live performance (or at the very least rehearsal) by a local band once a week. I suppose Tuesday is as good a day as any to get going.

Here is Altan Urag, one of my favorite groups in Ulaanbaatar. They were all trained on traditional Mongolian instruments at the College of Music & Dance – Mongolia’s premier arts university. They’ve established a new genre here, called Mongolian folk rock, which combines traditional instruments and sounds with drums and modern beats.

The best way to see Altan Urag perform is at one of the two big restaurants that host them several times a week: Ikh Mongol, and Mongolians. They are are two of the handful of establishments that feature regular live music. Although, bands tend to play 4-5 songs, and then pack up their instruments and call it a night.

Here they are playing ‘Jalam Khar’:

Duunii Klip: ‘Burte Bujin’ by Tsetse

One of Mongolia’s top rappers at the present is Tsetse. According to my friends, he’s actually living in Nebraska, but recording and then selling records (or more likely having his records pirated) here.

In the song ‘Burte Bujin’, Tsetse tells the story of a love triangle and the eventual resulting heartbreak. The video was done by a friend of mine who is a designer here in UB. Considering it was one of his earlier film projects, I’d say it’s pretty pretty good.

Duunii Klip: ‘1983-86’ by The Lemons

The Lemons are one of the first bands I heard here in Ulaanbaatar. Their brit pop sound immediately caught my ear. They told me The Strokes are one of their big influences and it doesn’t take long to hear it in their music.

As far as I can tell, ‘1983-86’ is their biggest hit – especially with the foreigners here. The tune is catchy and I find myself sporadically humming it as I wander the city. The words are also simple for non-native speakers to understand. The chorus (below), roughly translates into, “Hello my capital // I’m fine, how are you? // More and more colors are being added // to my Ulaanbaatar // Hello grey palace (government building) // Hello Sukhbaatar Square // More and more colors are being added // to my Ulaanbaatar”.

сайн сайн байна уу миний нийслэл
Cайн сайн байна уу та
Улам улам өнгө нэмсээр
энэ бол миний улаанбаатар
Cайн сайн байна уу сайн сайн байна уу Саарал ордон
Cайн сайн байна уу сайн сайн байна уу Сүхийн талбай
Улам улам өнгө нэмсээр
энэ бол миний улаанбаатар

I’m hoping to spend more time with The Lemons in the coming weeks, so look forward to more of their music here!

Duunii Klip: ‘Budagchin’ by Mohanik

I’ve started following the band Mohanik around. I’ve seen them perform three times now and they let me hang out during a rehearsal last week. I really enjoy their music – they have a classic rock and roll sound (2 guitars, bass, drums, keys, vocals) but also have a Mongolian flavor. The lyrics to one tune, for example, are something to the effect of “I wish I had a horse” – very much a Mongolian sentiment.

In addition to simply having a very cool sound, Mohanik is the recent winner of last October’s Mongolian Music Video Awards (which, sadly, I missed). They’re video for ‘Budagchin’ won the top prize at the competition for its creativity and production quality.

You can expect more about Mohanik in upcoming posts, but for now, check out the video:

Note: I have updated ‘Khogjmiin Kino’ to ‘Duunii Klip’, a more common Mongolian term for music video.

Duunii Klip: ‘Cool Eyes’ by Maadai

Here’s some Sunday night dance pop to help round out your weekend. The juxtaposition of Mongolian countryside and dark club seen in Maadai’s video for ‘Cool Eyes’ is actually fairly common for Mongolian music videos. The landscape here is so photogenic, it’s hard not to included it even if it has very little to do with the music’s aesthetic.

Note: I have updated ‘Khogjmiin Kino’ to ‘Duunii Klip’, a more common Mongolian term for music video.

Duunii Klip: Nara Featuring Bx, ‘Mongol Naadam’

When I’m not about to leave my apartment to catch a live performance (like now!), I’m spending a lot of time getting lost amidst a forest of Mongolian music videos on YouTube. Everyone has music videos, and as far as I can tell, it’s one of the best ways to find bands.

With that in mind, I’m going to start something I’d like to call ‘Khogjmiin Kino of the Day’*. ‘Khogjmiin’ refers to music and ‘Kino’ is the Mongolian word for film, which I’m guessing has roots in ‘cinema’.

Today’s find is musician Nara featuring rapper Bx. ‘Mongol Naadam’ refers to the annual Naadam Festival, the national sporting competition that takes place every July and showcases Mongolia’s top archers, wrestlers, and horse racers.

Note: I have updated ‘Khogjmiin Kino’ to ‘Duunii Klip’, a more common Mongolian term for music video.

*’Duunii’ is song and ‘Klip’ is clip.


Music: Leading Women

Since I arrived, I’ve been amassing a collection of names of Mongolian musicians. Nearly everyone I meet has had a suggestion or two of bands or artists I should check out. I’m interested to follow female musicians and learn more about how they market themselves and deal with the Mongolian entertainment industry. More on this as it develops… For now, here are three bands with some pretty cool ladies that caught my eye.


Several people have mentioned the folk-rock band, Altan Urag. After seeing just one of their music videos I was definitely interested in hearing more. I was lucky enough to actually catch a performance at their usual haunt last Thursday, and definitely impressed. You might recognize their sound from the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film, Mongol.

Note: the only female in the group doesn’t sing, but does play drums, which is worth double points in my book.


I don’t know much about them, but I like their chill/indie rock sound.


Again, I don’t know a whole lot yet, but am definitely intrigued. She is certainly going against the grain.

Special thanks to the lovely ladies at Mongolia’s Young Women’s Club for introducing me to Starfish and Sunderia!

Carmina Burana

Music: ‘Carmina Burana’ in Mongolia

Tonight the Mongolian State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet brought Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ to Mongolia. The performance included three soloists, a small children’s choir, full orchestra, and adult choir with over 70 members. The audience was a mix of Ulaanbaatar elite, music students, and a handful of Westerners.

There was a professional camera crew filming the performance, so hopefully real video will be available soon, but here’s a sneak peak: