A band from Mongolia that blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing has picked up 7 million views for its two videos.
Leather jackets, skull rings and bandannas alongside intricately carved Mongolian horsehead fiddles are just some of the images in the first two music videos the Mongolian band The Hu released on YouTube this fall. Excited listeners from around the globe have posted comments like: "This makes me want to ride a horse and shoot people with a bow" and "This sounds like ancient mongol rock of 1000 b.c. Really badass!" (sic)
And yet what The Hu is doing, while new, comes out of a tradition that began several decades ago when Mongolia transitioned from a satellite of the Soviet Union to a democracy.
As the Soviet Union crumbled and Western influence flooded in during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mongolian musicians chose to preserve Mongolian culture while also adapting new influences, explains University of Chicago ethnomusicology doctoral student Thalea Stokes.
It is something they continue to do today, says Stokes, who spoke via Skype from Inner Mongolia where she is studying Mongolian hip-hop. That hip-hop scene has a similar background. Although hip-hop is a relatively new import, Mongolians have rapidly adapted it, mixing "fierce ethnic pride and adventurous dancing" with social and political critique, according to Stokes' research.