Week 1: Sound explosions, curfews, and meat eating vegetarians
seggie, our translator
then, 9 years later, steve ate meat…
quiza rockin’ the mic
Woah! What a manic week!
Late last week, steve landed and kicked off his arrival by breaking his 9 years of vegetarian with some tasty mutton! welcome to Mongolia steve. Steve and I managed to go out for night of vodka before the government freaked out about the swine flu which has just hit here and imposed a 9pm curfew on all bars, restaurants and clubs. It now also includes many of the markets and public busses are not allowed to leave UB. Subsequently, house parties have become pretty popular and we hit up one at the end of last week, then on Saturday rocked over to dani’s house for a Halloween party – where we met our translator seggie! She is a super cool chick and loads of fun and eager to learn about the bling and get involved.
So we started working on stuff on the Monday. Seggie and I started on calling people and touching base and arranging meetings, whilst steve ran about and got the rest of the things we needed for the house – we have nicknamed HQ ‘The Clinic’ thanks to a massive tooth painted on the outside of our place from some defunct dental clinic that must have been in the building at some point. Was great to chat to everyone and touch base and before I knew it, it was 7am on Wednesday and I was standing at Chinggis Khaan International Airport as nacho landed and waltzed into the brisk UB morning.
Steve and nacho met, and took the gear out for a test run to make sure everything was working according to plan, then in the afternoon we shot out for our first filming. We were catching up with Bayirmagnei – a traditional musician who we had worked with last time and wanted to spend some more time with. I was thinking we would just get some footage (he was recording some music in a kindergarten that was closed due to swine flu) but he soon started talking and playing so steve and nacho jumped into action and started filming. About 10 minutes into the chat, he started talking price and mentioned a figure that was well above anything that we could afford. Slightly baffled, we soon left and visited another traditional singer whom we had previously worked with who also spoke about a fee. It seems as if things are changing rapidly in Mongolia! Rarely before did people ask us for money when we were working with them, but already it’s starting to feel as if there is a slightly more desperate feel in the air, or that more people are interested in the stories of Mongolia and now they can put a price on their knowledge.
We were stoked the next day to get a call from Quiza who said he had ticket for us to a gig that he was doing on Friday night. With the swine flu curfew, all concerts have been cancelled, but a TV station had arranged to have a live concert in their studio. Quiza is another of the main artists that we are planning on following. We went down at lunchtime to check out the rehearsal and caught up with Quiza. He was there with a live band as well as a traditional band who asked us to film them so they could send it to japan. We agreed and were 47 seconds from the end of their last song when steve’s face went white, and everything went quiet on the camera. A smell that every sound guy hopes to never smell started to emanate from his recorder and steve managed to cram so many swear words into the following minute that he sounded like some kind of tarantino monologue outtake. As the steam from steve’s machine (and head) cleared over the following hours, it became clear that he had blown the motherboard and after dropping his machine off with some random Mongolian 50 something year old woman, who disappeared into the national television building (he sat opposite with seggie as they weren’t allowed to enter) he embarked on a mission to get a new part sent from japan and fitted by this mysterious electronic goddess!
Luckily, nubar had given steve a small mixer in oz so we were able to still get the sound at the Quiza concert which was a great show – they had to bring it forward a few hours as they were going to get closed down by the government, but it all went off and was awsome. After, a house party started up and I think I made a vodka infused promise to Quiza to bring him out to Australia next year!
We’re now flat getting ready to take off for the countryside. Arslan lives 8 hours away in onderkhan and is another guy from last time that we are keen to hang out with. We’re taking off tomorrow first thing for a 5 day Mongolian road trip! We’ve got a bunch of snacks (steve has fake meat to make him feel somewhat at home in the land of mutton) and we have a vehicle which is nowhere near as cool as our previous one, but a hell of a lot more likely to not break down in the middle of the desert at 1 in the morning when its -30! We plan to film traditional Mongolia, some mining, traditional music, as well as Arslan, a morin khuur player who last time was fusing his traditional music into hip hop. Cant wait to see what’s he’s coming up with now.
It’s great to be back and see everyone, as well as meet a bunch of new people. The traffic and pollution is worse, and next time I come back, its going to be the summer! But for now, its winter and I have a doco to make! More when we’re back from the countryside – if they’ll let us out and back in! its lock down here. Bizarre times in Mongolia. But then again, aren’t they always.
It’s swine o’clock so time for bed