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Mongolia's the Hu rock tradition and wooden flutes at ACL Fest

Ramon Ramirez
Special to the American-Statesman
Mongolian rock band The Hu perform Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, during the second day of Austin City Limits Music Festival.

File this one under noise you didn’t think you needed. The seven-piece Mongolian band the Hu plays its guitars with bows and man buns, with backing “whoa” chants and punishing drums. On Saturday at the Tito's stage, they offer layered, loud rock epics built on classical Mongolian instrumentation.

It’s music built on tradition with an eye on the past: They call it “hunnu rock,” a nod to an ancient Turkish and Mongolian empire. 

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Here’s where I summarize the band’s Wikipedia bio: The guttural vocals that recall AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” are part of a style known as regional throat singing. The band’s instrumentation includes the Morin khuur (a bowed fiddle) and the Tovshuur (a two-stringed lute).

What’s left is emotive, bass-driven rock.

Mongolia's the Hu perform Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, during the second day of Austin City Limits Music Festival.

It’s easy to miss the Tito's tent — at ACL this stage is where soul stars come to flame out with familiar legacy sets. The Tito’s stage can sometimes feel like a place for misfits and leftovers, smothered and covered like some dang Waffle House hash browns.

But at its best, the Tito’s tent offers offbeat, oddball talent like the Hu. Literally: Hard rock with wooden flutes.

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Are you having fun?” asks singer Jaya Galsanjamts. “Come on let’s rock.”

He leads “Hu” chants as the swing-rock grooves evoke fists in the air. An hour earlier, he was posting ecstatic Instagram stories having traversed the globe as a genre ambassador. 

Truly, everything about these dudes rocks. By which I mean you’ll want to raise glasses and bark war chants after taking this set in.

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