A little bit of Mongolia came to College Park on Friday, September 20, 2013, as the group Anda Union performed their concert The Wind Horse at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland. With a wide variety of different musical techniques and an outstanding dedication and zeal to their music, Anda Union’s concert was a wonderfully fun, and unique musical experience.
Anda Union is a group of ten hailing from all over Inner Mongolia, in China. They describe themselves as “music gatherers, digging deep into Mongol traditions and unearthing forgotten music.” Trained in traditional Mongolian music, Anda Union “combines different traditions and styles of music from all over Inner and Outer Mongolia” in order to “hold on to the essence of Mongolian music whilst creating a form of music that is new.” Their goal is to stimulate their culture, and re-engage young Mongols, to protect the way of life of the Grasslands and their age-old Mongolian culture.
Wearing traditional Mongolian garb, Anda Union opened the concert with a piece that showcased their own distinct style of Mongolian music, as well as all their different instruments. Using the morin huur (the traditional horse-head fiddle), as well as the tob shur (Mongolian lute), the moadin chor (Mongolian flute), the Mongolian drum, and using a special style of singing known as hoomei, or “throat singing,” it was clear from the beginning that this was no ordinary concert. The music was initially quiet, evocative of wind on the grasslands, but quickly turned intense and stirring.
Likewise, the passion of the musicians was apparent throughout the night, whether it was during their more melancholy pieces, such as during the song “Mother,” or the rousing upbeat pieces, such as their song “Jangar.” Their enthusiasm for their music and their culture was clear to the audience, and very contagious. One of the highlights of the night was the films accompanying various pieces as they played: the song “Hometown,” for example, was written by one of the members of Anda Union to express his homesickness for the grasslands while studying music in the city, and as Anda Union played, a film clip played in the background with contrasting scenes of the grasslands and the city, underscoring the feel and fervor of the piece. It was very effective and helped the audience connect on a deeper level with the group and their music.
Other pieces were performed specifically to highlight different techniques unfamiliar to Western audiences, such as the throat singing, or the long-song (called “urtyn duu”). It was very neat to hear pieces that used only those techniques and to become a bit more familiar with the music and sounds they produce. The throat-singing was especially interesting, as it allows the singer to produce two separate and distinct tones, essentially harmonizing with themself! That piece was certainly a highpoint of the night.
At the end of the night, one of the singers asked the audience, “Everyone like Anda Union music?” The answer, from the audience as a whole and from this reviewer, was a resounding “Yes!” Unfamiliar though it may have been at first, Anda Union music was captivating and passionate, played with such fervor that the audience was completely enchanted. It was truly a great night of music.
Running time: 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Anda Union: The Wind Horse played for one night only on Friday, September 21, 2013, at 8 pm at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center—3800 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Route 193 (University Boulevard), at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. For upcoming events, please check their calendar.
Anda Union website.