Introducing Hanggai

Hanggai (the band’s name is an ancient Mongolian word for the perfect grassland landscape featuring mountains, trees, rivers and blue skies) is a six-piece Chinese folk revival group consisting of young musicians from Beijing and from the Inner Mongolian steppe. Bandleader Ilchi was frontman for a Chinese punk band before his head was turned upon hearing a traditional Mongolian overtone singing called hoomei, prompting him to travel to Inner Mongolia and learn that technique of throat-singing. Ilchi met bandmates Hugejiltu and Bagen, who both sing and play the morin khuur, a traditional Mongolian horsehair fiddle. Bagen is the low-end overtone singer of the group, able to produce two notes at once, including one an octave lower than the other one he’s singing, resulting in a haunting, decidedly otherworldly, yet beautiful, sound. “Wuji,” an insistent stop-time song driven along by the morin khuur, features Bagen’s exotic, low bass singing. “Lullaby (Borulai),” in contrast, is a slow piece showcasing delicately sung, higher vocal harmonies, sparkling handbells and the plaintive sound of the morin khuur’s long tones.