Mongolian folk rockers The Hu on their rise to fame and sold-out Irish shows
Last year saw Mongolian folk-rock act The Hu making the leap from viral sensations to bona fide Top 40 contenders with the release of debut album, The Gereg. Ahead of making their Irish live debut in Belfast next month, David Roy quizzed the Ulaanbaatar-based band about pioneering their distinctive 'hunnu rock' sound and meteoric rise to fame
MONGOLIAN folk-metal band The Hu hit number 21 on the UK Top 40 last year with the release of their debut album The Gereg – a first for any Mongolian act.
Musically, the quartet's unique 'hunnu' sound is a mesh of rock/metal dynamics, khoomei-style throat singing and traditional Mongolian horsehead fiddles (morin khuur), lute (topshur) and flute (tsuur).
The band – Galbadrakh 'Gala' Tsendbaatar, lead throat singing/morin khuur, Enkhasaikhan 'Enkush' Batjargal, lead morin khuur/throat singing, Nyamjantsan 'Jaya' Galsanjamtsa, jaw harp/tsuur/flute/throat singing, Temuulen 'Temka' Naranbaatar, topshur/backing vocals – first rose to international fame last year when the videos for their songs Wolf Totem and Yuve Yuve Yuthey became viral sensations, racking up millions of views online.
After releasing their debut album to international acclaim, The Hu recently finished their first ever tours of Europe and the USA: now, they have Ireland, Britain and the rest of the world in their sights. With their first ever Irish dates already sold out, we quizzed The Hu – via their manager/translator, Tuga – about their unique sound, its origins and their rapid rise to fame...
:: HI GUYS, are you looking forward to playing in Ireland for the first time on the upcoming tour?
We are super excited to see our Irish fans. Thank you for all of your love and support!
:: You did your first ever worldwide touring last year, what was this experience like for the band and what were some of the highlights?
After playing in front of so many amazing crowds in Europe, the UK and North America, we feel so much connection, love and support. Our fans chant with us, they sing with us and they mosh with us. They are so important to us. We feel as if they are our family. One of our favourite memories is there was a non-Mongolian guy in front of us who could throat sing in Mongolian at The Melkweg in Amsterdam. We were blown away by him and how good he sounded.
:: Your debut album The Gereg was a big success on the charts in the US and Europe – were you pleased with this and do you think your second album can do even better?
We were honoured to make the charts in number of countries. It's an amazing feeling to see your music get recognized as an artist. We are working on our second album already and there will be so many great songs on the next album.
:: Which are your favourite songs from the record to perform live?
We love all of our songs because every single one of them means something to us. But the fans love when we play Wolf Totem and Yuve Yuve Yu.
:: How did the band start and what inspired you to create this sound in the first place?
In 2016, the four band members together with [The Hu's producer] Dashka started working on the first few songs. Creating and arranging these songs helped us find the sound we were looking for.
:: What is the music scene like in Ulaanbaatar and are there any other bands at home or elsewhere starting to embrace/copy the Hunnu sound?
We got a lot of bands and artists practicing so many genres of the music in Ulaanbaatar. We see some artists are embracing similar sounds like us.
:: How long does it take to learn to sing in the 'khoomei' style?
It's a hard technique to learn and master. In the band we all have between two to 20 years of khoomei experience.
:: The Hu have become ambassadors for Mongolian music culture and history – did you expect to carry such responsibility as a band, and what is it like being in that role as 'the face' of your home country?
We are so honoured and humbled to be named as the official ambassadors of our country. It's a lot of responsibility. We'll represent our country in a positive way in the world.
:: Which bands or musicians have most inspired The Hu?
We have all sorts of inspirations and influences including Mongolian traditional music, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Slipknot, Rammstein, Tool, Lamb of God etc.
:: Which bands or musicians would The Hu like to collaborate with in the future?
Slipknot, Metallica, Tool, System of a Down, Foo Fighters, Lamb of God… the list goes on.
:: Will we ever hear The Hu covering The Who?
:: Finally, what's next for The Hu?
We want to keep doing what we're doing now, and, in the future, we want to leave a global mark of our music around the world.
:: The Hu, February 15, The Limelight, Belfast (sold-out) / February 16, The Academy, Dublin (sold-out). The band also play the Sunstroke festival at Punchestown Racecourse on June 13 and 14. Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie.