Based in China but schooled in the art of traditional Mongolian traditional tunes and throat singing of Mongolia. Blend it with their love of modern rock music and what do you get? Chinese duo Tulegur! Frontman Gangzi, educated in traditional opera, can reach the lowest tone of Khoomei throat singing. In 2014, he combined with percussionist/guitarist Zongcan to create new music fusing grunge and Chinese folk. Hello Asia editor Johnny Au chats to the duo about their upcoming appearance at WOMADelaide festival.
Gangzi: Hi there!
Guys we’re really excited to hear Tulegur is performing at WOMADelaide festival in a few weeks time. Can I ask you what are your thoughts at playing at such an event?
Gangzi: We are really excited! This will be the first time in Adelaide and Australia for me. We have heard lots of beautiful things about your country. We are looking forward and really excited about WOMADelaide.
Zongcan: We are very happy that we have been invited for WOMADelaide. This is my second time in Adelaide. It’s a very good city. It’s very nice.
Can you describe the music of Tulegur for the audience at WOMADelaide?
Gangzi: That is a good question because I can’t answer you! (laughs) It is because we don’t even know! (laughs)
It says in the program you play Mongolian folk and modern rock. I’m sure quite a few Australian would not have heard of that genre of music before?
Gangzi: I think Mongolian music is quite popular around the world right now from a world music perspective. It does get played at world music festivals worldwide.
Zongcan: Some people say we are Mongolian grunge. Some say Mongolian rock, Mongolian metal, Mongolain Folk, Mongolian indie rock. A lot of different styles! (laughs)
What’s the music scene like in China at the moment?
Gangzi: I’m from Inner Mongolia which is a part of China. We live in Beijing and the music scene there is growing all the time. The growth is always speeding up. A lot of different bands is forming all the time.
Gangzi I see you have quite an interesting music background. Can you talk about your it for my audience?
Gangzi: I started becoming interested in rock music around 10 years old. The first time I heard rock music it really had an effect on me. I knew right away I liked rock music. But throughout high school and college I studied Opera music and classical piano. But I’ve always loved rock music. It is in my heart. So I finished my education in Beijing and realised I really wanted to play rock music.
I understand your singing technique is quite unique. Can you tell me why that is so?
Gangzi: I sing in a “throat singing” style called Khoomei. This is a traditional Mongolian singing technique. Khoomei has not being sung widely in China for more than 100 years. My family and friends have not heard of Khoomei until 2005. I researched the method and managed to obtain some recordings of the style. I brought the style back to China!
What about you Zongcan, what’s your music background?
Zongcan: It’s a long story so I will keep it short. I have played guitar since I was 17 years old and in music school I made my debut in a rock band. I travelled with the band and played in many cities in China. So I came to Beijing and met Gangzi.
How did you guys meet and formed this band? And how ling have you been together?
Gangzi: How much time do you have? (laughs). Because how we met is a really long story! We actually knew each other since 2010 but we didn’t know what the other was doing musically. Zongcan didn’t know I was a singer. So in 2012 we saw each other on the streets of Helsinki, Finland. We just saw each other randomly. I was like “What are you doing here?” Zongcan was touring Europe with Chinese band Nova Heart and I was touring in Europe as well. From there we travelled to Sweden and played together at the same gig. We told each other we should talk about working together when we get back to China. That didn’t happen because the timing wasn’t right. In 2014 there was a music festival in Malaysia and the organiser asked me if I wanted to play as a duo. I needed to find someone to play with me in three days. So I called Zongcan and he played percussion for me. And we have been together ever since.
What’s been some of your favourite places to perform?
Gangzi: My favourite place has to be Finland. Because everyone goes there! And that’s where Zongcan and I met. We are actually going to Australia first and then afterwards to New Zealand. This will be the first time in both countries for me.
Zongcan: I have been to Australia before with Nova Heart. I have visited many beautiful cities in Australia. Its one of my favourite places to perform. I really love the music scene there.
You released an EP last year called “Wind, Grass, Sound” can you tell me a little about the EP?
Zongcan: We created the EP because people wanted to know what our music is like outside of our live show. The EP also has a track where Gangzi and I wrote our first song together. We are still working on new material. I liked our debut EP. We really needed to record an EP because so many people were asking about our music and where they can purchase it. Gangzi’s sound changed quite a bit after I joined him as a duo. So this EP was really important to tell the world about the new Tulegur sound.
Do you think you will record a full length album down the track?
Gangzi: Of course! That’s the most important thing we are doing this year. We are working hard towards that.
What do you think the album will sound like? Do you have an idea on what you will be working on?
Gangzi: Actually we really have no idea in our minds what it will sound like. It could be anything. We’re always working on new things.
What kind of music inspires you?
Gangzi: I have been listening to everything but I mostly listen to grunge and rock.
Zongcan: Me too I like listening to rock music. I also listen to traditional Chinese and Japanese flute music. I have also been listening to Mongolian Folk music because we’re learning more from it everyday.
What plans do you have for the rest of this year?
Gangzi: We have a few festivals in China that we will be performing in. We are also going to Japan to perform and possibly some European shows as well. We’re always very keen to perform anywhere in the world. That is our passion!
How did you guys celebrate Lunar New Year?
Zongcan: We celebrated it with our families. Its tradition for us. Its always a big occasion where we will eat dumplings and let off fire crackers. We drink and eat and play mahjong.
We can’t wait to see you play in Adelaide for WOMADelaide! Thank you!
Gangzi: Hope you had a great new year! See you all in Adelaide! Great to talk to you.
Tulegur will be performing at WOMADelaide on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th of March. For more information on WOMADelaide and ticketing HERE.