A Musical Detour through the Lush Soundscape of Mongolia


We are different in the way we look, skin color, and heritage, communal and historic experiences, but our roots and our lives are intertwined.


I took a detour today from my usual paths and discovered Dulguun Bayasgalan, an indie-folk singer-songwriter from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Anyone who knows me well knows that I like exploring new music. I spend much more time listening to new music (mostly current music) then the older music of 1960’s and 1970’s that are my musical roots. I can now add new Mongolian music to my playlist.

Dulguun Bayasgalan goes by Magnolian because of another Mongolian artist with the same first name. Magnolian is a play on the words Mongolian and magnolia.

Magnolian made a debut of sorts at Mongolia’s biggest music festival in June 2015 as a solo act. Since then he released his first single, “Someday”, in September 2015, featuring his wife, Enkhjin Batjargal on vocals. In October of 2016, Magnolian played his first international showcase at Zandari Festa in South Korea. He made his North American debut at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March of 2017. He is now the second most streamed Mongolian artist on Spotify.

One of my interests in music is the roots of modern music. In that vein, let’s explore some traditional and modern Mongolian music, which would have had some influence on Magnolian, before we get to his music. I think you will see the influence, but he takes it in a much different direction. (If you are more into modern indie rock than Mongolian heavy metal, stick with me to the end.)

First, let’s listen to Chinggis Khaanii Magtaal (Ode to Chinggis Khaan) performed by Batzorig Vaanchig on top of a mountain in Bayanhongor Mongolia for full effect. He displays the “throat-singing” style of traditional Mongolian music and their heritage that is strongly influenced by Genghis Khan:

Following is a traditional Mongolian song, Toroi Bandi, that (to me) has a very modern feel to it. I’m not the only one, obviously, as one of the comments to the video is that it sounds like heavy metal before electricity.

I note the slowdown and change of pace in the middle of the song. I see the same kind of stylistic change in Magnolian’s music, leaving behind the throat signing, and sounding very much like current indie music in the United States.

But first, I want to showcase The HU, Mongolia’s most popular band making music currently. The HU fuse traditional Mongolian throat-singing and musical instruments with modern melodies and themes. You have may have heard them before, not even knowing it, in their song, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The HU aren’t singing in Mongolian here. They created their own language for the song that was incorporated into the Stars Wars game of the same name.

One commenter on their YoutTube video said, “My dog listened to this. Now he’s a warhorse.” They seem to weave a warrior past with a heavy metal present. It’s no wonder, then, that the HU also sing the traditional song embedded in the video above, The Great Chinggis Khaan, but they do it in their own style. You can watch it here if you are interested. Their most popular song, Yuve Yuve Yu, is the epitome of their Mongolian roots-infused modern styling.

As fascinating as this rabbit hole has been, the rabbit that started me off in this direction is Magnolian. He takes it down a notch with an homage to his Mongolian roots in a modern, indie style that I find intriguing and disarming.

I love the way Magnolian mixes traditional Mongolian instruments and images with a very current indie rock style of music.

As an introduction to the The Beach Song I note that Mongolia is not known for its beaches, being a landlocked country. I love the imagery and the concept of the video. If we don’t dream and aim for the stars, we might never know how far we can go.

Finally, I have saved the best for last. I will leave you with some new songs off Magnolian’s new album, Slow Burn. These songs were recorded live in a Mongolian Ger – a kind of Mongolian dwelling that is easily assembled and disassembled for nomadic life and used for thousands of years.

Much like a Russian yurt and reminiscent of a Native American teepee, the Ger reminds me that we all have roots. Our modern music and modern lives have roots. We are different in the way we look, skin color, and heritage, communal and historic experiences, but our roots and our lives are intertwined.


POSTSCRIPT:

We are all made by one Creator who “gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands…. so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:15-29)

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