Hanggai Festival 2013: A Festival for the Aficionados

Updated 2013-12-23 10:32:13
Ravi Kahlani of the Yemen Blues wows the crowd at Hanggai Festival 2013. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

By William Wang

Attracting quality bands from regions such France, Japan and the USA to Chinese music festivals isn''''t always easy, let alone the obscure Tuva. When this is achieved however, the resulting diversity is something that Hanggai Festival has built its reputation on. The three-day festival took place last weekend, filling Mako Livehouse with a mix of listeners rarely found in Beijing.

Beijing is a city already up to the gills in music festivals, yet from its inception, Hanggai was able to find a niche waiting to be filled. Yet it is difficult to pigeonhole this year''''s festival to a niche of any kind. It showcased everything from abrasive, industrial rock to meditative and mystical harmonies, from headbanging glam to bluegrass folk.

Currently, there is no single "scene" in Beijing that can tie together such disparate, wide-ranging sounds. Hanggai is a festival created by musicians to showcase the music they love, regardless of labels. If anything, the crowd that turned up to the event was simply a collection of, for lack of better description, music aficionados.

Most people know of Hanggai as a Mongolian rock band that has impressively shown Beijing and the rest of the world what Mongolian rock music can look like. They take traditional instruments and thrust them into a 21st century context through the use of distorted guitars and programmed beats. They pay full respects to their culture and their history, whilst transforming it into something that can still captivate the MTV generation.

As such, the band members have become spokespeople for Mongolian music, and inadvertently, for China. They have performed in New Zealand, North America, Europe, and Africa, and having met a number of exceptional bands abroad, felt inspired to invite their new friends out to China, to showcase the full spectrum of musicians they had come into contact with.

Hanggai''''s frontman Ilchi pondered his travels with Hanggai, commenting, "There''''s no hierarchy between cultures. There should be no limitations for music. As long as its good music we should invite bands to China."

Festival attendee Xiao Bai had just finished watching Japanese carnival rockers Turtle Island, and was still sweating from the experience. Bai echoed a comment made by the singer, stating that "music serves as a bridge to connect the two peoples in friendship. I think Japanese people and Chinese people are friends and we can be brought closer by music regardless of the political issues."

Other festival highlights include the spirited rock of Israel''''s Yemen Blues, traditional throat singing by Tuva''''s Huun Huur Tu, and of course Hanggai themselves.

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