SOUNDS of the steppes will fill Eden Court on Sunday evening when 10-strong Mongolian ensemble AnDa Union make their Eden Court debut.
Bringing together musicians and singers from differing ethnic nomadic cultures from throughout Inner Mongolia in China, AnDa Union bring a wide range of musical instruments and vocal styles to theatres and festivals around the world.
Formed in 2000, they have already influenced a generation of young Mongolians in Inner Mongolia as traditional music is once again flourishing.
"Most of the band members have been playing together since childhood," group co-founder Nars, who plays the morin huur, and other stringed fiddles, commented.
"As adults, we studied professional vocals and instruments together. We are like a family."
It is a feeling that is reflected in their name. AnDa means a blood brother or sister and for Mongolians an AnDa is more important than a birth brother as you choose a person to become an AnDa.
AnDa Union were all trained in traditional Mongolian music from a young age, many coming from musical families.
They are now part of a musical movement that is finding inspiration in old and forgotten songs, drawing on a repertoire that had all but disappeared during the region’s recent tumultuous past.
As a group they hold on to the essence of Mongolian music while creating a form of music that is new. In the past a soloist would traditionally perform many of the instruments AnDa Union play, and Mongolian musicians have tended to concentrate on a particular musical technique. AnDa Union combine different traditions and styles of music in a way that is new to Mongolia.
However, they stay true to the nation’s traditional instruments, such as the morin huur, or horse head fiddle. As a symbol of the most important animal in the Mongol culture, almost all houses in Mongolia have one hanging in the hallway.
The group describe themselves as music gatherers, digging deep into Mongol traditions to stimulate their culture and reengage young Mongols, many of who no longer to speak their own language.
Group member Saikhannakhaa, who was Mongolia’s first professional female musician, is fighting to reverse this trend by opening a bar in the capital of the Chinese region of Innver Mongolia, Hohhot.
"I found an old golden wheel with half its spokes broken," she said.
"It looks like a wheel that once turned the warrior carts of the great Mongol armies. I will hang this wheel in my bar as a warning to Mongolian people that our culture is broken and needs to be mended."
Anda Union Instruments
Morin Huur – Horse Head fiddle. A two stringed instrument played with a bow, similar to a cello, and has a unique method of fingering.
Tob shur – Mongolian two stringed lute.
Moadin Chur – Mongolian flute. The player plays the flute whilst at the time singing Hoomei (throat
singing). Very few people are able to play this instrument and AnDa Union’s Chinggel was one of only four musicians in Inner Mongolia that kept the tradition alive.
Hoomei – Throat/overtone singing. Various methods in different parts of Mongolia and neighbouring Tuva.
Urtyn duu - Longsong. The name is derived not from the length of the songs, but rather the long notes. A three minute long song might only have 10 words. This style of singing evolved in the grasslands as the Mongolians tended their sheep and was used to sing to the animals to call and to calm them.
Mongolian Drum - Double sided sheep skin drum.
• AnDa Union perform at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, at 8pm on Sunday January 31.