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ROCK STARS: Mongolian Metal Gods The HU and special guest, avant garde musician and dancer Nova at the Bowery Ballroom, New York City 11/17/19

It is said, that thousands of years ago, a prophecy was made at a large gathering of respected shamans from the lands that is now known as the nation of Mongolia. The vision? That a band of warriors would one day join forces, unite the peoples of the world and rescue the human race from our perpetual cycle of violence and war. 

In 2109, amidst all our global chaos, there are some around the world that believe that that band of Mongolian warriors for global solidarity have finally arrived and will save us all from our own destruction. Coming from a nation where 30% of the population is nomadic, like the rest of us, climate change is front and center on their minds too. 

They call themselves The HU and for the last year the new Gods of Mongolian Metal have taken over the music world right under the very noses of Rolling Stone and The New York Times, the very cultural gatekeepers that normally help usher in such music phenomena. Maybe is just pure elitism or even implicit racial bias- either way, missing the boat on The HU demonstrates just how irrelevant and culturally insignificant both publications have become. 

Or maybe that is all part of the prophecy. 

The first sign came last fall when The HU dropped two videos on YouTube even before they had a record contract or a complete set of songs to release. Their unique blend of

Mongolian folk and western metal awakened rock and metal from a twenty year slumber. The tribal, Kurosawa meets Easy Rider video for Wolf Totem video equally matches the dynamics of the song and stands out as one of the best shot in decades. The HU broke through in a way not seen since System Of A Down did right before 9/11. Legions of fans sprouted like mushrooms around the world this spring and summer and their first international tour across Europe and North America sold out where ever they went. Record companies clamored to sign them; Eleven Seven Records eventually scored the deal. 

Since then, The HU achieved what most bands never do. Their first album released this fall, The Gereg (Mongolian for passport, which the Mongolian empire invented in 1200 AD, along with the postage stamp), as the UK Guardian notes "opened at No 1 on Billboard’s Top New Artist chart and No 2 on the magazine’s Indie Label chart. Likewise, it hit No 2 on the UK’s Rock & Metal Album chart and No 4 on the Album Downloads list, while in Australia it broke the top five in overall digital sales. The Hu’s Facebook page has more than 300,000 followers."

There are bands who define a decade. Nirvana and the 90's. U2 and the 80's. Pink Floyd and the 70's. The Beatles and the 60's. There are other bands that create their own niche, like The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath whom the decade then defines them . The HU have simultaneously done both. They are the band of the "Teens" and they have created their own universe of music all to themselves.

The Black Star News caught up with The HU at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and spent the afternoon with them for an interview, sound check and sold out concert later that evening. 

What struck me most about The HU- band members, leader Galbadrakh Tsendbaatar a.k.a. "Gala"–lead throat singingmorin khuur (Horse Fiddle), Enkhasaikhan Batjargal a.k.a. "Enkush"–lead morin khuur, throat singing, Nyamjantsan Galsanjamts a.k.a. "Jaya"–Jaw harptsuurflute, throat singing, Temuulen Naranbaatar a.k.a. "Temka"–Tovshuur, backing vocals- was their intense focus. Everything they did that day was to further the band's music in some way. Their fan base may be all stoners, but The HU is militantly  sober. They never even sight see. They get out of the bus and go in the venue to work. Interviews with media. Meet and greet VIPs. Sound check. Concert. Pack up. 

The HU also really enjoy what they do. They feed off the energy their fans give them on and off stage in ways this reporter has never experienced before with other artists, Unlike other musicians in their situation like Kurt Cobain, both Gala and Jaya are completely grounded and are not in the least fazed by their rising fame as musicians, After the last stop on their North American tour in Los Angeles they will head back into the studio to record their second release for a month before another six month tour taking them through Europe, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Gala explained that Mongolian folk and western metal flow so easily together that they are more than confidant that the new material will not cause a "sophomore slump," but will in fact take The HU to even higher plains. One new track- Black Thunder- that will be on the next album- was already quickly snatched by Disney and featured in the new Star Wars: Fallen Empire game. 

One suggestion, be uber careful on the impulse to do a cover. There is only one tune remotely suitable for The HU- Jimi Hendrix's Machine Gun - maybe even as a throat singing instrumental. They may also want to consider just one or two folk or "unplugged" songs as well, with a fire crackling in the background. The most important aspect to The HU's sound is it's shamanistic rhythms and anything that highlights that will only elevate the music that much more.  

