The HU is not just another metal band. The HU is a Mongolian folk rock band that combines metal with Mongolian traditional sounds, instruments and throat singing. They call it Hunnu rock, a unique genre, of which they are the pioneers.
When we were searching for Mongolian music, as a way to get acquainted with the country’s musical culture, we came across the HU’s Yuve Yuve Yu video, which – at that time – had many millions of views on YouTube! That’s a lot for a local band from a country with such a low density of population. What’s so special about them, we wondered. Then we clicked the play button.
The video clip took us to the most impressive landscapes of Mongolia, to the mountains as well as to the desert. It is there, five thousand kilometres away from the capital, that the four members of the band appear, and the show starts. Their looks, all with long hair and black attire, remind us of metal bands, but a closer look reveals that their leather tunics have elaborate patterns with symbols of their homeland.
It is not surprising that their dramatic videos have gone viral. Today their channel has more than one million subscribers! More surprising is that the band has made it to the western world’s biggest stages and festivals. For the band there is no doubt ‘Music is an international language, and as long as there is quality and hard work, success finds its way’.
Hard work is the key to their success. All four members are aware that, together with their agent, they’ve created something new and their music felt like a breeze of fresh air in the metal world. ‘We combine metal with traditional folk instruments and Mongolian throat singing. The result is a very powerful performance that no one can be indifferent to’. The traditional instruments are indeed part of the allure. They have been part of the Mongolian culture for thousands of years, and have been played by their tribes ever since. The beautifully decorated and handmade Morin khuur (a typical instrument also known as the horse headed fiddle) and the tovshuur (the Mongolian guitar) as well as the jaw harp and the Mongolian harp, all add to the look and unique sound of the band and help to create their ancient look and feel. But, there are plenty of modern sounds in the HU, and that side of the band takes the stage in the shape of rock drums, electric guitars and bass.
As soon as the vocals start, we get another punch in the stomach. Khoomei, the ancient art of throat singing almost seems as if it has been created with the sole purpose to be sung by a metal band, and, Eureka! The HU have just discovered that. The multi-layered voice, resonating in the throat, adds to their out-of-this-world effect. This power is reinforced by their lyrics, which carry the profound message that ‘Humanity’ is part of nature and that ‘we connect with it by imitating its natural phenomena such as thunder, the sound of the wind, of running creeks or by mimicking animals’.
Their first album The Gereg was released in September 2019, and became a hit. The choice of the name gereg for the band’s first album is associated with a powerful symbolism, since the gereg is a kind of a diplomatic passport which was introduced by Mongolians in the 13th century as a way to travel without having issues. They hope their album will be like a passport too, enabling them to cross borders and reach other nations easily. Before the pandemic hit the world, they managed to finish their tour of Europe and North America, where all their performances were sold out. Things are looking very promising for the band.
The message they transmit is an important part of the band’s goal. ‘We want to honour our ancestors, and we want to bring Mongolia to the world, make people curious about our culture, make people come to us. But we want to be inclusive, actually it doesn’t matter where one comes from, everyone can enjoy our music, hence our name the HU, a word that comes from the Mongolian Hunnu (a Mongolian tribe called the Huns in western culture), and which means human being. We want to include everyone, reach everyone, and become a big family. In the end, it is not about being Mongolian, it is about being human’.
Photo © Lara Vischi