China is fascinating.

Here is a country that is moving fast forward.

The nation is in upheaval. Cities are erupting out of nowhere and the past is being obliterated as the country moves fast into the 21st century.

Most modern Chinese pop you will hear sounds like the same sort of nothing music that you get everywhere in the world but there are still moments when you hear something with a powerful cultural resonance.

Hanggai are digging deeper. Even their name is a giveaway. The term “Hanggai” itself is a Mongolian word referring to an idealized natural landscape of sprawling grasslands, mountains, rivers, trees, and blue skies

Hanggai are stunning. They used to be punks, one of them was in a Chinese punk band called K9 but they have dug deeper and hooked into their own tradition. Three of the band are Mongolian whilst the other two are ethnic Han- a mixture of inner Mongolian and Beijing- this is already a fascinating combination.

What they do is take traditional sounds and give them that kinetic modern urgency, reconnecting with powerful traditional roots.

The band was created when leader Ilchi, captivated by the sound of throat singing and wanting to rediscover his ethnic heritage, traveled to Inner Mongolia to learn the art. It was there that he met fellow band members Hugejiltu and Bagen.

Groups like this serve to remind the modern world of what it can lose if it gets too carried away with itself but they are not mere retro museum pieces. The UK lost a lot of its folk tradition during the industrial revolution and maybe China is having that moment as well. Hanggai are reconnecting with a powerful tradition- the very soul of a nation which is often its music. The UK folk traditions still bubble up- punk rock, for example, is an English folk music. If you understand that you understand the power of these musics that still exist worldwide.

This is a modern connection with the past, the past sieved through punk rock eyes, a punk rock understanding and its powerfully emotive and effective stuff that works like Wardruna do in Norway with their Viking music.

Hanggai are powerful and emotive even if you don’t understand the music- that’s the power of folk music- it transcends boundaries and time.

Hanggai on youtube

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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