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Beijing, Beijing, China | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Beijing, Beijing, China
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Folk World




"2013 Performer Q & A: Ajinai, from China with Fiddle & Song"

“For me, a musician’s first responsibility is to bring people joy.” Hugjiltu of Ajinai

Ajinai’s sound is built around the resonant tones of the horse-head fiddle and the other-worldly rumble of traditional Mongolian throat-singing, a combination which directly conveys the expansive solitude of the Inner Mongolian grasslands, as well as the rugged spirit of the nomadic way of life. For years, lead vocalist/instrumentalist Hugjiltu has been at the core of a Mongolian folk music revival that has taken root in Beijing, China, once capitol of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, and still home to a large ethnic Mongolian community. Resisting the commercialization of his traditional heritage, Hugjiltu walked away from an international recording contract to form Ajinai expressly as a vehicle for promoting the spiritual heart of Mongolian culture in the modern age. In the Mongolian language, “ajinai” means a powerful steed —a fitting symbol for the nomadic worldview that informs Ajinai’s music, as well as for dynamic surges between musical past and present that characterize their sound.

Artist Q&A: Ajinai (China)
Responses by Hugjiltu: bandleader, vocalist, instrumentalist.
Translation by Joshua Dyer

1. Tell us a little bit about Mongolia and the culture (and music) that influences your sound.

My family is has always been involved in Mongolian music, so I have been surrounded by it since an early age. I’ve played horse-head fiddle for many years, and studied various Mongolian vocal techniques. After coming to Beijing from Inner Mongolia, I met a lot of musicians playing other styles of music, and we began to work together in more modern formats, while trying to preserve the feeling of traditional Mongolian folk music. For a while I was doing Mongolian songs in a rock style, but too much of the traditional flavor was lost. Then I started experimenting with compositions and arrangements that were truer to the spirit of Mongolian music, forcing the modern instruments to adapt to the music, rather than dominate it. That was the motivation for forming Ajinai.

2. What has been the highlight of your performing career?

Every performance is a highlight for me, but I guess I could say my collaboration with Bela Flek and the Sparrow Quartet in 2006 in Beijing left the deepest impression. Bela has an amazing ability to quickly grasp and blend with any musical mood. Since he didn’t understand the words I was singing, he wanted the stage set-up to give him a clear view of me. He was able to perfectly match his paying to the the emotions he saw in my face. His eyes, ears and hands are totally connected that way. He’s an amazing musician.

3. What excites you about performing at the BaliSpirit Festival? Do you do yoga?

I’m looking forward to seeing the beach in Bali, and getting some sunshine. And I look forward to meeting the other performers. For me, music is about making friends, finding new people to collaborate with, and sharing some good times. I don’t do yoga, but I’m definitely going to give it a try.

4. What kind of audience response do you anticipate for your first performance in Indonesia?

I think they’ll like our music, especially the local Balinese audience. The Balinese also have well-preserved traditional music, so I think our music will have a special resonance for them.

5. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will you hit the recording studio? Head off on tour?
We’re hoping to record a new CD, and we will tour Europe in July and August. At the end of the year we will tour China.

6. The BaliSpirit Festival is about social action, as well as great music. Do you feel that you have an obligation to represent your culture through music?

For me, a musician’s first responsibility is to bring people joy. Of course, we are also happy that we can use our music to help people. As a ethnic Mongolian living in China, I feel that the preservation of our traditional culture is very important. We’re an ethnic minority here, so this is a great responsibility. We have to interest young people in their own culture. Music is a great way to do that. - Bali Spirit Festival

"Guinness More Music Presents Ajinai"

Ajinai are an Inner Mongolian folk rock and world music band based in Beijing. They performed a fantastic energetic concert at Yuyintang this month as part of the GUINNESS ® More Music series with Split Works.
In case you missed the concert, here is the official event video: - Redscale Studios

"Ajinai brings Mongolian spirit to performance"

A band that channels the sounds and feelings of the plains of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ajinai will perform at Yuyintang in Shanghai next Friday.

The band, whose name in Mongolian means “powerful steed,” has recently returned from a tour in northern Europe.

As part of Guinness MORE Music event, a series of concerts and festivals to showcase China’s growing independent modern folk movement, Ajinai’s live performance will provide a portal into the spirit of the Mongolian people, helping to keep its culture alive against a backdrop of rushing modernization.

“It will be the third time we perform in Shanghai. The first time was back in 2009 when we launched our first album,” says Hugjiltu, the front man, leader and vocalist of the band. “Shanghai fans are enthusiastic. They respect our works and are willing to buy our CDs.”

Ajinai’s sound is built around the resonant tones of the horse-head fiddle (ma tou qin 马头琴) and traditional Mongolian throat-singing.

Traditional Mongolian tunes from the band often incorporate modern percussion in an attempt to balance improvised elements.

