december 2009
border crossings

Altan Urag’s B. Burentogs (left, on horse fiddle) and (right) B. Bolortungalag (aka Tungas) on drums and percussion, performing at Ikh Mongol, a microbrewery-style restaurant bar in the heart of Ulaanbaatar city, Mongolia. Other group members include: B. Erdenebat (aka Erka), Yoochin, piano; M. Chimidtogtoh (aka Chimdee), Pipe, throat singing; S. Gangaa (aka Gangaa), Great Fiddle, bass; and P. Oyunbileg (aka Oyunaa), Horse fiddle, throat singing.


Catching Up With Altan Urag

By Bilguun Munkhjargal


On the list of things I planned to do upon my return to Mongolia, apart from the family-related activities, was to see Altan Urag perform live at Ikh Mongol, a microbrewery-style restaurant bar in the heart of Ulaanbaatar city. I was familiar with the band's songs from music videos on YouTube and I became an immediate fan after watching its energetic and passionate live performance. Equipped with a rock band drumset and traditional musical instruments (including a custom-made horse-headed fiddle, with the horse head replaced by an Alien-head, traditional horn and yochin, a Mongolian hammered zither) plugged in to amplifiers and distortion effects units, the musicians held the full attention of the house through a 30-minute set.

Founded in 2002 by seven graduates of the University of Arts & Culture, Altan Urag have been the most successful music export from Mongolia so far. Named after the lineage or bloodline of Chinggis Khaan, termed "the Golden lineage" in Mongolian, the band retains its ties to the traditional musical roots with lyrics focused on nature and the Mongol identity. As its songs reveal, the band mixes many elements of traditional Mongolian music such as throat-singing and long-singing with rock and metal music influences.

Altan Urag (from left): P. Oyunbileg (aka Oyunaa), M. Chimidtogtoh (aka Chimdee), B. Bolortungalag (aka Tungas) on drums and percussion, (foreground) B. Erdenebat (aka Erka), S. Gangaa (aka Gangaa), B. Burentogs

Thrust into the spotlight with its second album, Made in Altan Urag (2006) and its work on the official soundtracks of Sergei Bodrov's Mongol and Brosens & Woodworth's Khadak films, the musicians’ dynamic fusion of Mongolian ethnic music and elements of western rock and post-rock has been a tremendous influence on the progressive ethnic music scene here.

Their song "Shiree nuur" (Shiree lake). from the Made in Altan Urag album, for example, is an interesting remix of a folk song with tinges of a post-apocalyptic symphony reminiscent of the Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s epic piece, "Sad Mafioso.”  Another song, "Araatan" (“The Beast”), featuring a guest vocalist, Naran, is the lamentation of an aged shamanness over the destruction to Mother Nature caused by humans.

A medley of two Altan Urag songs, ‘Davalgaa’ (‘Wave’) and ‘Ijii Mongol’ (‘Mother Mongolia’).

Despite touring tirelessly around the world since 2004, the band still performs its permanent set at Ikh Mongol twice a week when back home in Ulaanbaatar. In 2009, the group released four albums simultaneously, each with a different theme and a musical style.

Altan Urag official website:

Some of their songs can be heard on their MySpace profile page:

Altan Urag’s music is featured in Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov’s epic Mongol. Concerning the life and legend of Chinggis Khaan, the movie is based on leading scholarly accounts of Khaan’s life and shows him as the heroic, visionary leader he is regarded as by his own people.

bilguunAbout Bilguun Munkhjargal: Born in Mongolia, I spent 13 years traveling around the world until returning to Mongolia in 2008. Presently working as an art director for a creative marketing agency, I am also the writer of a somewhat regular blog called Asian Gypsy ( on the current affairs, culture and other topics of interest pertaining to Mongolia.


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