Hanggai (band)

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Hanggai Band
Festival du bout du Monde 2011 - Hanggai en concert le 6 août- 028.jpg
Hanggai in 2011
Background information
OriginBeijing, China
GenresFolk, indie rock
Years active2004-present
LabelsTian Hao Entertainment
Websitehttp://site.douban.com/hanggai/ (Chinese)
MembersYiliqi (Ilchi) - vocals, tobshuur
Yilalata (Ileta/Sheng Li) - vocals, guitar
Batubagen (Bagen) - vocals (throat singing), morin khuur
Hurizha (Hurcha) - vocals
Ailun (Allen) - guitar
Niu Xin - bass
Meng Da - percussion
Past membersHugejiltu; Wu Junde; Li Zhongtao; Xu Jingchen

Hanggai Band (杭盖乐队) is an Inner Mongolian folk music group from Beijing who specialize in a blend of Mongolian folk music and more modern styles such as punk rock. Their songs incorporate traditional folk lyrics as well as original compositions, and are sung in Mongolian and Mandarin.


NPR radio states that in a country where genres such as c-pop dominate mainstream airwaves, Hanggai Band is making new inroads into the Chinese music industry with their unique and modern take on Mongolian folk music.[1][2] Some of the members are ethnic Mongolians while the remaining are ethnic Han who specialize in Mongolian instruments.[3] All of the members hail from Inner Mongolia and Beijing.[4][5]

The term "Hanggai" itself is a Mongolian word referring to an idealized natural landscape of sprawling grasslands, mountains, rivers, trees, and blue skies.[6] The band was created when leader Ilchi, captivated by the sound of throat singing and wanting to rediscover his ethnic heritage, travelled to Inner Mongolia to learn the art. It was there that he met fellow band members Hugejiltu and Bagen.[7] In an interview with NPR Ilchi stated that, "Most of our people have moved away from the old way of life…After moving to the cities, many of us have gradually been subjected to a very strong cultural invasion by an oppressive culture. So this traditional music has completely lost its space."[1]

Musical influences and style[edit]

The members of Hanggai Band come from diverse backgrounds with singer Ilchi having once been the front man of punk band T9.[1] These eclectic experiences have come together to give Hanggai Band a particularly unique sound blending Mongolian folk music with more popular forms such as punk. In an interview with Spinner, Ilchi stated that amongst the group’s many influences, Western artists such as, "Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Secret Machines, Electralane and Neil Diamond…" have played a large role in shaping the band’s music.[2] Indeed, although the core of their sound is based around the morin khuur and the topshur, two traditional instruments, the band also incorporates some much less traditional fare.[6]

In their each albums, the band also made heavy use of electric guitars, computer programming, bass, and banjoes in order to create a more seamless and modern sound.[5][8][9]

All the songs are adaptations of Mongolian folk songs and are sung in Mongolian incorporating throat singing, a Mongolian technique in which the artist emits two different pitches at the same time.[10]

Cultural politics[edit]

Part of Hanggai Band’s goals as a musical group is to help strengthen Mongolian culture in China in tictions involved in rediscovering cultural identity in modern China: He's an ethnic Mongolian who had to relearn the language to sing in it, and he's singing about a fast-disappearing way of life he's never really lived himself."[1] Although many of their songs, such as Wuji, hark back to a simpler pastoral past with lyrics such as, "The beloved grasslands where I was born…I will sing my praise to you for ever…My beloved Mongolian homeland…I will sing to you playing my banjo…" a large portion of the album itself is interjected with the sounds of Beijing street traffic speaking further to the complications of finding one’s ethnic identity in the face of a more dominant mainstream culture.[6][9]

In an article on Spinner, when asked about the complications of having Hanggai Band’s music being categorized as "Chinese", front man Ilchi responded that, "Hanggai's music is very traditional Mongolian music. Some of our songs are influenced by Chinese music, because those songs were composed after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and we were all born long after that! We are influenced by what we grew up listening to, and we're still searching for our musical roots"

