Shuffle – On the iPod: Hanggai
Hanggai is an ancient Mongolian word that describes a grassland landscape of mountains, trees, rivers and blue skies.
Hanggai, the musical group, has roots in this landscape but crosses over into the modern world of China and, specifically Beijing, on their first CD, Introducing Hanggai, from World Music Network.
I’ve always been fascinated by the throat singers of Tuva, a Russian protectorate closely aligned with Mongolia. The harmonic sounds have been handed down over hundreds of years and has recently made its way into the international conscience with the popularity of singers from Asia and Russia. Songs have even been featured in Hollywood films including The Simpsons Movie!
Introducing Hanggai blends this traditional throat singing with “regular” singing; Chinese instruments and phrasings; and Western-style music. This makes for an accessible entree into the world of an ancient musical genre.
My Banjo and I is an upbeat and bouncy start to the CD and immediately drew me in. The CD then moves into more traditional songs, some which continue to be festive and others, like the ballad Five Heroes, are mournful. But, there’s plenty of range in between to engage the newbie world music aficionado. I’m always eager to find a starting point to learn about a new musical style, and Hanggai is a great place to start for throat singing.
The band is based in Beijing but tour regularly. Here’s a video from a U.K. gig from earlier this year:
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