British Columbia

Modern nomads Hanggai bring their rock 'n' roll to B.C.

You don't need to speak their language to be captivated by Hanggai's powerful music. Listening to their most recent album, "He Who Travels Far," is a fascinating musical experience.

Mongolian folk-rockers Hanggai play a free outdoor show from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. today at CBC Vancouver

Mongolian crossover band Hanggai has been described as the pioneer of "Chinagrass" music. (CBC)

You don't need to speak their language to be captivated by Hanggai's powerful music.

Listening to their most recent album, He Who Travels Far, is a fascinating musical experience: The 14-track album features an eclectic mix of traditional instruments and Khoomei, a type of throat singing, heavy progressive rock and even an upbeat sing-along (Drinking Song).

The result is a musical journey through an idyllic natural Mongolian landscape, and that is exactly what "Hanggai" means. It is an ancient Mongol word describing all of nature's features — the grasslands, the river and the mountains — in one place.

Although Hanggai makes music that is rooted in Mongolian tradition, complete with the best traditional rock star attire around, the band's members are actually modern city folk living in Beijing (not exactly the pristine nomadic countryside).

CBC Associate Producer Bianca Cervantes spoke to Ilchi and Ailun of Hanggai to find out why fans can't help but go 'crazy' over their music.

Q: Hanggai has managed to seamlessly blend traditional Mongolian folk music and rock. Are you music pioneers? Are there other artists who have successfully mixed these two genres?

Ailun: I think lots of bands do this but, in China, Hanggai is the first band to play all over the world and in lots of festivals.

Q: Why do you think people find your music so powerful?

Ailun: Because people are crazy (laughs). No, I think they like the cultures mixing. They are interested in other cultures and they respect other people.

Q: What stories do you like to tell through your songs? Is there a common theme?

Ilchi: Mostly it is traditional music from hundreds of years ago when the nomads created it. We mostly sing about the nomads' lives, the people and nature, and how they were living in the grasslands and countryside. We sing about that and protecting nature.

Q) What do you love most about Mongolia?

Ailun: Mongolian people have soul.

Q) When it comes to rock music, what are your favourite bands?

Ilchi: I like all rock bands, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin. Most of us have a rock background so we listen to a lot of different rock bands.

Q: What is Hanggai working on next?

Ilchi: We already finished the new album and it will be released in September. We also have a tour in China, some festivals, and next year in April and May we will come back to the United States and Canada to promote our new album.

In partnership with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Hanggai will play a free show today as part of CBC's Musical Nooners.

The outdoor stage is located on Hamilton Street between Robson and Georgia, and the show begins at 12 p.m. PT.