The Mongolian Hunnu Rock band The Hu popped up in late September 2018 on YouTube with their song “Yuve Yuve Yu”, the video went viral and within less than half a year they got almost 20 Million views on their first release. Now, in June and July they started their first European tour which included big Festivals such as Download, Graspop Metal Meeting and many more. Their Club shows have been all sold out. Such as the show in Switzerland on July 5 2019 at Moods Zürich (here our review). We had the chance to sit down for an interview with those impressively polite band members. As they don’t speak English well enough, their tour manager Tuga Namgur acted as interpreter. A big thanks to Tuga for his great effort and help.
We had also asked fans at Facebook’s The Hu Fan Group what they would ask the band. There where so many questions that it wasn’t possible to ask them all, but we hope that you find out more about the band this interview. Thank you all so much for participating.
You have been touring since the beginning of June, and if I am correct, the show here in Zurich is one of the last ones on this tour. How has it been for you and are you satisfied with the response?
Gala: We feel so honored and loved by the people of Europe and UK. It is our first tour here, but yet all of our shows have been sold out. Everywhere we go, the people are waiting for us and chant “Hu, Hu,” like we would be a returning well-known band and we feel so loved by the people here.
Was it the first time for all of you that you have been in Europe?
So was there something you really liked about it or something you really didn’t like?
Jaya: Not particularly. Everything here is so nice and we felt loved by the people everywhere we go and the shows are going really nice. We’ve been to a lot of cities, 23 of them in 13 countries, there were a lot of places where we wanted to go. You play a concert at one place and in the morning when you wake up, you are right there and see a new city, a new place, new people and most of all the fans reactions are priceless for us as we feel so loved.
Was it a bit of a cultural shock for you, as it is a totally different culture?
Gala, Temka, Jaya: It is the first time as a band that we are here, but as members separately we toured with other bands all around the world, and also, we are from Ulaanbaatar, which is a big city in Mongolia and nowadays because of the internet everything is the same. The things we were happy about are that we were able to perform at these legendary festivals on the legendary stages and the legendary bands we grew up listening to, like Slipknot. One day we played on the same day as Slipknot and we were able to go there and that was some crazy experience for us.
Is it so that those band usually don’t come to play in Mongolia?
Gala: It is not as much as in Europe, but sometimes we get nice bands to stop by, the latest was Sepultura four months ago and that was very nice.
When you started the band, did you expect that there will be such The HU hype coming up?
Jaya: As any other band, anyone wants to get big and imagines to play on big stages and become a super Rock Star. Just like us, we dreamed of becoming big and pictured it in our minds and we also worked very hard on our music and music videos, like for example the video for “Yuve Yuve Yu”. For filming that video we traveled over 5000 kilometers off road for so many days. And the reason why we did this was: we wanted to show how beautiful this nature is. And how beautiful Mongolia is. So we went to Western Mongolia’s highest mountain one day, it was freezing cold with snow. And the other day we would go to this sand dunes where it is burning hot, and the reason why we wanted to show that is: All this technology in our generation, even though we have all the power, sometimes we lack inner power. We are 8 billion humans in the world, but there are a lot of people who feel so lonely because we go away from nature; the nature and humans have to be very close. So we wanted to inspire younger generations to be open to nature and enjoy this beautiful world and also find inner strength in themselves. Through our music we wanna inspire them with courage, because everybody has a warrior in her or in him, and we would like to wake that warrior up. So, because of this message, because of our hard work, we think that so many people around the world reacted to our work. Because music transmits much better than any language in the world, you don’t have to speak English or Mongolian. Even though we sing in Mongolian, the music and this power and the meaning in it can get through to anybody’s heart.
That’s true, so do you think that young people in Mongolia and elsewhere miss a bit this traditional feeling in general?
Temka: Yes, our message is not only for the Mongolian people, we wanted to inspire everyone in the world and every culture is beautiful. Our message is to respect your parents and past generation and cherish your culture because they are beautiful, they are thousands of years old and it doesn’t matter if it’s from Mongolia or China or Africa, American Indian, but they are all beautiful and we can all have respect for our own culture and respect others’ culture too and unite it together and share our goodness.
You’ve mentioned in an interview that the idea to form a band like the Hu actually came from your producer Dashka, who thought of it as a homage to his ancestors. So does that mean that the lyrics and music was written by him and he formed the band or did you just happen to be exactly what he was looking for and so you worked together on the songs?
Gala: As you said, it started with Dashka eight years ago as he was travelling to his father’s birth place, which is also the birth place of throat singing, the Khovd province, Chandmani soum. He was there as he wanted to write some beautiful song for his father and his ancestors. He is not a traditional producer to our band, because even though he doesn’t perform with us on the stage, he is considered a member of the band, it is a family. Over the past 10 years all of us worked separately with Dashka and worked on different projects and stuff, and 2016 four of us and Dashka started with working on this band and on our first songs, and that is how we started the band and how we found our own unique sound.
Your Instruments all look very special. Is it how they traditionally look like or are they especially made for the band?
