TENGGER CAVALRY “The Second Mongol Invasion”

By Dr. Abner Mality

A little geography and history lesson from Dr. Mality might be in order to appreciate this interview. Mongolia is one of the largest completely landlocked countries in the world, hemmed in by the looming bulk of China and Russia. It is also one of the flattest and most sparsely populated. The grassy steppes of Mongolia seem to stretch into infinity, with little sign of trees or brush. It was these steppes that gave birth to the many nomadic tribes of Mongolia, who seemed to live on horseback and who understood how best to utilize the horse. When Genghis Khan found a way to unite these tribes, he created perhaps the greatest cavalry in history and used it to conquer more land than any other man has before or since.

Is it really such a surprise that Mongolia has taken to heavy metal as a musical form? A bigger surprise to me is that it has taken so long. A band called Tengger Cavalry has dedicated itself to the union of powerful, galloping metal and traditional Mongolian music. The combination is sensational! These two disparate forms of music seem made for each other and listening to Tengger Cavalry’s music conjures up images of the rushing Mongol hordes, swords held high as they race their steeds to the next battle.

A gentleman named Nature Ganganbaigal is the driving force of Tengger Cavalry. So dedicated is he to Mongolian heavy metal that he has started a new record label, Mongol Metal, which features the best of this new genre. A compilation “Mongol Metal” features not only the work of Tengger Cavalry but other bands like Nine Treasures and Ego Fall. And in his spare time, Nature also does solo albums that take more of a progressive, cinematic approach to Mongolian rock.

The first time I heard Tengger Cavalry, I knew I had to try and speak to the creators of the Mongol Metal movement. The spirit of the Khans smiled upon me, for I grabbed an interview with Nature himself and I present it now to you Worm-maniacs…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hail, Nature, and thanks for speaking to us. Let me first ask when you got the inspiration to play heavy metal. Was there a specific band or album that started you down that path?

NATURE GANGANBAIGAL: Hey, thank you for taking time to interview us, our pleasure. I started to listen to heavy metal when I was in middle school. I just went to those easy to find bands like Slipknot and Metallica and for a middle school kid that’s not a bad idea to start with. I just like the sound and the spirit behind heavy metal … very free and independent. 

WC: Was Western metal easy to access in China or Mongolia or is it difficult to hear?

NG: It is pretty easy to access , thanks to internet. If you look at the name list of the bands that toured in China, you will find Metallica, Testament, Kreator, Dream Theatre, Arch Enemy. You can stream their music and go to their concerts. Not as easily as in the Western world but still we get the chance once in a while.

WC: Is there support from the authorities and the more “mainstream” culture there for what you and Tengger Cavalry are doing?

NG: Not really. As you know, mainstream and authority really don’t give support to this kind of genre. We are on our own in the fight for this.

WC: What’s your background with traditional Mongol music? Are there a lot of teachers who are making sure this music is carried on?

NG: Yes, I was taught professionally by Mongolian teachers. I learned Mongolian fiddle Morin-Khuur, throat singing. I studied them and learned traditional songs. Very important basic things.

WC: Do traditional Mongol folk musicians support what you are doing or do some of them think maybe it is changing the music too much?

NG: Everyone has their own opinion. So far most of my Mongolian friends in the music scene dig what I am doing since I still retain the traditional spirit in my music.
WC:To me, the mix of authentic  Mongol music and heavy metal sounds incredibly natural. It makes sense! Is it easy to integrate instruments like Morin Khuur and Yatga into metal or does it take a lot of effort?

NG: For me, I need to take time to study the traditional way of using these instruments and observe and analyze how they convey their own sound in composition. And then I take that idea and put it into metal, trying my best to retain that traditional way of using it and at the same time, making it sound natural with heavy metal.

WC: Are the old Mongol traditions like throat singing, knucklebone games and falconry in a healthy state or are they in danger?

NG: They are totally safe and awesome!

WC: The Mongol Metal label is now active. How long have you been planning this label and what are some of the future plans for it?

NG: It has only been launched for a few months and we are planning to promote more Mongolian metal to the world. But let’s first see how the compilation “Mongol Metal” we have just released goes.

WC: On the “Mongol Metal” compilation,  Tengger Cavalry unites with Ego Fall and Nine Treasures. Is cooperation between the bands strong and are there more Mongol metal bands to come?

NG: These three bands are the only bands that I could find so far that fit into the genre. I am looking forward to see more bands like them and would love to help them promote their sound.

WC: Tengger Cavalry is the leader of the Mongol Metal movement. What kind of an honor is that and what kind of pressure does it put on you? 

NG: Never thought about it. You know, I just go with the flow and see where it goes.

WC: Are there any plans for Tengger Cavalry and other Mongol Metal bands to play in the West?

NG: Actually Tengger Cavalry has just recruited new members stateside so we will start performing in the US first.

WC: Are your lyrics all inspired by Shamanic tradition and Mongol history or do you delve into other areas?

NG: Yes, mostly just traditional themes like shamanism and Mongolian horseman themes. I am not very creative, I just like singing about the old times!

WC: You also have a solo album out under your own name that takes more of a progressive rock approach to the music. Tell us more about that.

NG: Yeah, it is a Mongolian folk album with electronic and orchestral music blended in. It is a cool concept, imagining when Genghis Khan’s music meets Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack. I got the chance to experiment with new sounds and arrangements on it.

WC: What was the last release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

NG: Kreator! I haven’t listened to them for a long time and just purchased their “new” album “Phantom Antichrist”.

WC: Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went wrong that you could share with us?

NG: Yeah! I just realized I left my key at my home one month ago! That’s really bad!

WC: Any last messages for fans in the West?

NG: Thank you all for taking time to read the interview and I hope you enjoy our music. Stay metal and kick ass!