Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia finds “Grunge”
One may ask, “What in the world is Grunge?” That is a good question, but in the music world of Mongolia there is such a thing, but it was not always so. The real question is: Will the youth of Mongolia turn to things like “Grunge” to replace the pride of the past?
This fascinating place, Mongolia, is the home of throat singing…the deep, vibrating sound that is like no other. You will be able to hear it in the first video below. You will also hear the new, modern grunge music. You be the judge about the difference. Hopefully there will be enough young people to learn this skill and pass it on to future generations…or it may be lost forever.
I traveled to Mongolia twice, once to teach English and the second time to help the street children on a Christian mission. It had not been too long since the first westerners entered Mongolia. All I heard at the time from the young people was “I just want to come to America. Everyone in America is rich. We want to be like you people in America.” Of course it did no good to tell them that we had poor people and lots of debt in the United States.
That was then…and this is now. Not many Mongolians were able to come to America, but the Western world came to them.
A little history: After 1990, when the Russians left…the Berlin Wall fell…the people of Mongolia were eager to get their culture back. These were proud people who did not want to speak Russian, but their own language. They did not want to write Cyrillic, but Mongolian script.
There was little influence of the west in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, during my visit there. I could only find one place that sold pizza, Mongolian style. The only public internet was in a little side bar at the museum. Of course things have drastically changed.
Even further into the country side, it was impossible to find western influence. In fact, the beautiful hillsides were quiet with the grazing of goats and sheep. Horses were everywhere. The Buddhist monks could be seen walking the hillside outside the city. During the Russian occupation, their temples had been destroyed and many were killed because there was no room for freedom of religion with atheistic occupiers. Shortly after their liberation, religions from all the world, from the Christians of Korea to the Mormons of Utah, sought their eager hearts and minds. Yes, those who wanted to go to America, could be taken to Salt Lake City to learn how to become Mormon missionaries. Many did and today a large cathedral is part of the Mongolian landscape. No time was wasted in rooting out an unwanted culture, Russian, to the seeking of another culture, the West, for those at the ends of the earth. I was warned that if I went out shopping to tell the clerks that I was American, not Russian, or I would find a most unfriendly atmosphere. As it turned out, I found the Mongolian people to be quite warm and welcoming.
Money poured in to influence this tiny nation so eager to learn about the “wonderful ways of the West”. There are now conveniences that were not there before, but the culture that they have held so dear may be slowly slipping away.
A festival is held each year to share a bit of what Mongolians enjoy: the manly sports of horseback racing, wrestling, and archery. Tourists now come to experience the Gobi Desert. Programs show them what Mongolian traditions were like.
Modern rock or heavy metal may be the new rage. Do I think that all music should sound like a choir…of course not. However, the atmosphere around the new sounds and all that goes with it may be another story. It will be a pity if the string music of the horse fiddle or the ways of the past should be forgotten by this generation all because they want somehow to be like the west. Not everything in the West is beautiful or worth throwing out the old. We will hope that there may a few visionaries among the youth of Mongolia.
For those of my readers who have enjoyed the choirs of England, this video is a change. Believe me, it is mild compared to some that came to me from the Grunge scene. I think it may be worth a look at what “western influence” has brought to the youth of Mongolia.
My last thought on this is:
Mongolian Young People, be careful about distorting your cultural past, whether in music or otherwise. You may lose more than you will gain.
Readers, be certain that you do not miss the traditional music of Mongolia with the throat singer. Afterwards you may want to compare it to the Grunge music of Mongolia today.
1st Video THE TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN THROAT SINGER
2nd VIDEO: Compliments of Khogjmiin Duureg Altan Urag is Mongolia’s folk rock band to electrify the nation’s traditional instruments. They combine traditional Mongolian songs and sounds with a more abrasive rock and heavy metal approach. They played as part of April’s NisNis Fest – grunge band Nisvanis’ 16th Anniversary concert.
3rd Video: Have you had all you can take of Modern Mongolia and grunge music? See this short video below of traditional music, dress and historic places of Mongolia