Producer Robin Haller added that there has "always been a very close and complicated relationship between China's ethnic majority Han people…and the people who live in China's border areas -- Tibetans, Muslim Uyghurs…and, of course, Mongols. Several Chinese dynasties were founded by invading nomads from the north…So Mongol songs and grassland culture in general is certainly considered "Chinese" by Chinese listeners—but "Chinese" in the broadest sense of the term. Maybe a better analogy…would be how Celtic songs are listened to in the U.K.; most English listeners would consider them British, but they're exotic, beautiful and slightly dangerous in a way English folk music isn't!"[2] The Hanggai Band is one of five bands in the documentary Beijing Bubbles - Punk and Rock in Chinas Capital (Directed by: George Lindt and Susanne Messmer)

By playing Mongolian folk songs while also incorporating modes of popular music, Hanggai is creating a medium through which it is effectively able to express the voice of a generation yearning to reconnect with its ethnic roots in the face of a dominating mainstream culture. Ilchi states that while although, "The roots of Hanggai's music come from traditional Mongolian…Hanggai's music doesn't really speak of Genghis Khan's time, but it does reflect the life and ethics of the Mongolian people."[2]


  • Hanggai (Beijing Dongfang Yingyin, 1 April 2007)
  • Introducing Hanggai (World Music Network, 28 July 2008)
  • He Who Travels Far (World Connection, 18 October 2010)
  • Four Seasons (Starsing Records, 1 May 2012)
  • Baifang (Harlem Recordings, 7 February 2014)
  • Horse Of Colors (Tian Hao Entertainment, 9 May 2016)
  • Homeland (Tian Hao Entertainment, 5 December 2017)


Hanggai have performed twice at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, in 2009 and 2015. [11]

Although it is known first and foremost as a predominantly heavy-metal oriented music festival, the band performed at the 2010 Wacken Open Air.[12]

The band performed at the Sydney Festival in January 2011.[13]

Hanggai performed at the Bonnaroo Music & Art Festival in Manchester, Tennessee June 9–12, 2011.

Hanggai performed at the Woodford Folk Festival in December 2011, drawing huge dancing crowds to each performance.

The band has hosted the Hanggai Music Festival yearly since 2010, inviting acts such as Huun-Huur-Tu and The Randy Abel Stable.[14]

The band has maintained a steady popularity in the Netherlands, appearing at many summer festivals and concert venues since.[15]

The band performed at the Sziget Festival, Budapest in 2017[16].

The band recently performed at the 2018 Battle of the Nations (Medieval Tournament) as post fight entertainment.


The song 酒歌 (Jiu Ge / Drinking Song) was recorded in bits and pieces at an actual party that the band attended. The song was eventually created by splicing together bits and pieces of audio from that night.[6] The song 酒歌 (Jiu Ge/ Drinking Song) has also been recorded with Dutch band Jovink for use as the theme song for their 2009 Zwarte Cross nl:Zwarte Cross festival

Front man Ilchi first learned throat singing after Odsuren Baatar, a master throat singer from Mongolia, was invited by the Inner Mongolia Song and Dance Ensemble to conduct workshops on the art in Inner Mongolia.[17] Before the formation of the band, Ilchi was featured in the Chinese punk documentary Beijing Bubbles.[18]

In 2015 the band took first place in Season 2 of the Chinese television show Sing My Song.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95430242
  2. ^ a b c d http://www.spinner.com/2008/08/12/hangin-with-hanggai-an-olympian-qanda-with-the-mongolian-chinese/
  3. ^ http://china.org.cn/english/NM-e/146801.htm
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2009-04-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1197/is_3_52/ai_n31151877/
  6. ^ a b c d http://www.worldmusic.net/wmn/news/item/hanggai
  7. ^ http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/11973-introducing-hanggai/
  8. ^ http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7699850
  9. ^ a b https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/3xf9
  10. ^ http://www.last.fm/music/Hanggai
  11. ^ https://edmontonfolkfest.org/festival-info/past-performers/
  12. ^ http://www.last.fm/festival/937566+Wacken+Open+Air+2010/lineup#all
  13. ^ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/better-than-all-right-on-first-night/story-e6frg8n6-1225984606719
  14. ^ http://site.douban.com/hanggaifestival/
  15. ^ http://3voor12.vpro.nl/lokaal/gelderland/nieuws/2009/oktober/traditionele-mongoolse-muziek-volgens-hanggai.html
  16. ^ https://szigetfestival.com/hu/programs2017#!/p/898/hanggai
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2009-04-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ http://www.beijing-bubbles.com/
  19. ^ http://tv.sohu.com/singmysong/

Further information[edit]