Broadway Baby

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If your knowledge of Mongolian history is limited to Genghis Khan, or if you think that folk music is merely background music for washed-out hippies, then Anda Union are the perfect group to shatter these undeserved stereotypes. Hailing from Hohhot in Inner Mongolia (which is, slightly confusingly, located in Northern China), they bring a passionate intensity to their music which not only jumps over the culture barrier, but shatters it.

Upon entry to the fairground of the Elegance Tent, blue scarves are handed out by performers in traditional dress, ‘for luck.’ The waiting instruments give off the smell of resin, an odour that evoked memories of my own violin lessons. Suddenly the Mongolian grasslands don’t seem so remote in the brightly-coloured venue. The understated lighting and shifting backdrop provide an effective complement to the music.

The meaning of the ‘Anda’ is ‘blood sibling’. It’s a fitting name, for the band’s success lies in the tight instrumentation and the closeness of the musicians. The songs rapidly wax and wane in volume and complexity, strings burst into frenzied bowing and guttural throat vocals quickly become another instrument. Each song was introduced and led by a different performer and all were about a different topic: girls, a lost lifestyle, drinking. Each song had its own distinctive rhythms and harmony, but the quality and enthusiasm of their songs was universal. On ‘Galloping Horses’ the frenetic strings and shouts were underpinned by a powerful drumbeat that recreated the thunder of animals run amok. Yet the songs did not just rehash a distant pastiche of Mongolian folk, but provided a modern update of it. The throat-singing in particular sounded as though it would have fit perfectly on a Talking Heads album.

A minor complaint is that some of the more vocal-driven songs lacked the power and drive of the more instrumentally layered songs. More could have also been done with the lead singers, who, when on stage, added extra harmonies and humour to the songs. But Anda Union confirmed by this performance that they are not just a niche interest, but essential viewing for anyone who is a fan of live music of any genre. Their prodigious talent and infectious enthusiasm point to future stardom. Undoubtedly these will be some of the standout musical performances of the summer.

Venue Number 3. Assembly George Square, George Square, EH8 9LH. 2-27 August 15:30 (1 hour). Suitability: U.

The Blurb

Anda Union's haunting harmonies and vibrant strings evoke the endless beauty of the Mongolian grasslands, combining throat singing and longsong with horse head fiddles; they bring this powerful ancient music to life as never before.

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Production Company
Anda Union

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