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I wish I could say that I was the one to break some obscure Beijing folk sensation to the indie blogosphere, but Beijing’s most interesting band already hit Pitchfork over the summer, so you may already know about them. Regardless, I saw them live for the second time last night, and I can safely affirm that you should know about this band.

Chinese folk music is rarely seen as being a particularly forward genre, and Mongolian folk music is even more obscure, but the sounds of Hanggai’s music, which incorporates a drum set and electric bass, not only is timeless, but is actually quite avant-garde in a society that is hurtling towards Westernization as fast as it can. Listening to Hanggai really does conjure images of Mongolian steppes, with its expansive, nostalgic sound. The otherworldly drone of the Mongolian-style throat-singing, which provides an interesting bassline for much of the vocals, is also indescribably cool. And for every song that bleakly echoes lone string instruments and plaintive singing there is also one with infectious camaraderie, particularly the frantic “Drinking Song,” which actually strikes me as a pretty great drinking song. The first time I saw Hanggai, the whole crowd rowdily joined in on this one, although last night’s show was more subdued. Accompanied by an older singer dressed in classical imperial clothes and missing their charismatic lead singer, the band stuck to the ethereal sounds that characterize the bleaker half of their music, creating a soundtrack for introspection or long train rides through the Mongolian steppes.

To summarize, you should listen to Hanggai.

Hanggai – “My Banjo And I”

Hanggai’s Web Site

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