The Hu and cry for hu-manity through Mongolian music

I recently went to see The Hu perform in Brighton and I can’t praise them enough. It is a wonderful experience to go and see a live band play and come away not only having enjoyed the music but also having being filled with respect for the performers.

The Hu are a Mongolian rock band who have been playing together since 2016. There are eight musicians in all, and they play a wide range of instruments. The Morin khuur – there are two of them played in the band – is held like a guitar, played with a bow and is fashioned with an ornate handle such as a spearhead or a horse’s head. The tsuur is a kind of flute. There are drums and bass as well. Several members of the band sing in a deep resonant style called Mongolian throat singing, which is an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism that is still practised today.

The band calls their style of music hunnu rock, hu being a Mongolian root word for human. As well as being musically brilliant, they were exceptional live performers. Their rapport with the audience was one of boundless generosity. There was none of the egocentricity in the encore concept of most rock bands, where the band walk offstage and wait for ten minutes while the audience clap and cheer until the band come back, feigning modesty, and play two of their best known songs. The Hu just played and played, as if it was what they enjoyed doing most in the world. And ninety minutes later, they were still playing and as soon as they’d finished, the ‘encore’ thing happened so they came straight back and did another half an hour.

Their music is very powerful and rhythmic, ranging from rocking tunes like Yuve Yuve Yu to songs that are meditative and hypnotic. The audience loved them, although a woman next to me said that she thought it was a pity that she didn’t know what they were singing about. But it’s not difficult to find out. Their YouTube videos contain translations of the songs line by line as they are performed, and it is wonderful to understand the respect for their ancestors through their lyrics and musical heritage. For me, there was no language problem: the band invited us to join in with choruses and we could all emulate phonetically what they were singing. It was a privilege to embrace their culture.

The singer, Jaya, repeatedly thanked the audience in four English words. Another musician, Gala, had no English and the audience as far as I know had none of his language, but we applauded and cheered and he communicated his appreciation by thumping his heart with his fist. It was a perfect example of multicultural communication.

The Hu are currently on tour and I rank them among the best live bands I’ve seen, the criteria being that you leave the gig feeling like you’ve been to a party and danced and been included in a celebration and enjoyed every second. Gogol Bordello, Steel Pulse, Manu Chao, The Dropkick Murphys, The Hu, Motorhead (RIP Lemmy!), Greta Van Fleet – all these bands create the same atmosphere of rejoicing in music and a coming together of humanity. It’s what we need now as much as at any other time, the sense that music is shared together: it’s party time, an experience which connects us all and that we are basically humans, all the same, a one-world community who wish the best for others and for themselves.

The Hu are magnificent. They are on my list of bands I’d travel to watch again and again. They are seriously very good. Do go and watch them if you get the chance. Their music is hypnotic, celebratory and a damn good rocking night out.