Ajinai: Mongolian Music ... but not as you know it!
Hugejiletu, founder of Ajinia, set out his vision right at the beginning of 2009 when the band was first formed: retain his Mongolian roots but allow the influences of the big city (Beijing) to seep into his musical direction. After almost eleven years he is still treading his path but his audience has now grown to an international one - Vancouver, Toronto, Bali - he has got his message out, people are enjoying the warmth of Ajinai's performance and strength of their music.
TIn 2020, Ajinai’s music continues to develop and forge new pathways as Hugejiletu (Horsehead fiddle/Vocals/throat singing) experiments with new lineups and styles. The sounds of the Grasslands have moved into the 21st Century: Hugejiletu has succeeded. The band's back catalogue is well worth exploring, the first two albums in particular, stand out as groundbreaking.
Synthesis (2014), built on the direction set by their 2012 debut album, Ajinai but with a nod and a wink to wider world influences such as rock (Shanghai Transistor), and reggae (Four Seasons). The musically burlesque arrangement of (Burburei), a sort of Mongolian hoedown, also incorporates elements of Celt /Zydeco tradition as well. All of this adds up to a melting pot of an album, an album which somehow manages to steer a course that still allows for generous helpings of Mongolian folk tradition (Xila Grassland, Dald), to be retained.
'an earthy Mongolian crossover of the
past, present and future, fusion that mixes the energy of rock with the wildness of the Grasslands.’
Thus the opening track begins with a 90 year old recording of Mongolian folk melody — Aijinai’s way of signaling, ‘This is where we came from, now listen to where we are going,’ before cross-phasing its way into the folk/trance groove of Yil (in Mongolian, femininity, clarity and openness). On an album full of surprise, unusual coalitions and creative juxtapositions, Synthesis lives up to its title: entities forming to create something new.
Despite this, there is still plenty of evidence of galloping horses, Shamanic other worldliness, and oneness with nature, in this work — an earthy Mongolian crossover of the past, present and future, a fusion that mixes the energy of rock with the wildness of the Grasslands. As such this album represents a bold attempt to reach out to a wider audience by staging an incursion into their comfort zone, hopefully luring them towards a very different aural experience.
Qinggele, a Mongolian session singer, adds vocal accompaniment to six of the ten tracks – his upper register voice providing a foil for the deep bass/baritone of the multi instrumentalist, Hugejiletu. Both are masters of the art of throat singing, and use this to good effect throughout the album. Since Synthesis was made Qinggele has made his home in Hungary. As a result Hugejiletu has come to the fore as main vocalist, giving him the opportunity to show off his skills.
In 2012 Hugejiletu performed on my own album, The Zen Kick recorded in Hong Kong, adding Horsehead Fiddle and vocals. He also joined me onstage at the Zhangbei Festival in Northern China. Bumping into him on the road in China was one of the highlights of being there - a man of warmth and compassion, proud of his past and excited by his future. Check him out, you'll be glad you did.