Each member of Ajinai brings something special to the group. Besides the horse-head fiddle, they play other traditional Mongolian folk instruments such as the mouth harp.

Though the combination of sounds, audience can feel the solitude of the grasslands and nomadic way of life.

All of Ajinai’s songs are in the Mongolian language. True to its name, the band’s songs also can evoke pictures of galloping horses, set to the rhythm of life in the deep recesses of their distant homelands.

A highlight of Ajinai’s performance next Friday will be the participation of electronic music artist Mu Ren, who will add electronic elements to the traditional folk band.

For years, lead vocalist Hugjiltu has been at the core of a Mongolian folk music revival, and also has experimented with injection of new elements into the folk music performance.

“I resist commercialization because I want to promote the spiritual heart of Mongolian culture in the modern age,” he says. “Our songs focus on nature and humans.

Hugjiltu was born into a family that lived and breathed Mongolian music. He played the horse-head fiddle for many years and also studied various Mongolian vocal techniques.

After moving to Beijing from Inner Mongolia, he met a lot of musicians playing other styles of music. They began to work together in more modern formats, while trying to preserve the feeling of the traditional Mongolian music.

Soon he started experimenting with compositions and arrangements that were true to the spirit of Mongolian music, forcing modern instruments to adapt to the music, rather than to dominate it. That was the motivation for forming Ajinai.

“We are hoping to bring energy to the audience,” says the vocalist. “After the performance, we will go to Beijing to prepare for our next new album.”

Date: December 6, 9pm

Address: 851 Kaixuan Rd

Admission: 40 yuan (students), 60 yuan (at door) - iDEAL Shanghai

"Guinness More Music: Ajinai Show"

From the plains of innermost Mongolia, GUINNESS® More Music and Split Works bring you Ajinai. Ajinai’s music provides a portal into the spirit of the Mongolian people, helping to keep the country’s culture alive against a backdrop of unavoidable modernization. Riding on an extraordinary dedication to their inheritance of Mongolian history, culture and music, the members of Ajinai express an uninhibited and bold temperament typical of the Mongolian people.

Each song winds and wavers with a rumbling passion that evokes pictures of galloping horses, set to the rhythm of life in the deep recesses of their distant homelands. The Horse-head fiddle brings a distinctive sound, which carves lines into the music leaving listeners with a strong impression of Mongolia’s rich culture.

Since coming together in 2009 the troupe that makes up Ajinai have performed regularly in Beijing and Shanghai, and were received warmly in the 2010 Midi Music Festival. The individual members of the band have also been very active, with front man Hugjiltu playing across Europe, Mexico and Canada as part of Hanggai, who will be joining us in the final installment of Guinness More Music. Each member of Ajinai brings something special to the group, drawing from a long lineage of creative talent. We can’t wait to hear their singsong tales of bygone times, of horse riding in the plains, love, life and nature. - Split Works

"Interview with Hugejiletu of Mongolian folk band Ajinai"

Parker Mah caught up with HuGeJiLetu (胡格吉乐图), master throat singer and horse-head fiddle player, at this year’s HubSession performance at the Eastern Bloc on January 18, 2013. Born in Inner Mongolia and now based in Beijing, he spearheaded a folk-fusion revival with his band Dawanggang (大忘杠), formed with Song Yuzhe (宋雨哲) over 10 years ago, and is still active with his current band Ajinai (阿基耐). Their self-titled independent debut mixes Mongolian folk and contemporary sounds.
This interview was recorded before his Montreal appearance with the HubSession project, an initiative des Offices Jeunesse Internationaux du Québec, that brought together electro-acoustic musicians and artists from 4 countries for a series of collaborative performances, the last of which was held in Montreal.
BIG THANKS / GROS MERCI à Gabrielle Mercier-Richard & Claude Lorrain-Bouchard de leur aide pour la traduction & l’interpretation!

Listen to the interview here:


Ajinai Info

Information on HubSession:


Interview Transcription

PM: Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us about your musical background?

我是來自內蒙的,中國內蒙的… 我是研究蒙古族的傳統樂器馬頭琴。
我常吟蒙古傳統的一些歌,這個歌有一些唱法是叫humai 還有一些長調這樣的唱法。。。我的音樂背景就是,,從小我父親,我父親是在。。扎魯特旗一個很有名的民間藝術家,它影響了我,然後我做了音樂到現在。。

I come from Inner Mongolia in China. My name is Hugelijetu and I study the matouqin, also known as the horse-head fiddle. I often use traditional Mongolian songs and some ways of singing…one is called humai (throat singing) and also [a genre known as] Long drawn song. As for my musical background… My dad was a famous folk artist in Zhalute county. He influenced me since I was young and I’ve been doing music ever since.

