Anda union rolled through town again tuther’ day. This is a great & pleasingly successful collective of largely young musicians from Inner Mongolia playing traditional Mongolian folk music with a few of their own tweaks & personalizations stowed in tha mode. Their success is indicative of the growing suffuse of the “World Music” epithet, but it’s also what happens when the machine gets behind a specific act. They have made two great records (The Wind Horse & Jangar) & I have seen them live twice (they are definitely best live, rawer & stripped of the overproduction that the studio sessions have had instilled by the distant directives of some idiot at a desk), both of which were brilliant performances. Well over a decade before Anda Union was formed, another, way less known & celebrated traditional collective of exceptionally accomplished Mongolian musicians were quietly conserving the tradition.
Egschiglen <Beautiful Melody> released three of the greatest albums I have heard in the category – Sounds of Mongolia in 2001 (ARC records), Zazal (Dunya records) & Gereg (Heaven and Earth). Their first two albums – Traditionalle Mongolissche Lieder from 1995 (pretty damn rough-hewn) & the far better Gobi from 1997 which had some magnificent moments, were less impressive (both issued by the German label Heaven and Earth). But in 2000 they recorded the spectacular opus Sounds of Mongolia on the exceedingly adventurous ARC records. this is a tremendous, seventeen track masterpiece with totally un-glossed production, it simply doesn’t really get any better.
Zazal, another astonishingly stand-out full-length was dropped in 2002 with improved production values. It is a great’ great piece of work. Finally, another (& the last so far) staggeringly wondrous effort was exacted in 2006 – Gereg, once more on Heaven and Earth. By this stage, the label had a considerable rapport with the groups music & phonics, & for this release they went to an extraordinary effort to cultivate the perfect acoustic sound engineering with truly brilliant results. Egschiglen was originally formulated in 1991 by a crew of students at Mongolia’s Conservatoire of Ulaanbaatar. Another rare expanse of repertoire was the inclusion of joochin (dulcimer) & yatga (xither), an instrument that you rarely hear in Mongolian recordings.
Whilst on the subject of both ARC records & Mongolian traditional music, it’s definitely worth mentioning three majorly significant albums they published. The Music of the Tuva by Ay-Kherel (2004) is some raw & shamanic nomad shit from Russia’s Tuvan prefecture. It’s a very special album as you would probably predict, once again captured with unrefined integrity that sounds as if it’s recorded outdoors?
With the labels typical daring & passion for the arcane, they put out Art of Mongolian Khoomii by Bayarbaatar Davaasuren. Intense & incredible, largely just the one guy (considered an absolute master) on multiple instruments. The sensational Chinbat Baasankhuu accompanies on the yatga (zither) for selected tracks.
Absolutely through-the-roof this one… the Art of the Mongolian Yatga by the savant Chinbat Baasankhuu. It’s just her on a zither from start to finish, incredible playing & ancient beauty just rolling out the steppe.
ARC continue to cover some of the least attended, remote & way-off the radar recordings & sessions of traditional music. Some of their work with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan & even Yakutia remains extraordinarily accomplished documentations of ancient arts & culture.
note: excerpt is all Egschiglen, taken from albums Gereg, Zazal, Gobi & Sounds of Mongolia.