Hanggai, from the steppes of Mongolia by way of Beijing, is a crossover band that blends traditional music and rock. The band’s members come from Inner Mongolia which covers a vast portion of China’s north, Xinjiang in China’s far northwest, Qinghai’s Haixi Mongolian Prefecture in northwest China and Beijing, China’s capital which lies far to the east.
Formed in 2004 when Ilchi and fomer band mate Xu Jingcheng re-discovered the beauty of traditional Mongolian music, the band has now grown to seven players, Batubagen (Inner Mongolia), Yiliqi (Inner Mongolia/Beijing), Yilalata (Inner Mongolia), Hurizha (Qinghai), Yeerbuluo Wulazihan (Xinjiang), Niu Xin (Inner Mongolia) and Ailun (Inner Mongolia).
“Hanggai have made the leap from folk phenomenon to crossover pioneers without losing their soul. Built from — and meant for — Mongolia’s wide open spaces, this music will make you homesick for a place you’ve never been.” (Rhapsody)
In 2008, Hanggai released their first album, Introducing Hanggai, which garnered glowing praise internationally. Esteemed indie music website Pitchfork reviewed Introducing Hanggai at a 8.0, saying Hanggai’s music….
“distills everything powerful about Mongolian folk music and makes something new from the ingredients…transcendently powerful music that anyone from anywhere can understand.” (Pitchfork)
Through touring both internationally and domestically Hanggai had begun to make a subtle change, moving forward from the more straightforward traditional sound captured on their first album. Their live show had begun to demonstrate the rock sensibilities of these talented players and to showcase the band’s ability to truly cross over, from a traditional-instrument constructed sound built around a rock framework to a new sound, one that is a richer, more complex blend of Mongolian musical sound with modern rock sensibility.
From 2009, Hanggai played some of the best international festivals in the world, including Rosklide, Lowlands, Lotus Festival, the Chicago World Music Festival, Sziget, Wacken open air ( Europe’s largest metal festival ), FMM festival, Sydney festival, Zwarte Cross and Womad festivals in Abu Dhabi, UK, Gran Canarias, Australia and New Zealand, The tours took them to all 5 continents and in June 2013 the band will perform in Africa and can add a 6th continent to their list.
While China’s capital may seem like a surprising place for a Mongolian folk revival, Hanggai has established a large following in Beijing’s rock saturated music scene with their refreshing interpretations of the traditional songs of their steppe. (Shetland Folk Festival)
2010 was an exciting year for Hanggai. In March the band completed their second album, He who travels far, which showcases the new sound the band has developed over the past few years and captures the energy of their live shows. The new album is being produced by Ken Stringfellow, an American musician and producer who has worked with the likes of R.E.M and Neil Young, and JB Meijers, an accomplished Dutch musician and producer, who has worked with Dutch powerhouses such as De Dijk and Supersub as well as American singer/songwriter soul legend Solomon Burke.
“This is Asian crossover music at its best.” (The Guardian)
“Like Tinariwen, Hanggai were put on this planet to revive your love for old-school riffage, embrace them” (Mojo)
“Hanggai’s traditional strings and electric guitars show the most innovative in world music today” (El Pais)
2011 will take them to Australia with their Australian debut at the Sydney festival in January followed up by shows at Womadelaide and a 3 week tour of Australia in 2012. The last cd has been released in the US, Canada and Japan, taking the band to Bonnaroo, Millenium park in the US, Harbourfront in Canada and the Fuji rock festival in Japan a.o.
In each show Hanggai hopes the audience for that short time will experience what the grasslands feel like, the freedom of life on the steppe, the beauty of the four seasons on the grasslands, the experience of nomadic life, the experience of life from the back of a horse. As one fan put it “when I close my eyes, I can see the grasslands.”
Hanggai tries to get back to the grasslands as often as they can. But as professional musicians, much of their time is spent in cities, much of their time is spent on the road. But after all, that’s what its all about, the journey.
After a busy 2012 tour schedule that brought Hanggai too, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the US and Canada they will start working on their new CD. May 2013 saw them recording in various studio’s in Beijing again with producer JB Meijers ( De Dijk, Carice van Houten, Solomon Burke a.o. ) The new material is scheduled to be released in 2013.