PM: You usually play with a band – Ajinai. How was the creative process at Hubsession different from the what you usually do in your work?

My band is called Ajinai. This band fuses modern guitar, bass and drums with traditional matouqin and humai, and the long song way of singing. Our band likes to blend genres.
But here, with this performance I’m doing today, I’ve done it many times before and I’ve collaborated with [the other artists at Hubsession] many times, so when we arrive somewhere, a few people would get some kind of feeling or impression and then they would create their video, and I would start to create my music and melodies. After we started rehearsing, we would be able to perform as one mind, with everyone connected.

PM: Your music mixes traditional Mongolian styles with contemporary styles. Who have been your major artistic influences?

我的CD是融合了这样的…我的现在做的音乐也是在融合。其实对我有一个影响的是一个比较…很早以前听的一个乐队,叫Yat-Kha,from 图瓦,俄罗斯的一个乐队。他们是蒙古的音乐和rock在一起的一个…这样的一个乐队。所以我那个时候还在上大学,还在学习马头琴,我听到这个乐队,我觉得非常有意思。然后我记得那个乐队的CD叫《图瓦rock》,然后听了很长时间。后来一直想做这样的乐队。其实就是这个乐队影响了我后来到北京开始做一个乐队。之前的乐队叫“杭盖”,我做了5年。杭盖乐队我们也来过魁北克演出。然后5年以后,我休息了一段时间,又开始做现在的这个乐队,叫AJINAI。
My CD blends genres. I fuse a lot of styles in the music I do too. Actually there is a band that has influenced me, from a very long time ago, called Yat-Kha, a Tuvan band. They use Mongolian music and rock in their works. When I was still in university and learning matouqin, I was listening to them, I thought, now that’s interesting. And I remember their CD was called Tuva rock and I listened to it for a long time. Afterwards, I always wanted to do that kind of band.
In fact, it’s this band that influenced me when I formed Hanggai in Beijing. I was with them 5 years. Hanggai even came to Quebec for a performance once. But after 5 years, I took a break for a while, and then started this band, Ajinai.

PM: Do you have certain groups that have influenced you in your music?

国外的其实有很多乐队像一个乐队叫Huun Huur Tu,然后还有一个乐队叫…还有一个歌手叫Sainkho, 他们其实都…对我都有一些影响。像Huun Huur Tu是folk,Yat-Kha是folk and rock,但是Sainkho可能是…她是什么都做。那个女的…一个女人,岁数老一点的女人,她是什么音乐都做,也做声音的艺术,就是实验、先锋、爵士什么的都做。她是影响我比较深的一个人。
Outside of China, there are actually a lot of bands, like Huun Huur Tu. There’s also a female singer called Sainkho. They all have had some influence on me. Huun Huur Tu is folk, Yat-Kha is folk and rock, but Sainkho, she does everything, she does all kinds of music, and also voice art which is like experimental music, avant-garde music, jazz, she does it all. She influenced me a lot.

PM: What type of things do you sing about in your music?

Well, for example, for the music in Ajinai, when a song is finally written, if the song is happy, then I’ll be in a happy state, but if the next song is slow, and sad, then I’ll get into that other state. But sometimes, we just have fun, we improvise, we don’t actually write the song, so depending on what I feel then, either happy or tired, well it’s just a thing that helps me express myself naturally. I don’t like being held back by something, like, “Today, we have to be a certain way”. So every time [we play] there’s going to be some differences.

PM: How is your music received by audiences in China?

In China right now, maybe some old people might not like [my music], but now a lot of university students and young people, if they read or they are on the internet, the number of people that understand this kind of thing is increasing and they are interested in all kinds of music. So if we have a show, for example in Beijing, half the room will be non-chinese and the other half will be university students and young people.

PM: What are your top 5 up and coming Chinese or Mongolian artists right now?

在中国,类似这样的音乐我比较喜欢的是…有一个女歌手叫乌仁娜,她是内蒙的。还有一个是…马木尔,新疆的一个音乐人,我也非常喜欢他。还有一个是IZ Band。这个乐队以前做的是folk,也是新疆的一个乐队。后来做的是rock,但是是我不知道工业怎么说…还有一个是…我的另外一个乐队,在中国也有…很多年轻人去看,叫“大忘杠”。“大忘杠”是这次…今天没有来。宋雨哲(和我),我们两个一起做的一个乐队。这个乐队呢,它是有点folk,但是你说不出是中国的folk、蒙古的,印度的,都不是。是一个我们几个人碰到一起出来的一种感觉,不是一个民族、一个国家定位的。我觉得很有意思这个乐队。
Chinese bands and singers I like who do this kind of music… well first there is a female singer called Wu Renna, who is from inner Mongolia. And also Mamu’er, a musician from Xinjiang province, who I also really like. And also IZ band, also a band from Xinjiang. They used to do folk, then they did rock, but I don’t know how to describe them, maybe “noise”. There’s another band called Dawanggang, formed by me and Song Yuzhe. Dawanggang didn’t come this time. It’s a folk band, but you can’t really tell if it’s Chinese folk, or Indian, or Mongolian, it’s none of the above. It’s just some kind of feeling that comes out when we get together, it’s not related to nationality or a country or anything. I think it’s a really interesting band.

