‘The HU’ (2016-) of Mongolia fuse nomadic folk music with heavy metal, a style they call Hunnu Rock. Throat singing with double kick. I usually don’t listen to metal, or Mongolian folk for that matter, but combined it is something else. Over a heavy and hard hitting rhythm, they sing lyrics from Mongolian poetry and battle cries of old. Hey traitor, bow down!
- Gala – lead throat singer and morin khuur (horsehead fiddle)
- Enkush – lead morin khuur and throat singer
- Jaya – tumor khuur (jaw harp), tsuur (Mongolian flute) and throat singer
- Temka – tovshuur (two stringed, horsetail lute)
All four instruments date back to at least the 1200s. Four extra musicians provide backing vocals, drum and bass.
‘Wolf Totem’, their first single, was released in November 2018. It shot to number one on iTunes and garnered 14 million views on Youtube. Their second single, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’, has 20 million. A third, ‘Shoog Shoog’ was released in June, and their debut album Gereg is upcoming. Since 2018 the Hu have played 23 shows in Europe and met the Mongolian Prime Minister. They are the most successful act to ever come from that country.
The HU (not to be confused with the better-known ‘Who’) is the Mongol root-word for ‘human’. In Chinese it means ‘barbarian’ –what their histories dubbed the Mongols, Xiongnu and other steppe peoples. The Mongols, by the way, called the ancient Xiongnu ‘Hunnu’, yet more evidence they were the Huns.
Music is a key component of life on the steppe. In the 1980s western rock found an audience among the youth of communist Mongolia. When the wall fell, it surged. The Hu seek to preserve and renew the Mongolian musical tradition. They do more than add a Mongol tinge to metal, they make it their own.