Hurd: famous Mongolian rock band aims to cross-over
Three long-haired men sit around the table, frowning and
shifting in their seats. A young Australian woman has just
asked them to tell the time in English, and after a long pause,
one says, slowly, “Three fifty.” He sighs deeply, and with
effort, adds: “-Or, ten to four.” They are all visibly relieved
when the lesson is over.
An unusual view of one of Mongolia’s foremost heavy metal
bands, Hurd. Three albums down the musical highway, Hurd remain
one of the original rock bands to form before Mongolia’s transition
to democracy. (
In Mongolia’s socialist past, new forms of music were suppressed
and controversial lyrics outlawed. People expressed their
love of music through traditional instruments such as the
horse fiddle and folklore songs. But soon enough secret imports
of western music such as the Beatles began to find their way
into the young generation’s hands and Mongolia’s own pop and
rock bands of the 1980s were gradually accepted by the government.
After the opening up of Mongolia in the early 1990s, bands
began to travel abroad and foreign groups came to do historic
Rock and heavy metal music quickly became popular and today
there are several well-established bands. Hurd has one of
the biggest followings, showing an ability to cross over into
gentle ballads and even mixing with classical instruments.
Citing musical influences in rock legends, Metallica and AC/DC,
the band has evolved over time from speed metallic to heavy
metal sounds. Yet it is their ballads that are replayed constantly
on Ulaanbaatar’s radio stations; among the most famous are
“Girl in a Painting” and “Don’t Cry”. The lyrics are mostly
about parents and the motherland, as found in many of the
traditional Mongolian songs.
“We worship our parents. If it wasn’t for them, we would
not be here,” says band member, Otgonbayar. “If we translated
our lyrics, people elsewhere (could) listen to the words,
and they would love their parents more.” Otgonbayar’s three
brothers are also in the band. He taught himself how to drum
by playing on cups while living in the countryside, and later
moved to Ulaanbaatar to study, when he first heard western
heavy metal music.
“We are a young country and this is the music of young people,”
he says. “We are not ignoring traditional long song. It still
exists.” The latest figures recorded 42 per cent of Mongolians
are under 18.
The country’s small population has left no room for the adulation
and pop star worship found in most contemporary music scenes
around the world – another factor setting the Mongolian music
“Support is strong in our concerts, but Mongolians are mellow,”
says bass player, Nara. “So in the street, people come and
ask for autographs, but they don’t make idols out of us. People
listen to all the popular bands. There are no real fans.”
A mix of wholesome lyrics and gentleness gives Mongolian
heavy metal a softer edge, although some of Hurd’s faster
tracks are not that different to their western equivalents.
The band are now planning a series of concerts for the summer,
this time performing with a classical orchestra, and will
release two singles in April and May.
In the long-term, Hurd have the same dream as many young
Mongolians, to travel abroad. Six of their songs are already
translated into English and two have been recorded. To reach
audiences in other countries, the band feel they need to sing
“We have to work hard. The first step is English, to sing
songs in English. We can’t just sit in Mongolia,” says Naya.
Otgonbayar nods and quotes a well-used Mongolian saying: “If
you have language, you have legs.”
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