PM: Where can we find out more or buy your albums?

“AJINAI”的CD…在我们的演出时候卖,因为我们没有公司。然后我们会不时地在欧洲有一些tour…“大忘杠”呢…我们刚签了一个德国的公司,然后有可能4月份会发行“大忘杠”的CD。facebook,myspace上都有ajinai band, 这都可以找到。

CDs from Ajinai are available for sale during our concerts, because we don’t have a record company. So we keep on going on tours in Europe. As for Dawanggang, we signed with a German company, and we’ll have a Dawanggang CD out around April maybe. We’re also on both Facebook and Myspace. - Parker Mah

"Ajinai Review: Ajinai Album 2012"

Ajinai Review: Album Ajinai 2012 ♪♪♪♪♪ (Mongolian World Music Fusion)
On Ajinai's debut album, (Ajinai Jan 2012) they demonstrate their uncanny ability to turn traditional Mongolian tunes into songs with bags of contemporary appeal. Their arrangements have relevancy for those of us who did not spend our formative years on the Grasslands, but who nevertheless want to take an auditory peek into the sounds of this culturally unique region. Despite the makeover, the songs retain the great emotional depth of the original compositions whilst also being both memorable and engaging.
Review: Gary Hurlstone
Hugjiltu, the band’s leader, proves himself an accomplished exponent of the Horse-head fiddle and a highly competent vocalist, able to reach up to the unfathomable split-note oscillating heights of throat singing, before dive bombing down to the depths of his boots with low growling guttural drones. Hoomei Tsuur’s soprano voice acts as a perfect foil for the bass tones of Hugjiltu. There is a haunting ethereal quality about his singing, the timbre and tone of which he developed whilst whiling away his hours as a shepherd. Time well spent, judging by his contribution to this album. In full flight, and ably driven along by their versatile, technically accomplished percussionist, Zhang Yang, the band sound like a galloping herd of wild takhi horses, producing music unmistakably honed from the big-sky hinterland of their youth. Ajinai (album) contains songs of celebration which embrace the storytelling legacy of nomadic herdsman and the mystery of Shamanic ritual. It’s hard not to feel the glow of campfires and sense the warmth of these proud, hardy people as the tracks canter by. But vast open spaces blown by viciously cold winds from Siberia: the Mongolian territories, can also inspire songwriting that captures the sadness and loneliness of the human journey. Ajinai bring all of this into the 21st century and do so with a great deal of sensitivity. Ajinai is an album of great charm. It’s accessible enough to win the hearts of those not naturally drawn to the music of remote Chinese regions, whilst still capturing the zeitgeist of the people that lived and still live there. If you only buy one Mongolian music album during your lifetime, make sure it is this one. This is a real gem. - Gary Hurlstone


Ajinai released their self titled first CD Ajinai in 2010

In 2013 they released a two song EP with the songs Ajinai and Bunberi

Ajinai has just finished recording their second album Rong which will be released in the summer of 2014



Ajinai, formed in Beijing in 2009 and comprised of members culled from across China, is dedicated to bringing traditional Mongolian music into the 21st Century.

The bands roots are planted firmly in the Mongolian grasslands, but their youth and experience lends a unique and contemporary twist to the traditional
music. The groups music is fueled by the morin khuur, or horse-head fiddle, the most important Mongolian musical instrument and a symbol of its people, and khoomei, throat-singing that features the simultaneous sound of several pitches emanating from one voice.

Because the sounds of both khoomei and the morin khuur are based in the desire to mimic the sounds of nature, listening to Ajinais music transports listeners to the wide-open plains of the grasslands, and to a time long before the electric guitar. But the band members experience in the rock scene of Chinas bustling capital, Beijing, lends a modern element to the music; the rhythm is propelled by equal parts horse-charging and the traditional rock bass and drum, while electric guitars shine through. Finding common ground between the traditions of the ancient past and the sounds of contemporary music produces a music at once ancient and modern; timeless yet forward-looking. It is a sound that has seen the band rise through the ranks of Chinas music scene, performing at major venues, events and festivals across the country, as well as to opportunities across Asia, Europe and North America.

Members of Ajinai:

Hugjiltu: Vokals, Khoomei, Horse Head Fiddle, Tobushur and flute

Qinggele: Vokals, Long song

Qiu Weiming: Bass and backing vokals

Buren Bayar: Drums and percussions

Li Zhiwei: Guitar

Band Members