Enkush: The Morin Khuur is a very important musical instrument in our culture and our ancestors have been playing it for thousands of years. The look of our musical instruments is not exactly the same as the traditional ones because our style is a mix of old and new, Eastern and Western, so we wanted to get this idea with our musical instruments, the colors are a little changed and also the horse head usually looks at the audience, but we wanted that our horse heads look at us when we play the instrument. And most important is that we kept the actual traditional sound because we didn’t want to mix this, it’s still the traditional Mongolian sound but a different look, more Rock.
You play traditional instruments such as the Morin Khuur (Horsehead Fiddle) the Tovshuur (Mongolian Guitar) and a Tumur khuur (Jaw Harp) and you are all capable to do the guttural throat singing (called höömei). For someone who’s not familiar with it, how is the guttural throat singing which is very difficult to learn, how is it related to Mongolian history?
Jaya: Throat singing is a very unique singing style, and it is actually very popular with Eastern Mongol tribes, some of them are still in Mongolia, some already in Russia. The origin of this Höömei is actually coming from the Altai Mountains going all the way from Mongolia, Russia down to China. So this Mongol Tribes started this singing first by trying to mimic the sound of water and wind and that is how this started. And it has something to do with the connection between nature and humans. And that’s why it is so appealing to most of the people around the world. About the learning part, it’s a very hard thing to learn and master and it takes time as any other singing style or like learning to play an instrument. It takes like 10 years and more and some people can get really good after ten years, others will get somewhere and won’t get further, and it depends on the person who’s learning. Just like singing, it also depends on your own ability. For us, we’ve been doing it between 10 and 20 years and we’ve been doing okay.
My friend Jacky participates in the hardest and longest horse race, The Mongol Derby. Are you familiar with it and has anyone you know participated in that Horse Race ever?
Jaya: Mongolians and horses have a deep connection; we love horses and every Mongolian can ride horses. And for myself, I used to do this horse racing from young age and have done it some many times. And the most of us, we ride from young age. The derby is probably the longest race in the world and when you are young and you control the horse and see how a horse has energy and power, it actually charges us as Mongolians. It is an amazing culture in Mongolia with the horse racing, and everybody loves it and even on our state emblem there are horses.
So was it hard to do this race?
Tuga: Yes, it was hard, I used to do that too.
Oh nice. So do you think a European can manage that? (laughter)
Jaya: Of course we are all the same human beings and it’s about our commitment. If you really wanna do it, you can do it, and there are a lot of European people coming to Mongolia to ride horses, so of course anybody can do it.
There is an over 20.000 people Facebook fan group of you, I asked the members what they would like to ask you and got over 80 questions from them. Unfortunately it is not possible to ask them all here but maybe you could do a Q&A after returning home.
At the moment you are doing all the Interview with Tuga as interpreter, who is also Gala’s brother. Some of the fans would like to know if the band plans to learn English so they could talk to the fans?
Gala: Of course we are working on it, and we got a lot better as we started this tour. We can communicate with our crew members and the crew members also learned some Mongolian. (all laugh) But we’ve been talking a lot, so of course.
I personally think that it is really cool that you do interview like this, with an interpreter, something different for once. Like this there are no misunderstandings and you do a great job.
Oh, thank you.
So as we run out of time and you need to prepare for stage, the last question is: If someone travels to Mongolia for a holiday, which places one definitely shouldn’t miss? Maybe every band member could name one place?
Jaya: There is a place called Hövsgöl, some people call it Switzerland of Mongolia, it has big mountains and lakes. It is a beautiful place; it is not just the nature, it is also the people who live there. It’s called Tsaatan tribe, they take care of reindeer, their main transportation is by reindeer and they live in their own Tipis on top of the mountain. They kept their way of living for thousands of years. it is so beautiful to see that people respect their culture and keep it the way it is.
Gala: For me Mongolia has a lot of things to offer, we have one of the biggest sand deserts in the world and then we got the highest mountains in the world, for me it is just going to South Gobi, Gobi desert, and see the beauty of the desert sand, and there are a lot of things you can enjoy.
Enkush: There is a place called Tsonjin Boldog, it’s one of the biggest Genghis Khan statues not to far from Ulaanbaatar and that is a very nice place to start your journey when you land in Mongolia. I also wanna say Gobi Desert, it’s also the people who live in there herding camels, two hump camels and the beauty of the place. And there are the desert bears too, the Gobi Bear, and their population is going down, and that’s why I support them and got that hat (shows Mazaalai Bear hat). This Desert Bear is the only one in Mongolia and there are less than 30 of themleft. So I want to support them, that’s why I wear this bear hat and harness with a Mazaalai Bear and Mongolian Snow leopard leather bag.
(More Information and donations for Gobi Bear Project at https://www.gobibearproject.org/ – the ed.)
Temka: If you are really into wild nature and you would want to follow our footsteps when we filmed “Yuve Yuve Yu”, it’s gonna take time off road, and sometimes you have to ride horses. Western Mongolia with its mountain region is just beautiful.
Okay now I wanna come for a visit too. Thank you very much and all the best to you.