One of the last business trips I took was to Singapore, and as I was waiting in line to clear customs (you give them your passport, they stamp it and tell you to enjoy the city state, and not to chew gum or you’ll be beaten with a cane) I saw a group of young people from Mongolia. Tucked away in the middle of Asia, surrounded by Russia and China, you don’t think about it that much; when you take geography in fourth grade (well, I did, anyway) you learn that it’s mostly mountains and grassland with the capital, Ulanbaatar, right in the middle of the country, you know they raise horses there, a sizeale chunk of the population (30%) is nomadic, and that, in 1965, anyway, it was under a Communist regime. They underwent a peaceful revolution in 1990, as most of the rest of the world shed communism in favor of a republic with democratically-elected representatives and a market economy.
I’ve put this on my blog so many times that I’m convinced people are sick of it, but I’m putting it on there again for those of you who haven’t seen it or those of you who love it as much as I do: it’s the Mongolian national anthem arranged as a pop tune, sung by four of Mongolia’s biggest pop stars: Zhargalsaikhan (the man in the hat), Dashdondog (the man in the sparkly jacket), Saraa (also known as Sarantuya, the woman in the black pantsuit), and Ariunaa (the woman in the blue dress). The English translation of the lyrics is given.
You’ll see those stars later.
Mongolian popular music might well be called "lite rawk!" as most of the music I could find fits that description. You’ll also notice that in some cases they use traditional Mongolian instruments in addition to modern ones, and there is at least one example here of throat singing. I found practically all of these with the assistance of Last.fm, which in many cases has biographical information on the artists. Where artists’ names and song titles were given in Mongolian (an adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet with additional letters for sounds that are unique to it), I used the facilities of Google Translate to transliterate the Mongolian into English characters and to translate into English.
I know, blah blah blah, let’s get to the tunes….
- Bold, "Minii Xoyor Erdene (My Two Treasures)" The leading exponent in M-pop, Bold is merging modern elements in with the traditional music.
- Javhlan, "Eejiin chanasan tsai (Mother’s Tea)" Last.fm simply tells me that he’s a Mongolian popular music singer.
- Serchma, "Angir Eej (Colt Mother)" Wikipedia tells us that Serchmaa learned the violin at age 6 and later took up singing. She’s performed all over the world.
- Saraa, "Ter namaig dursdag bolov uu? (Does he remember me?)" Also known as Sarantuya, she might be the most popular pop singer in Mongolia. She’s considered the queen of pop music, and was named Singer of the Century.
- Ariunaa, "Nandin uchral (A Rare Encounter)" Ariunaa is considered the "Mongolian Madonna," and is seen as an edgy counterpart to Saraa.
- The HU, "Yuve Yuve Yu" Not to be confused with The Who, The HU were formed in 2016 and play hard rock music on traditional instruments as well as throat singing. They’ve come the closest to seamlessly blending Mongolian traditions with Western rock music.
- Kiwi, "Araas chini tevrelgüi yavuullaa (I sent you without a hug)" A Mongolian girl group. Last.fm says "Their music varies between melodic pop songs, R&B, and pumping disco beats."
- 3 Girls, "Khurdlakh tusam (The faster)" Another Mongolian girl group. Can’t find much else about them.
- Winners from "My Voice 2015", "Ekh ornoo khairlaya zaluusaa (Let’s love our country, guys)" My Voice appears to be a show in the grand tradition of America’s Got Talent and The Voice. I was going to try and transliterate all the names, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for someone else. It’s a fun video.
- Rock and Pop Stars, "My Mongolian Naadam" You’ll most likely recognize a few of the pop stars from the Mongolian anthem video, and there are a few more whose names are a mystery to me. Sadly, there ain’t a whole lot of websites on the Internet dedicated to Mongolian music, and I wouldn’t know where to start. The main stage is in front of the huge statue of Genghis Khan in Sukhbataar Square in Ulaanbataar, but the scenes out on the steppe (the horses, the mountains, the traditional games, etc.) are absolutely breathtaking.
And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for October 26, 2020.