We’ve moved the Buyers and Distributors’ Pack information to another spot for safe keeping. Sorry for the hassle but you’ll have to click here.
From there, contact Benj Binks or Nubar Ghazarian for the passwords to the site. If you’re a potential buyer or distributor, you should know this password already… right?
Benj – nomadicgoat [at] yahoo.com.au
Nubar – flyingfishfilms [at] ozemail.com.au
Trying to find some time to get this out there, but things are manic when you’re in the groove of editing! Nacho and I are holed up in violet town working on the rough cut at my parents and its really taking shape. January has been a busy month for everything bling.
Sound Mixing – Griff Burnell
That’s right folks, my mate Griff Burnell, famous for his audio recording, mixing and mad table tennis skills has come on board as sound mixer for the bling. As we’re flat out at the moment, I’ll let his bio do the talking – more soon!
Griff is a Melbourne based producer, guitarist and laptopographer, recording and mixing music in both his home studio and at Sing Sing Studios. A guitarist at heart, he turned his hand to production some years ago after discovering the joys of an MPC and has since produced a variety of music for other artists, film and multimedia. When not beating his friends at table tennis, he divides his time between working on his own projects and assisting producers and engineers at Sing Sing.
Awsome to have you on board Griff. See you on the table tennis court.
drinks with some mates on last night
In the last week we also got a load of great media for the project. We were guests on HiFi Radio, as well as Mongol National Radio and even got a slot on Triple J back in Australia – we were filming the end of a sunrise at the time and JJJ had some issues getting onto me as my phone, complete with full battery wasn’t coping to well with -40˚C! Back in the warmth of the Clinic, they finally got thru and we had a chat to the guys doing lunch. We also had a mission to get 500 fans on our Facebook group – something that happened literally hours before we departed UB.
With the curfew gone, we were able to start seeing live music again and managed to see Altan Urag – one of the countries most exciting band playing at a bar. They are a young group who have been trained traditionally and are now creating their own music in a bid to keep youth interested in the country’s beautiful music history. The result is an incredible range of atmospheric and heavy music that combines traditions and modern influences. We got to interview them just prior to them playing a private Xmas gig.
The only missing part on Friday night was some footage of Gee at work – he had initially said we couldn’t film him at work, then decided that we could, but then got sick and was in bed for our final week. We were lined up for Saturday morning but he wasn’t answering his phone so Nacho and Seggie jumped in a taxi and took off out there – he called en route and they met up and managed to get some great footage of him running about the market getting food for his mum’s store in his hood. Meanwhile Steve and I were furiously cleaning the apartment and getting ready to depart. After lunch we managed to finally interview Shintsog, an incredible musician whom I also met last time who showed us the ins and outs of the morin khuur (cello-like instrument) and khuumi (throat singing).
We made a quick call to the train station to find out about availability of tickets (as it was coming from Russia, they only went on sale the day before it stopped by Ulaanbaatar) and with the help of Seggie and Tuya (who vouched for us as I didn’t have passports – thanks Tuya!) we got the tix. We had dinner with the crew (although missed saying goodbye to our favourite waitress as the venue was closed – bye Haja! Thanks!) After dinner, a few mates dropped in and then we made our way over to see Dj Nacho play a set at the prestige Lan Club! What was billed as a ‘Samba Latino House’ Mix turned out to be more of a ‘My Favourite Reggae + Dub Tunes Drunkenly Mixed’ Mix, but the crowd were loving it and a whole lotta mates came down to bid us farewell.
The after party at our house was interrupted when we realised that we had a train to catch in an hour, and we frantically packed up the rest of our gear, made the place and respectable as possible, and with Seggie shouting at us (she was really keen to make sure we didn’t miss our train and employ her further!) we hugged Gennie goodbye (she had stayed up with us all night – even outlasting Katherine, our No. 1 groupie), crammed into the waiting taxi and made our way to the station. With watery eyes (its really polluted down near the train station) we hugged and kissed the amazing Seggie goodbye and slowly the train pulled out of UB and our home for the last 2 months.
The train ride to Beijing is 33 hours and it was a great opportunity for us to have another final bottle of vodka, record a rap for Seggie (we had upset her on the last Friday – sorry Seggie!) and record possibly the first clip to be shot entirely on the Trans-Siberian Train. Nacho also managed a few siestas.
There was only one way to describe Beijing. And that way was “tropical”. It was minus 10 or so and we felt great to lose the thermals and not choke on frozen snot from breathing thru your nose. We crashed at Van’s place – Steve and I for one night and Nacho sticking around for a few days to conquer the Great Wall. We had a meal with mates that night, then lugged everything to the airport for the final leg. In Australia it was about 50˚C warmer and frankly, fucking gorgeous! Bridget met us and gave us a tour of Melbourne Airport Carpark in search of the missing ticket, and a few hours later we were all at The Standard with a few mates.
