Asia & South Pacific
Homeland (Hohhot Records)
This nine-strong ensemble from Inner Mongolia are on a mission to preserve and popularise the culture of the vast empty spaces of their native steppes in a melodic and accessible style that has universal appeal. Playing traditional horsehead fiddles, lutes and flutes and drawing on a repertoire of ancient music that was in danger of extinction, they first came to international attention with the album The Wind Horse and a memorable WOMAD appearance in 2011. Their second album is even more impressive, mixing atmospheric instrumentals and solo and harmony vocals with bursts of growling, eerie-sounding throat singing.
Their subject matter takes in nature, mythology and history, tempered with laments for those in exile from their homeland and the fight for the survival of an endangered way of life. 'Our music draws from all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified. We all have different ethnic backgrounds and we bring these influences into our music,' they explain. The engaging simplicity of their folk traditions is smartly enhanced by the sophisticated co-production of multiple Grammy award-winner Richard King. The band members have recently completed a two-month-long US tour and have returned to Hohhot as lecturers at the Inner Mongolia Arts University.