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Hanggai


The Basement, an institution within the Sydney music scene for many years, surrounded by the posters and photographs of performers who have graced the stage, is the venue for tonight's gig. A mini Woodford, as support act, Charlie A'Court from East Coast Canada-Nova Scotia called it. Solo blues influenced, Charlie, held the crowd with beautifully accomplished acoustic guitar work and a captivating vocal range...he has just been performing at Woodford, as had the main act tonight, Hanggai!

  

The small but appreciative, attentive (you could hear a pin drop between songs, even when the support act was playing) and enthusiastic crowd...about 200 were there to witness the first small venue gig Hanggai have played since performing at Woodford and Peats Ridge Festivals. This is the second time in the past two years Hanggai have played Sydney, last year as part of the Sydney Festival.

  

Hanggai are from the city of Beijing but dress and perform as if they have ridden in from the wilds of Mongolia. They play folk music, some of which dates back from a 2000 year old folklore, but with a twist, as many of the musicians obviously have a liking for Western rock music and add this to their adaptations of the songs. A number of the Hanggai musicians are accomplished in the otherworldly sounds of traditional throat singing and several use traditional stringed instruments along with western instruments...Hanggai are a seven piece band (tobshuur, morin khuur, as well as occasional banjo, electric bass, two members trading electric and acoustic guitars, drummer/percussionist and lead vocalist).

  

Many of the tracks got an introduction in Mongolian by lead vocalist Hurizha that was then translated by one of the other musicians into English. Hanggai sing all their songs in Mongolian but that was no barrier for the punters who swelled towards the low stage after the second song, when the band asked the audience to move forward…All songs were lapped up by the dancing crowd, many obviously being familiar with Hanggai's music as they could be seen singing along with the tunes they played. Some, such as "The Drinking Song", getting quite a bit of call and response going in the audience… all the tracks received a rousing applause at their conclusion.

  

Dressed in traditional Mongolian costumes, playing Mongol instruments and singing folk songs, they try to transport audiences back to the original place of the music they make - a place they call "Hanggai". The grasslands, open spaces and simple lives of the people of pre-republic China.

  

As Charlie A'Court told us in his support slot, we were in for a wonderful, "spiritual" night of performance from Hanggai, he was correct...I closed my eyes and found myself many times mesmerized but Hanggai's performance, especially Batubagen's throat singing and found myself totally absorbed by the band's whole sound. According to vocalist and tobshuur player, Ilchi "…as a band, Hanggai strives to protect and nurture Mongolian culture. In many of the ethnic minority areas in China, especially China's border areas, people have severe difficulties protecting their own ethnic culture and way of life." Absolutely amazing music and a joy to witness live!

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