A band that channels the sounds and feelings of the plains of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ajinai will perform at Yuyintang in Shanghai next Friday.
The band, whose name in Mongolian means “powerful steed,” has recently returned from a tour in northern Europe.
As part of Guinness MORE Music event, a series of concerts and festivals to showcase China’s growing independent modern folk movement, Ajinai’s live performance will provide a portal into the spirit of the Mongolian people, helping to keep its culture alive against a backdrop of rushing modernization.
“It will be the third time we perform in Shanghai. The first time was back in 2009 when we launched our first album,” says Hugjiltu, the front man, leader and vocalist of the band. “Shanghai fans are enthusiastic. They respect our works and are willing to buy our CDs.”
Ajinai’s sound is built around the resonant tones of the horse-head fiddle (ma tou qin 马头琴) and traditional Mongolian throat-singing.
Traditional Mongolian tunes from the band often incorporate modern percussion in an attempt to balance improvised elements.
Each member of Ajinai brings something special to the group. Besides the horse-head fiddle, they play other traditional Mongolian folk instruments such as the mouth harp.
Though the combination of sounds, audience can feel the solitude of the grasslands and nomadic way of life.
All of Ajinai’s songs are in the Mongolian language. True to its name, the band’s songs also can evoke pictures of galloping horses, set to the rhythm of life in the deep recesses of their distant homelands.
A highlight of Ajinai’s performance next Friday will be the participation of electronic music artist Mu Ren, who will add electronic elements to the traditional folk band.
For years, lead vocalist Hugjiltu has been at the core of a Mongolian folk music revival, and also has experimented with injection of new elements into the folk music performance.
“I resist commercialization because I want to promote the spiritual heart of Mongolian culture in the modern age,” he says. “Our songs focus on nature and humans.
Hugjiltu was born into a family that lived and breathed Mongolian music. He played the horse-head fiddle for many years and also studied various Mongolian vocal techniques.
After moving to Beijing from Inner Mongolia, he met a lot of musicians playing other styles of music. They began to work together in more modern formats, while trying to preserve the feeling of the traditional Mongolian music.
Soon he started experimenting with compositions and arrangements that were true to the spirit of Mongolian music, forcing modern instruments to adapt to the music, rather than to dominate it. That was the motivation for forming Ajinai.
“We are hoping to bring energy to the audience,” says the vocalist. “After the performance, we will go to Beijing to prepare for our next new album.”