Anda Union at Norwich Arts Centre, Iceni Rising at OST, 9 February 2016
Quite often when browsing gig listings something different jumps out and piques the interest, Anda Union being one such example in Norwich Arts Centre’s rich and varied programme. Being quite keen on the Mongolian throat singing I have heard I couldn’t resist seeing what this gig would offer.
I was almost caught out by the early start, arriving just after 8pm, a mere few minutes before the programme started. No support act tonight just two sets from Anda Union, on their second visit to NAC which it was pleasing to note appeared to be full albeit with some seating on this occasion it was impressive on a February Tuesday evening for some traditional Mongolian folk music. I love how Norwich supports live music.
Taking a look at the stage just before the band came on about the only thing I recognised was an acoustic guitar amongst the line of two stringed instruments I know not the name of. Played together they sounded quite stunning in a varied set of slow and atmospheric numbers, together with drinking songs, battle hymns, and numerous odes to horses. The throat singing was truly astonishing, I found myself several times trying to work out who or what was making that sound and where it was coming from.
There are about nine members of the band including a couple of vocalists who joined onstage several times. What immediately struck me was how evocative and atmospheric the music was, as well as the incredible throat singing there were a host of stringed instruments (all featuring intricate horse carvings on the neck), drums, flute, delicate bells and what appeared to be a variation on a Jew’s mouth harp. The seated audience were highly appreciative if a little quiet to begin with but between songs the band were so endearing in their introductions everyone loosened up and were less afraid to join in. It seems the band all write and they each gave, in turn, a little background to the songs and their home towns, with some of the songs accompanied by scenes from their DVD film “From the Steppes to the City”.
They obviously take huge pride in their culture and history and play with great enthusiasm, eager to share what their homeland means to them. There was much humour in evidence too especially in the drinking song and comments on the English weather. Playing for over 90 minutes with a short interval they had the audience eating out of their hands towards the close with great cheering and clapping along for the frenetic 10,000 Galloping Horses (which featured remarkable whinnying sounds from the strings), even some singing in a call and response moment. This was fun. Exemplified by the young girl of six or so, surely the daughter of one of the band, dancing in the aisle joyously. Fittingly she joined them onstage to take a bow at the end. Anda Union played brilliantly and endeared themselves to everyone here, the applause rang out for a long time. They have also made me interested in their culture and Inner Mongolia, which I’m sure is part of their mission along with the obvious love of playing their music.
I’m so glad I took the chance on this gig, it’s so rewarding on occasions like this. On my way out I couldn’t resist buying their CD, and the DVD (and I was far from along in doing so) which I watched today. A fascinating account of not only the band but a 10,000 km journey through the grasslands of their Inner Mongolia homeland. The backgrounds touched upon in the introductions at the gig are wholly expanded upon in the film.
Thanks as always to Norwich Arts Centre who are putting on some amazing gigs and are being rewarded with a string of sellouts already this year. http://norwichartscentre.co.uk/supporter/
In 2003 AnDa Union was formed and a unique style of Mongolian music was born. The band are all trained in traditional Mongolian music from a young age, many coming from musical families. AnDa Union are accomplished singers, moving fluently from hoomai, the guttural throat song, to the clear long notes of ortinduu, long-song. They play many instruments including the morin huur, the maodun chaoer, a three-holed flute, as well as Mongolian versions of the lute, and mouth harp. Mongols have a strong musical tradition that is passed from generation to generation. The morin huur, or horse head fiddle, pays homage to the most important animal in the Mongol culture; almost all houses have one hanging in the hallway.
AnDa Union are bound by a mission to promote the essence of this music to the world. Leader of the group Nars says, “Most of the band members have been playing together since childhood. As adults, we studied professional vocals and instruments together. We are like a family. Six years ago, AnDa Union was forged and we haven’t looked back.”
Being a relatively early finish at NAC meant it was worth heading over to Cinema City to catch the end of the fortnightly OST. I missed Andy Kirkham, and Alden, Patterson & Dashwood had also just finished playing when I arrived though there was still a palpable buzz around the place about their set. However, I did catch once again Iceni Rising who I have seen several times, most recently at The Cottage for Moonshine Sessions. Their sound was absolutely perfectly suited to the gorgeous, woody Cinema City Bar, cello, saxophone, guitar and banjo sounding sublime. It’s not often I’ve heard Irish reels that include a sax but Iceni Rising make it work with aplomb. I was also thrilled to hear their fantastic version of Portishead’s Glory Box once again.
(c) shashamane 2016