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.

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Rainbow Seekers Passing Through

Gently, autumnal breeze

Whisper over brown grass

Through summer green

Soon now yellow and orange

Like the caress of a mausoleum

Death in the throes of life

Leaving a familiar numbness

Opaquely covering the soft nuance

Of a summer day giving away

To the inexorable cold coming.

Longing, memories fading

Into dreams and Paper Castles.

Rainbow Seekers passing through.

The Linguistic Origins of Modern Drumming

We have the Civil War to thank for modern rock music

I am going off my beaten path here today, though music is certainly a beat I follow. Music is a universal language. Music is a creative gift from our Creator who made us in His image. We reflect Him, therefore, in the creation of music.

Music is mathematical and linguistic, even in its essence. I didn’t previously know, for instance, that drumming has an “alphabet” of 26 rhythms. I did know that drummers in the Civil War (and I assume previous wars) played a key role in their battalions. They weren’t just there to boost moral; they were the communicators on the battlefield, signalling the orders from the generals and commanders to their troops in the heat of the battle.

These things are discussed in the video embedded below on the originals of the shuffle – a type of pattern that mimics a train passing by on a track, and a basic backbone of most modern music. Marcus Petruska takes time in this video to talk about “the debt we all owe to the Civil War drummers”.

He goes into some detail about how drums (and bugles) were used to communicate commands in the fog of war to the troops in the battle. Those various beats used to communicate to troops in war became the percussion vocabulary that informs modern music – the 26 rudiments of drumming. It’s a bit mind blowing to think that we have the Civil War to thank for modern rock music!

These two subjects, music and the Civil War, meeting at the confluence of drumming resonate deeply with me because my great great grandfather was a drummer in the Civil War. He enlisted with the 40th Illinois Infantry that was organized by Stephen G. Hicks, a lawyer in Salem, Marion County, Illinois, and commissioned on July 24, 1861. He was part of Company “F” from Franklin County, Illinois, comprised primarily of farmers.

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Maker of the Universe

He made the forest whence there sprung the tree on which His body hung

The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.

The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.

The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.

He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.

The sun that hid from Him it’s face
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.

The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His for everlasting years.

But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.

By Phil Keaggy

The Inspiration Behind the Song Lean On Me

We have seen a lot of violence in the last few weeks, as the American world has been stirred to protest over the death of George Floyd. His death, following on the heels of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, are the two most recent examples of the extreme results of racial attitudes in the US. The roots of these attitudes go back centuries, of course.

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

We’ve seen many videos of police violence posted on social media. We’ve seen many videos of rioting and booting. I am even beginning to see some videos of black on white violence. These constant reminders and fixation on the violent side of humanity don’t help our national mindset as we continue to wrestle with the isolation and fear of the COVID-19 threat and economic recession.

If they make us uncomfortable, that’s probably good thing. If they stir up fear and anger, not so much. The violent videos remind me that violence is not the answer. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was clear on that (though he warned that violence would continue as long as racial injustice continued). Darkness cannot drive out the darkness.

Long term light and love is what we need – the light of understanding and the love of God who made us all in HIs image.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

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