Chinese folk, Toronto

(Yeah, folk. Not rock. But bear with me.)

Remember, Toronto, when Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll had its launch? And Shanren played? And rocked the house? I was tipped off by the World Music Network that there is new footage of them, in the studio, so wanted to share it.

While we’re on the subject of Chinese folk acts and Toronto, thought it also prudent to drop this video, also via World Music Network, of an amazing animated short set to the Hanggai tune “Flowers”.

The Toronto connection? Hanggai will perform this August at Harbourfront Centre’s Planet IndigenUS festival.

It’s hard to hear this song without also hearing “Wayfaring Stranger”, the tune that Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet worked with Hanggai into a two-song, cross-cultural medley, performed here (around the 3:09 mark), on a rooftop in Beijing in 2006, and live onstage that year as well:

Hanggai plays Mongolian folk music, yes, but they do so through a rock lens: Ilchi, the band’s frontman and former airplane tech, was, like so many of his cohorts in millennial Beijing, obsessed with the rap-metal phenomenon; I remember playing a gig with his former band sometime around 2003, T9, and worrying that the rock band I was in at the time, Slap, wasn’t heavy enough to share the stage. To my surprise, T9 had just started on their path to Hanggai-dom, and we became far too heavy for the bill. Ilchi was inspired to return to his Mongolian roots upon hearing a recording of Tuvan throat singing, and headed to the Grasslands to study with a Mongolian master, returning with a tobshuur where his guitar was and, eventually formed Hanggai. The name refers to a wide-open space found on the grasslands. And to a very different kind of band for the former rap-metalers. The rock and roll connection, though remains in their use of (most of the rock) drums and electric guitar; their latest record, He Who Travels Far, was produced by Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, REM, etc). I walked in on a session for that record to find three guitars huddled around an amp to get just the right amount of feedback for the album.

Another yaogun connection: Ilchi’s sister, Yilina, played bass in this band:

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