D. Enkhtaivan. 26/11/1976 – 14/12/2012
D. Enkhtaivan died yesterday.
Many young Mongolians will know him as MCIT, member of the hip hop group War and Peace.
Others will know him as a talented photographer.
I know him as one of the stars of Mongolian Bling, Gennie’s producer and the godfather of Mongolian hip hop.
I met Enkhtaivan in 2006 whilst researching the film. In a studio deep inside a Soviet office block, we sat down for what I thought would be a brief chat. Three hours later I was still discovering the world of Enkhtaivan and Mongolia’s hip hop history.
Enkhtaivan grew up in Chingeltei, a ger district in the north of Ulaanbaatar. He dreamt of being a pilot and collected magazines and journals about planes. However he struggled at school and one day at a medical check up, he discovered that his eyesight was bad.
“That is why my grades got worse; I couldn’t see well from the back of the class and couldn’t understand the subject. That’s when my dream to become a pilot fell apart.”
With a father who was a photographer, Enkhtaivan eagerly took up photography. He’d photograph movie posters, print off small versions and sell them to make money. A few years later when photographic paper and developing chemicals became hard to find, his interest shifted to music.
Dance groups started appearing and he soon had the idea to recreate this music.
“At that time, Mongolia was a sheet of white paper. Anything you did was new. That’s when the roots of hip hop started as a dance. Our band was one of the bands that were established around then. We wrote both the lyrics and the music of our songs.”
He teamed up with Dashaa, XL, MC Aav, BZ and AZ and together they created Dain Ba Enkh – War and Peace – Mongolia’s first hip hop band. Enkhtaivan went by the name MCIT.
“We sang about relationships, the situation in the society and through our songs we tried to give suggestions on what brings happiness.”
Their first hit was called Unstoppable, which came out in January 1998. The radio stations only played ballads, traditional songs and pop, and the band had to beg for them to play it. But finally their pleading payed off and they heard their song on the airwaves.
“We were really surprised. We went to the radio station and were really excited. People started requesting us and we were really proud. We won a nomination for the best debut band.”
Dain Ba Enkh became more and more popular with each song, and after a year of writing, recording and rapping at live performances, they held their first concert the following winter in early 1999.
“We prepared a lot for our concert. We made pictures and advertisements for it and spread them over the city. It was winter and we had to go around night and day sticking up the posters using yellow shoe glue. But next morning when we come and see the posters, people had torn them down.’
“The concert was only rap songs and people were getting bored of it. During that time, to understand that kind of song was almost impossible. People were not that really interested in that kind of thing.”
However slowly they grew in popularity and as their young fans grew up, hip hop became accepted. More and more people related to the music as rappers would sing about their surroundings.
“All the meanings – sorrow, struggling, sufferings – were beside us. It was easy for us to find a theme for our songs cause we used to get into trouble, get beaten by the police, see street children, live under confusing governments… we really lived in our songs.”
While they built a strong following, their music still wasn’t mainstream, and one by one, the group disbanded.
“Our members started to have wives and families so our lives started to change a lot. But we had no regrets. We’d made our songs, we had them recorded. It was part of our lives. But we couldn’t make it into a good business so we ended up with money problems and as time went by, we got bored of it and we quit to do other jobs.”
Enkhtaivan’s other job was a photographer, but he still kept in the loop with the scene and when I met him in 2006, he’d become disillusioned with the local scene.
“Mongolian hip hop has a good look, but has less meaning.”
Wanting change and more meaningful lyrics, Enkhtaivan returned to the hip hop scene as a producer. He started working with some of the country’s most talents emerging artists, hoping to introduce them to the Asian hip hop scene. One of these artists was Gennie.
“Gennie has a clear look and well-understanding about what her future will be and what she can achieve. She loves rapping, she’s passionate about it and she works hard. That’s what I like in her.”
Over the next five years, we had the fortune to hang out with Enkhtaivan as he worked with Gennie.
We spent time with him as he guided her and other young rappers, always calm and patient with them, nurturing them as they expressed their take on Mongolian life.
He shaped Mongolian music and inspired a generation of artists.
It’s a sad day here at Mongolian Bling and our love goes out to his family, friends and fans.