Nature Ganganbaigal Brings Mongolian Tradition to the Modern West [Review]

 

Nature GanganbaigalNature Ganganbaigal is many things to many different genres. He was trained in both traditional Mongolian and Chinese music but since moving to New York City he has branched out into a number of other areas. As a commercial composer and leader of a Mongolian/metal fusion band, Nature Ganganbaigal works to bring his native traditions to the modern west in a number of ways. With the release of his second solo EP entitled The Mantra in July, Ganganbaigal is looking to musically merge eastern and western folk traditions in a more straightforward way than he ever has.

Nature Ganganbaigal began his musical training in his native Mongolia, but he is also part Chinese. He also learned traditional Chinese musical modalities before moving to the United States. Once in New York, he became enamored with the diversity of Western music and took to commercial composition right away. He has been widely recognized for his interesting and inspired movie and video game soundtracks by the likes of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the NOLA Film Fest and Roma Cinemadoc. In addition, he is the leader of the Mongolian metal band Trengger Cavalry, which has its own gallery of accolades including being featured on MTV and written up by the Huffington Post and Noisey.

Nature Ganganbaigal’s first cohesive solo effort, To Where Tengger Leads Me, released in 2014 and saw him pairing his Mongolian and Chinese folk roots with Western folk music to create a more direct folk fusion than he had done with his other projects. The Mantra continues this folk merger with an expert musical juxtaposition of east and west which both honors Nature Ganganbaigal’s musical base and helps to initiate western aNature Ganganbaigaludiences into his diverse musical world.

The Mantra has lots of Mongolian parts to it, such as Nature Ganganbaigal’s expert throat singing and his traditional Morin khuur, an instrument that many westerners will recognize. These eastern elements feature in different proportions in relation to the other elements on the EP in each song. In the title track as well as Leader Wolf, Ganganbaigal’s throat singing is in the forefront, leading these tracks. In the second song on the EP, White Pony, this aspect takes a back seat to the Morin khuur and in Ancient Gobi Road and Life Rattles On, it is almost non-existent.

All of the tracks on The Mantra have some sort of western-influenced string melody, whether on guitar or on the Morin khurr, which serves to unify the eastern and western elements of each song. On the title track this melody sounds similar to indie rock, but also has elements of Mongolian folk. On White Pony, this merging is even more subtle as both the eastern and western elements are folk-based.

Another interesting element is regarding the lower tones on the EP. The tracks on The Mantra would largely be regarded as acoustic since there is a lack of accompanying bass and drums. These elements are still there, however, thanks to the technique Ganganbaigal uses on the Morin khuur to create a percussive effect and also because of the low, gutteral throat sounds which give a rich, bass-driven sound. All the aspects of a western song structure are thus represented, but with a decidedly eastern methodology.

The Mantra EP sees Nature Ganganbaigal bridging the gap between his eastern upbringing and the western music he has grown to love since moving to the U.S. While he has always been known for his east-meets-west fusion style, there is a more subtle balance struck between these two musical traditions than he has been able to achieve in his previous projects. It seems that in his solo work, Nature Ganganbaigal is trying to show the similarities between eastern and western music rather than highlight their differences. With The Mantra, Ganganbaigal shows without a doubt how music can be a great unifying force in the human experience.

Review by Layla Klamt

Sources:
Bandcamp.com: “The Mantra”
Nature-ganganbaigal.com: “Home”
Tengger-cavalry.com: “Home”

All images have been provided courtesy of Nature Ganganbaigal’s media kit.

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