The HU's live show was certainly the best concert I have seen all year. Even compared to other live clips on YouTube, the band and the crowd was notably more amped than usual. Over the metal crunch, comes the horse fiddles  whose screech you can feel in your bones. Then the throat singing, which live sound like a thousand monks echoing through your soul like a cosmic gong, bending time and space. It also may be the fact the Bowery Ballroom is considered the best rock venue in the country so they just sounded better. 

The crowd was racially diverse, White hipsters & metal heads woven into a large Asian, Mongolian, and African-American mix. There was skateboard punks and Rastafarian's all banging their heads in unison to the beat. When special guest, nine year old avant garde musician and dancer Nova, ran out to a pomegranate red lit stage at the end of Wolf Totem, the crowd went berserk as she imitated the Mongolian Choppers Brotherhood biker gang fist pumping sequence from the video in full MCB gear. The floor was bending so much it felt like its was about to give.

Before they left the stage, the President of Mongolia Battulga Khaltmaa, announced the first-class state decoration of Mongolia—the Chinggis Khaan Order—would be awarded  to The HU.

The President's Chief of Staff ,Z.Enkhbold said:

On the National Pride Day, the birthday of Chinggis Khaan, the first-class state decoration of Mongolia—the Chinggis Khaan Order—is conferred on distinguished citizens who made invaluable contributions to strengthening the independence and sovereignty of Mongolia and the unity of the people and promoting the historical and cultural heritages of Mongolia to the future generations and to the world, and performed great deeds for the state, community, and the nation.

I am pleased to announce the President’s decision to confer the Chinggis Khaan Order on the Hu Band, a music group that has been promoting a positive image of our country and the wonderful traditional music around the world and bringing a unique tone into the cultural repertoire of humanity.

On Novemver 27, 2019 The President of Mongolia,Khaltmaagiin Battulga said: 

Fellow Mongolians,

It was decided that on the National Pride Day, the birth anniversary of the noble man, the Chinggis Khaan Order will be conferred on the Hu Band, a music group that has made it to places which the Great Khaan didn’t set his foot on, is promoting the prestige of Mongolia with its cultural heritage, debuting ‘the hunnu rock’, a new genre of rock music that is resounding the name of Mongolia to the ears of the world, and shining as bright.

I am proud of You. The Mongolian people are rejoicing for You. We thank You for proving to the world that the sound of Mongolia is not that of a motor, but a melody coming from the hearts of horsemen, as described by poet R.Choinom in his poem titled ‘My Mongolia’.

This is the joint efforts and success of young Mongolians descended from nomads. On behalf of the Mongolian people, I am conferring the Chinggis Khaan Order upon the Hu Band, led by State Honored Artist of Mongolia, Producer Dashdondog Bayarmagnai, with Members Galbadrakh Tsendbaatar, Enkhsaikhan Batsaikhan, Nyamjantsan Galsanjamts, Temuulen Naranbaatar, Odbayar Gantumur, Jambaldorj Ayushjav, Unumunkh Maralkhuu, and Batkhuu Batbayar and Managers Nadmidtulga Tsendbaatar and Brandon Friesen.

The Hu Band’s choice of its debut album title—The Gereg—was quite on point. Just like the Golden Gerege (paiza) granted by the Great Chinggis Khaan, Your music is promoting the name of Mongolia and touching the hearts of its listeners. I am hopeful and confident that Your pathways will remain clearer than ever, enabling many young artists to follow in your footsteps.

The Hu Band’s first track—the first Mongolian ‘hunnu rock’ song—reached 26 million viewers on the internet within a year, and the number continues to rise by the day. Starting in June, 2019, the band successfully made its first tour with performances at 23 music festivals in 13 European cities. The band is now touring in the United States and Canada, having played over 60 shows.

At the moment of honoring You with this prestigious award, I remembered the time when the Beatles received the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) medals back in 1965. On the same grounds, I am awarding the Hu Band with the highest state decoration of Mongolia—The Chinggis Khaan Order—today.

I wish you a successful career, happiness, and well-being.

That night at Bowery Ballroom felt like a tipping point for Ulaanbaatar's favorite sons and that the story of The HU has not peaked, but only just begun. No matter how many middle aged white male arts reporters waddling around the New York Times and Rolling Stone are clueless to them and the world around them, The HU are coming for your children and are taking over the world. 

Or, as the shamans said thousands of years ago, they are just fulfilling an old, archaic prophecy

Special Thanks To Kelly Walsh and Tuga





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