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HE WHO TRAVELS FAR CD
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The scope of Hanggais music is almost as wide as the grasslands out of which they journey. Taking in the wild open spaces of Inner Mongolia and the teaming, churning streets of 21st century Beijing, Hanggais music embraces the looking-glass world of rock, pop and bluegrass as seen and heard by a new generation of Chinese. The six-piece Hanggai encompasses a hell of a lot of tradition, culture, fusion and folklore to produce their unique sound. With their brand new album He Who Travels Far, they continue to grow, incorporating many of the experiences that the past year of international touring has brought them. The new music features a new band member, fresh collaborations (producer Ken Stringfellow and Tom Waits regular collaborator guitarist Marc Ribot), fourteen new songs (many of them drawing on Mongolian traditional lyrics and melodies) and a live performance approach to the music (rather than the separate parts studio recording of their previous album).
...this follow up adds muscle to their flowing acoustics via bigger guitars and more growling 'throat singing'...
-- **** Uncut (Neil Spencer)
..its been a while since there's been some good hard rock from the grasslands...like Tinariwen Hanggai were put on this planet to revive your love for old school riffage. Embrace them!
-- MOJO ****
The second album from Hanggai, the Beijing-based Mongolian folk-rock band, pioneers of the `China-grass' scene, sees them coming of age. It follows a busy year for Hanggai with a swathe of international concerts and festival appearances, and its release coincided with a festival hosted by the band outside Beijing in September. Hanggai has teamed up with producers Ken Stringfellow and JB Meijers for this new album. It is less quirky but there are plenty of tracks on here which build on the charm of their debut, and there are more tracks here for your money.
Their reworkings of popular Chinese-Mongolian folk songs feature bluegrassy plucked Mongolian tobshuur lute and banjo. These tunes have done the rounds of revolutionary folk song and karaoke, and could be twee in lesser hands, but re-interpreted by Hanggai they are a delight. They're not afraid of cliché either. `Xiger Xiger' has some outrageous neighing guitar riffs over its galloping rhythm. When it's this obvious, you just have to laugh and jump on for the ride. There's a nod to the band's punk roots: `Ayrhindu' sounds like the Pogues with a sprinkling of Chinese opera. Hanggai don't have the same skill in overtone singing as Huun Huur Tu, but they are beginning to challenge the old Tuvan masters with their fresh take on these traditions.
© Rachel Harris -- Songlines magazine #72 - Top of the World album review
Top Customer Reviews
ethnic Mongolian and sympathetic Chinese musicians striking
out to put their stamp on a suffocated indigenous culture.
That this is their second album presupposes a greater degree
of tolerance for diversity by the current Chinese powers-that-be
than I had thought possible. Or perhaps they just haven't
noticed yet! Either way 'He Who Travels Far' is a brave bid
to preserve and honour Molgolian tradition through the use of
folk material, conventional and unorthodox instrumentation and
the unusual and distinctively gutteral delights of throat singing.
Some of the material comes curiously close to the sounds which
might come out of a Texas barn at Thanksgiving! 'Yuan Ding Cap'
and (especially) 'Zhan Dan' are built for a Western hoedown!
There are moments of extreme pathos too. 'Hai La' is a haunting
composition inhabiting a familiar folk-like ballad structure but
whose words (the meaning of which are not within my limited
linguistic grasp!) have a yearning, almost otherworldy quality.
Part of the magic is born out of unfamiliarity and uncertainty.
'Dorov Morlaril', too, with its haunting vocal drones and yelps
mixes up the exotic with raucous rock riffs to deliver a highly
unsual cocktail (The spirit of Gogol Bordello and The Pogues
seems not a million miles away!) of quasi-gothic-country-punk.
'Togur Gin Shan' brings the album to a rousing conclusion with
a sound perhaps a little like the hooves of many horses galloping
wild and free across the great grassy plains of their homeland.
Sometimes music can be a powerful tool on the road to freedom.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The combination of throat singing, minimal percussion, and stringed instruments both electric and acoustic make Hanggai's latest album a wonderful experience. I happened across a live show of theirs by chance and, wowed by their sonic landscapes, bought the CD. While the recorded experience is quite inferior to witnessing them live, it still manages to capture some aspects of what makes the group so special.
The songs typically fall into one of three styles (though there is much cross-over in tracks; it is not uncommon for their songs to have an introduction that is fairly dissimilar from the main body of the song). There are those that sound like traditional Chinese/Mongolian folk songs, with light percussion and lots of guitar strumming, much of which is secondary to the vocal part. Second, there is the "soundscape" style. This is dominated by bowed instruments, wood flutes, and quiet vocals. Finally, there is the percussive, electrically exciting music that allows for head-banging and meditation alike.
I can't help but see the ties between the music of Hanggai and post-rock groups like Sigur Ros (particularly with that last stylistic type). It is the undeniable eastern influence that makes the music of Hanggai unique, and wholly enjoyable for any fan of world music.
It speaks well of the music that I was already a fan just from listening to the mp3's before I got hold of this CD, but unless your Mongolian is better than mine, get the CD for the liner notes; overall, knowing what the songs are actually about really does improve the experience.
Excellent stuff, they have beautiful voices and the voice music is excellent. I’ll be listening to more of their work.
I knew this band through a Chinese show and fell love in their music.