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Hanggai is a Chinese folk music group from Beijing who specialize in a blend of Mongolian folk music and more modern styles such as punk rock.

Hanggai is made up of young musicians from Beijing and from the Inner Mongolia Mongol Autonomous Region in modern day People’s Republic of China. Satisfying the demand for the romanticized and mysticized Mongolian music in China, Hanggai presents Mongolian folk songs in conjunction with western and Chinese influenced drumming and other techniques (albeit with some sacrifice to lyrical clarity), hence makes the traditional Mongolian art more comprehensible to foreigners in China and the west.

“…The word ‘hanggai’ is Mongolian, describing an idealised grassland landscape of mountains, trees, rivers and blue skies.

Hanggai’s leader, Ilchi, was fronting a punk band until he experienced a conversion after hearing traditional overtone singing. He travelled to his father’s homeland of Inner Mongolia and started to learn the technique – rediscovering the music and the repertoire of songs that had faded but not disappeared during China’s turbulent past. There he met Hugejiltu and Bagen, both music students, who joined the group. Hugejiltu plays lead fiddle and Bagen sings deep bass using a technique of overtone singing, producing a note one octave below the note he is singing.

The songs on the album are adaptations of traditional songs from the grasslands, sung in Mongolian, many using hoomei, a throat-singing technique that has been handed down over hundreds of years. At the heart of the music are two traditional instruments – the morin khuur – the horse-hair fiddle and the tobshuur – a strummed two-stringed lute.


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