Words and Pictures (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
The HU is a band from Mongolia that blends heavy metal and traditional Mongolian throat singing. Their first two videos (“Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem”) have gone viral almost overnight garnering the band close to 30 million views. Latest single “Shoog Shoog” looks set to follow that trend!
The buzz around the band is so strong at the moment that their debut UK tour (which included a set at Download Festival) has sold out across the board.
With a very exclusive invitation to the Monglian Embassy in London, from Ambassador Tulga Narkhuu, where we managed to sample some local Mongolian cuisine and watch a special performance of the band’s single “Yuve Yuve Yu”, we also got to speak to throat singer and Morin Khuur (horsehead fiddle) player Gala. Speaking with the aid of his brother as translator, Gala explained just what it meant to the band to get such and incredible reaction in Europe and the rest of the world.
Gala: “Of course we are super happy with the response that we have received. It didn’t happen overnight though and it’s only through our hard work over the years that we are now fortunate enough to be here.
Gala: In 2016, we gathered together and started working on 3 songs together. It was a lot of work and after we got those three songs together we agreed that we had managed to find our own sound. It took many attempts of reworking and rerecording the songs until we got that sound right but eventually we were very happy with the finished version. “
Although the band have garnered a huge following on the back of just two singles, the effort that they have put in to record and release them should not be underestimated. If you’ve yet to see the video for Yuve Yuve Yu then check it out below and you’ll get a sense of what the band have done to create that impact;
Gala: “The video for Yuve Yuve Yu was filmed almost 5,000 kilometres from where we live. It was all off road to get there, in Western Mongolia but we wanted to include some of the beautiful sights out there. Some days when we were filing were incredibly hot, others then might have us 13,000ft high and the temperatures were nearly freezing.
Blending the music the band play with western styles and rhythms has been possible thanks to the four members all having studied music at higher education levels. It’s something that makes the band’s unique sound or “Hunnu Rock” as they call it all the more distinctive as well as completely accessible to all.
Gala: “Studying music over the years has helped us all a lot. We’ve been learning more and more over the years and craft our skills. That extra knowledge and understanding helps us also prepare for the tour as well. If you combine that musical knowledge with the history and stories from our country, it gives us a lot of opportunity to tell people about Mongolia.
Gala: We’re very happy to be able to bring that history to everyone, there are a lot of topics we can talk about and our album will cover a lot of this. If you look at the title of the album, ‘Gereg’, it is the name of the first passport introduced by our ancestors. A person could travel in any part of Mongolia if they had a Gereg, without harm. That first happened in the 13th century. We named our album Gereg because we wanted to be able to take our music to every [art of the world and share it with people.
Although Gala was too young to see the country change during the 1980s with the introduction of democracy, the use of heavy metal as part of protest marches and demonstrations is well documented. Whilst those times were not directly responsible for shaping his musical knowledge, he had the opportunity to dip into his brothers music collection to get a taste of what was available.
Gala: My brother had metal albums on cassette and I used to sneak into his room to listen to them when I was younger. That’s how I got my introduction to music. When we started to combine our music we didn;t think we were a metal band but we are also not a folk music band. People would call us one or the other but we like to call our style “Hunnu Rock” […inspired by the Hunnu, an ancient Mongolian empire, known as The Huns in western culture. Some of the band’s lyrics include old Mongolian war cries and poetry.]
Gala: We are part of this huge music family and it allows us to mix our traditional music, our instruments, throat singing with rock music.
It’s a style that could sit comfortably in a Quentin Tarrantino film. That slightly unpredictable score, the music that feels in part like a Spaghetti Western, even down to the way the Morin Khuur (horsehead fiddle) can be played to make it sound like a horse neighing. The drum beat, the sound of the horses all give that sense of open space, great plains and a sense of freedom. Something both the old west and traditional Mongolian culture can easily relate to.
It’s a thought and explanation that brings a gesture of gratitude from Gala who nods and agrees with a smile as his brother goes to explain the reasoning behind the identified connection.
Gala: “We have always tried to emulate the sound of the horses and the feeling of being out riding on them as well. It signifies the freedom of the spirit as well.
Gala: Our instruments [with blue and red ornate horses heads used on the first two singles as the cover artwork] are traditional sounding and weigh the same and tune the same way but because we wanted to blend the musical styles our producer Dashka suggested we change the look of the horses heads to face each of the musicians. Normally they face but but now they face the player as if to say “oh you’re so cool” [laughs]”
Of course those people lucky enough to see a show on this sold out tour, they will be presented with many musicians on stage. Gala wants the show to have a positive effect on everyone who attends. Something to really remember. The main members are the four of them that we see in the videos and they are:
Galbadrakh aka “Gala” – Lead Throat Singer and Horsehead Fiddle
Nyamjantsan aka “Jaya” – Throat Singer, Woodwind Player, Jew’s Harp
Temuulen aka “Temka” – Mongolian Guitar
Enkhasaikhan aka “Enkush” – Throat Singer and Horsehead Fiddle
They also have another 4 on stage with them including a drummer, guitarist and two others and that is what helps drive the unique sound we hear in the lead singles.
The album ‘Gereg’ will be released later this year and if the first three singles are anything to go by, the global swell for The Hu will continue and deliver something very special indeed.
Our live review of the Underworld show will follow soon. The performance of the single can be seen below:
Check out below some shots from the recent exclusive event: