Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sounds of Mongolia

I worry, sometimes, about what the world is coming to.  Not so much in the sense of how we are damaging the environment and what we do to each other as people (although those are problems, too), but because of what we do with our lives.  I think about how Shaggy and I used to amuse ourselves as kids - we were outside all summer, sliding down hills and wading in ponds - and wonder if kids do that anymore, or if they just sit around on their iPads and phones.  It's become so easy to amuse ourselves, and I worry that one day creativity, musical talent, the ability to find your own sense of fun...if these things will be lost arts.
Mongolia gives me hope.  Last fall when Engrish, Geek, and I stayed with Enkhaa's herder friends, as we were staring up at the Milky Way - so clear, far out from the city - someone took out their horsehead fiddle and played what I swear was "Home on the Range."  It felt like we'd stepped back in time - Mongolian music often makes me feel that way, even when it's Altan Urag rocking out.
Sunday night we went to the final performance of a gala concert called "Eternal Mongolia," which involved performances by nine different Mongolian bands.  Engrish, Blondie, and I are always up for some Mongolian music, and when we found out that both Altan Urag and Arga Bileg were playing in it we could hardly contain ourselves.  It was so much more, though.  There were dancers with some of the acts, and one of the best contortionists I've seen here.  The stage set-up was genius.  The backdrop was actually on a rotating axis, and while one band was playing a song, another band was on the other side setting up.  And for the big final piece, they dropped the curtain, and had two choruses sing a capella - the women pictured below and a group of male throat singers.
It was a spectacular performance, and it breaks my heart to say that it ended on a sour note.  Some fat old Mongolian dude that everyone seemed to know came out and introduced all the bands...and all the singers....and all the dancers.....and the president of Mongolian......and the producers of the show.........and the lighting guys......  It went on, and on, and on, and on - for a whole 30 minutes while we were roasting in our seats and just wanted to get home and get to sleep so we could go to work the next day.  It was a shame to see it go out like that, but there ya go.  Life's not perfect, and neither is Mongolia, but you can put up with a few imperfections now and again.

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