AnDa Union play Mongolian traditional music heavily featuring horses in their tunes and instruments. The band, made up of musicians from inner and outer Mongolia, was formed at a music college with the aim of preserving and developing songs and tunes that had been handed down over generations.
Arriving on stage they immediately had a presence. Some of the band wore traditional Mongolian clothes – long bright gowns that looked like they were made of silk and strange shaped multi-coloured hats.
Apart from a guitar, the instruments were all traditional Mongolian creations.
Stringed instruments dominated much of the concert, weirdly shaped cello-type instruments and horse head fiddles (officially the morin khurr which looks vaguely like a violin with a carved horse,s head at the top of the strings).
Some tunes had a classical feel, a little like something performed by a string ensemble, whilst others had Celtic or eastern European rhythms. A percussionist provided a driving beat. On slower tunes whistles and flutes provided a delicate contrast to the dance rhythms.
Some songs were ballads but perhaps vocally the highlight was the Mongolian throat singing. It’s a low growling sound, sometimes harsh and mostly sung without the backing of the full band for full effect.
While performing their music, AnDa Union were earnest, almost stoical.
In contrast, between tunes and songs, they made the best use of their limited English in a relaxed, jovial and self-deprecating manner.
After great applause following a tune related to horses, with whinnying sounds from the fiddles and galloping horse percussion effects, we were asked: “Would you like more tunes about horses? We have loads of tunes about horses.”
Clearly humour is a common language.
The term ‘unique sound’ is over-used but is totally appropriate when describing this nine-piece. Their music was intense, absorbing and entertaining.