Monday’s Music Moves Me: Pop and Rock from Mongolia

State Emblem of Mongolia. Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain

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….

  1. Bold, "Minii Xoyor Erdene (My Two Treasures)" The leading exponent in M-pop, Bold is merging modern elements in with the traditional music.
  2. Javhlan, "Eejiin chanasan tsai (Mother’s Tea)" Last.fm simply tells me that he’s a Mongolian popular music singer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ariunaa, "Nandin uchral (A Rare Encounter)" Ariunaa is considered the "Mongolian Madonna," and is seen as an edgy counterpart to Saraa.
  6. 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.
  7. 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."
  8. 3 Girls, "Khurdlakh tusam (The faster)" Another Mongolian girl group. Can’t find much else about them.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Cathy, Alana, and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.

19 thoughts on “Monday’s Music Moves Me: Pop and Rock from Mongolia

  1. This is one I never expected. I’m already a big fan of The Hu and it seems they reshot the music video I remember from when The Hu suddenly became popular in certain hard rock circles. The final video was absolutely wonderful. i was saddened by a comment on one of the videos to the effect that the young of Mongolia are listening to K-Pop rather than their own music. As someone who majored in cultural anthropology, it makes me a bit sad. A fascinating post, to which I can only say (with the help of Google translate) Сайн хийлээ (well done!)

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    1. I’m actually a bit surprised we didn’t have more music from Asia represented with this prompt.

      One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s not a whole lot of information about Mongolian musicians and music, at least not on the Internet. There are plenty of YouTube videos that feature the artists, but nothing that gives much information about the artists or what albums are available. That might be part of the reason music from Mongolia isn’t as popular as from Japan or Korea (or Taiwan, for that matter). And, as you can probably imagine, I can’t read Mongolian…

      Танд таалагдсандаа баяртай байна!

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  2. Well, these are truly different! Wow, I never heard music from this part of the world! Lord he has the strangest voice ever! How does he do that? Weird for sure this Mongolian throat singing! Bold, “Minii Xoyor Erdene (My Two Treasures)” That’s a really pretty song, but all that (oh my what do I call it, it sounds like he’s about to spit). hahaha. Anyway, you really went way out there John… great job for sure. You come in first place for today in my book! Really different musical machines here for lack of a better word. Voices are so so different too! Great tunes you have found. Believe it or not I love this music and their language is really different, but kinda like Chinese… except for the spitting part! Be heatlhy & safe my friend! GREAT JOB!

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  3. Hi John – loved hearing about these … particularly interested in the throat singing … and interesting to learn how your interest occurred – yes it’s an area we probably gloss over in our developmental years. Our Film Society put on a wonderful film out of Mongolia – the Story of the Weeping Camel … evocative of that part of the world …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_the_Weeping_Camel

    Seeing Singapore must have been so fascinating – I’ve never been to Asia and Australia … thanks for bringing this post for us …

    We need to learn about other areas of the world … and appreciate something about their culture …
    Take care and stay safe – Hilary

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    1. About my only taste of Asia was a six-hour layover in Hong Kong and three days in Singapore, and all I really saw there were the hotel, the client site, a couple of restaurants, the airport, and the inside of a few taxis. Still, it’s an interesting place, and I wish I was in the position to travel, because I’d like to spend time there and really see all there was to see. Australia was like home; the Aussies are a lot like us Americans.

      There’s a lot of throat singing on YouTube. One worth mentioning is named Batzorig, who also plays the horse fiddle and a couple of other instruments. He did a video with his daughter, who seems to be 4 or 5, that’s kind of cute.

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    1. I’ve listened to a few of his, and he’s one of the better throat singers. There’s a cute one of him singing with his young daughter. I originally had several throat singers, but she was looking for rock.

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