Mongolian Punk

Closeup of someone playing a traditional 4 stringed guitar

I really appreciate both music that is culturally specific as well as music that crosses cultures. I recently found this music on Youtube. Most of what I’ve listed to is from one band,Hanggai, but there’s quite a bit of it on Youtube. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you more about the band.

Hanggai Band (杭盖乐队) is an Inner Mongolian folk music group from Beijing who specialize in a blend of Mongolian folk music and more modern styles such as punk rock. Their songs incorporate traditional folk lyrics as well as original composition, and are sung in Mongolian and Mandarin.

All of the members hail from Inner Mongolia and Beijing.

The term “Hanggai” itself is a Mongolian word referring to an idealized natural landscape of sprawling grasslands, mountains, rivers, trees, and blue skies. The band was created when leader Ilchi, captivated by the sound of throat singing and wanting to rediscover his ethnic heritage, travelled to Inner Mongolia to learn the art. It was there that he met fellow band members Hugejiltu and Bagen. In an interview with NPR Ilchi stated that, “Most of our people have moved away from the old way of life…After moving to the cities, many of us have gradually been subjected to a very strong cultural invasion by an oppressive culture. So this traditional music has completely lost its space.”

One of the things I love about the videos is the visuals of the old ways of doing things. The horses galloping across the land, the wide open spaces, living by the fire, etc.

The Chapman Stick

Head of a Chapman Stick

The Chapman stick was invented in the 1970’s. It’s essentially the neck of a 10 stringed guitar. It’s intended to be hammered, strummed, or stroked with a bow, but it’s most times hammered.

I’ve seen many hammer style guitar players, but with the chapman stick there are far more fingers available, so you get many more notes.

Here are a couple examples:

You can read more about the Chapman Stick in Wikipedia.

The Hang

Close-up of a person playing the Hang

Welcome to the inaugural post of Eclectic Jams! Here I’ll periodically be posting links to non-mainstream instruments or performances, as I find them.

Our first instrument is one I just learned about this week, it’s called the Hang, though sometimes called a Hang Drum.  The name Hang comes from the Bernese German word for hand.

It sounds somewhat similar to steel drum, but since they’re hit with the hand it’s a much softer strike. I was surprised by the range of the scale, each simple gives a different note, and there are more dimples than are readily apparent.

It took me a while to get a glimpse of the bottom of one, but there’s a hole, about the size of the hole in an acoustic guitar.

There are only two people that have ever made them, and those people have quit, more’s the pity.

If you’d like to read more, check out Wikipedia.

There are lots of videos on Youtube, like these excellent examples: