Written by Mass
- The Hu
- The Gereg
- Folk Metal/Hunnu Rock
- September 13, 2019
Water Your Red Horse and Ride on the Slope of the Blue-Fold Mountains
Mongolia may not be your typical Folk Metal country, yet it has bestowed upon us The Hu, the latest and perchance the most renowned band of Mongolia at present. They are a rather young name in this domain, formed only 3 years ago, compared to other acts of their motherland, such as Altan Urag (formed in 2002) or of their neighbouring land Inner Mongolia (which is actually a part of today’s China), with names like Tengger Cavalry (formed in 2010) or Nine Treasures (also formed in 2010). However, it was The Hu that, riding on the tail wind provided by said bands, took the world by storm and is now among the most popular bands on Youtube. They recently released their debut LP, named The Gereg (which is driven from the diplomatic passport issued by Genghis Khan), and proved that all the hype and anticipation prior to the album was actually worth it.
The Hu had previously unveiled four singles of this album, Yuve Yuve Yu and Wolf Totem (2018) and Shoog Shoog and The Great Chinggis Khaan in the previous months. These four happen to be the highlights of the album to me. They are the perfect balance between the folk soundscape and the rock riffage and unrestrained oomph. Some tracks, on the other hand, tip the scale in favor of a more folk sound. The prime example can be Shireg Shireg, another notable song on the album.
Folk or otherwise, the songs have a similar structure: an intro to set the mood and take you to the time and place of each particular narration, some “calm before the storm”, where your attention is sharpened, a peak, both musical and narrative, and to close the curtain, an outro. This structure and persistence in using it might have its origins in the bands traditional, story-telling roots; in such stories, there is a place and time for phenomena to occur and the audience is immediately taken to that setting. Then the story is recited and after the conflict is resolved, the listener has time to mull over what they have been told. Even when the lyrics revolve not around stories but teachings, the same arrangement is adhered to, like of which we may find on The Same.
The elements which has absorbed and ensnared the Western minds and has garnered them innumerable fans are perhaps their clever and competent use of traditional, somewhat odd-looking (at least to a westerner’s eye) instruments, as well as their exotic image and visage. The folk instruments they have utilized on this album include: morin khuur (AKA horsehead fiddle) which is a symbol of the Mongolian nation and one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity identified by UNESCO, mouth harp (AKA jaw harp or Jew’s harp) which is a one-pitch instrument placed in the mouth and played with a finger, tsuur (or Chuur) which is a wind instrument similar to Ney and flute, and topshur which is a type of lute. Together with rock and metal instruments (electric guitar, bass guitar and drums), they have created a sound somehow fresh in the western mainstream music industry which is both artistic and accessible. Add to this assortment piano (Yuve Yuve Yu) and the frequent ambient sound of nature, most notably the sound of hooves of horses and their neighing (Shireg Shireg) or screech of a falcon/eagle (Wolf Totem). On top of this plateau of music sits the unique Mongolian throat singing style performed by Gala, the band’s lead (throat) singer, joined here and there by Enkush and Jaya, two other band members.
Along with the band’s sound, their eccentric image could help them skyrocket in the market. They first appeared in the music video for Yuve Yuve Yu (their international debut) which is watched about 24.5 million times on Youtube up to the present day. This video shows the members doing ordinary tasks (playing video-games, watching TV, etc.) before being magically transferred to their heart of nature in what seems to be their motherland of Mongolia, each playing their traditional instrument. Members are wearing a combination of traditional clothes and modern-day rock leather outfit. The second single track, Wolf Totem, and its music video (viewed about 17.3 million times) established the band’s representation and distinctive style. With hard rock bikers and their bandannas, skeleton-shaped rings, their leather jackets and boots, and led by a horse rider, they look pretty intimidating. In this video they are as badass as “badass” gets. And a few days before publication of their album, the third music video was made available. The Great Chinggis Khaan further depicts the band’s juxtaposition of ancient and modern elements, visually and musically.
As expected, the lyrics deal chiefly with Mongol history, mythos and traditional belief system. Themes such as expression of praise for nature and its lifeforms, homage to ancestors, horse-riding and above all admiration of the most renowned Mongol, Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) and his deeds, and veneration of the most revered deity Tengri. Even though Chinggis is a contentious historical figure, regarded unfavourably in many parts of the world, including West Asia and East Europe, to the Mongols, he is the character who, almost single-handedly, shoulders the burden of their heritage and integrity, thus he is highly respected. The prominent feature of the lyrics, however, is the uniformity and harmony of sounds. They read harmoniously and vocalization of the words match the throat singing style, which in turn adds flavor to the experience one gets from listening to this music.
To conclude, this album is a captivating, musically rich folk tale from the Mongolian deserts and steppes. The narration is solid, the musicianship is novel and peculiarly superlative, and the vocals are astoundingly strong. What we have is an odd recipe for success, but here we are. It would be conceivable to see more of such bands emerging from that area and even other parts of the world sometime soon, all owing to the prominence these guys have been able to achieve.
Highlights: Yuve Yuve Yu – Wolf Totem – The Great Chinggis Khaan – Shireg Shireg – Shoog Shoog