Having now adjusted to outside being warm, reduced coal smoke inhalation, a diet that’s less than 80% mutton, and surviving Xmas and New Years (all that drinking in Mongolia came in handy after all!) we are setting up for editing. Benj is back in Violet Town and is setting up a space that he and Nacho will start to edit the film in, with Steve heading up to help out with the sound. Nubar has secured us a place at this years Australian International Documentary Conference and we are working hard to get something together in time to submit it to the Melbourne International Film Festival.
We’re all catching up this week – along with Bojun (story consultant), Mikey (media guru) and Griff (soundtrack and mixing) to plan the next stage and get stuck into it.
Thanks a million for all the support during our time in Mongolia. We now will be a bit quieter as we edit away, but make sure you stick around – we’ll have updates and should have a cut ready in a few months. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and the Blog – check out www.mongolianbling.com for the latest.
Also huge thanks to everyone in Mongolia who has helped us the last few months, especially Seggie – it has been amazing working with you and I cant wait to catch up. Also shout out to Katherine for being our No. 1 groupie, Oyunbileg for sorting out transport and bedding, the Clinic for keeping us warm on cold Mongolian nights, Tomor for amazing driving to Khentii, Bola for her article in ‘Today’, Amra at HiFi Radio, Saraa at Mongol National Radio, Vanessa for personal delivery of my new camera, Griff and Trace for making the mission out there and helping out with sound and image, the sheep of Mongolia for providing us with food, Quentin for photography, the taxi drivers that didn’t rip us off, and everyone else in UB – foreign and local – who took interest in the project, helped us out, or shared their vodka with us.
And of course, huge thanks and respect all the people who participated in the doco and gave up their time for us.
Tsogo and his family
Oskoo and Telmuun
Batush and Airy of Crush
Erka and Tungaa of Altan Urag
Shintsog of Domog
This doco is for you. Well, it’s about you.
Benj and Team Bling
Home in Terelj
Benj + Steve at Quiza/Qool
A much overdue update from Team Bling! We‘ve finished our time in Mongolia and we’re now all back in Australia to get into story development, editing and swimming togs. Loads has happened since the last blog, so I’ll break this up into 2.
You may not be surprised to hear that the last weeks in Mongolia were manic.
We had been lucky enough to spend time with two incredible traditional musicians – Bayrimagnei and Tserendorj. We first met with Tserendorj, one of the countries most awarded traditional musicians who, when not singing for this or that government function, is busy entertaining visitors or looking after guests at his gorgeous hotel – each room is created like a ger and as far as hotels go, it’s incredible. We had a great chat with him, and then he played traditional songs on the Morin Khuur, the countries most common instrument. It’s a 2 stringed cello-like instrument that is cradled in the lap and played with fingers both above and below the strings, but not actually pressing them onto the fret.
We also spent time with Bayirmagnei who is another great traditional musician I met last time I was here. In his humble timber home in the ger district on the edge of town, we listened as he spoke about the countries rich musical history and how that was being threatened and disappearing. Bayirmagnei is one of the most passionate Mongolians we have come across and, grinning, he told us how the traditional music had many links to hip hop – occasionally picking up a traditional instrument to play to back up his claims.
As the city of Ulaanbaatar itself is a main part of the film, we have been keen to find out what it is about this city that is drawing hundreds of people a week to it. We met with a family who were living pretty tough – they had been living at the dump until a charity helped them out with a ger (a traditional Mongolian felt tent) and they were able to move to a piece of land. Sometimes they could get work sorting glass bottles where they would make $2-5 per day, and when there was no work for them, they would go back to the tip to scrounge for glass and other valuables. Despite their situation, they were incredibly positive and confident of the situation improving.
My mates Griff and Trace arrived just in time for the much-anticipated Quiza concert. Quiza had been planning the concert for November, however the swine flu curfew had meant that he had to postpone it and we were worried that we’d leave before it happened. The gig was unique in that it was the most ‘live’ gig for a Mongolian hip hop artist to have happened in UB. Most gigs are just the MC and a backing tape, occasionally a DJ and sometimes an entire backing tape and miming. On the odd occasion, real musicians play, so a curious crowd came to check out ‘Quiza/Qool’ and we were there to catch the action. Pre-show, Quiza came up to me and asked me to intro the show so with video camera in one hand and mic in the other, from the backstage came……….LAAAAADDDIIEEEESSSSS ANDDDDDDD GEEEEENNNNTTTLEEEEEMMAAANNNN………QUUUUUUIIIIIIIZZAAAAAAAAA QQQQQQQQQOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!! After the show we had the unofficial Quiza after party and rocked on into the night with a bunch of mates.
Next day we went out the ger district where we had been chasing a young kid called Badral who we had heard was doing hip hop. A few days earlier we had found his school, and his father at their home, but Badral had taken off to boxing training. This time we caught him and had a great chat and spent the afternoon with him as he hung out with mates and kicked about the ger district. Later in the week we followed him to boxing, but it would have been better to spend more time with him.
And so we entered the last week. With Griff in town, we got the opportunity to do some stereo recording and he and Steve went out to record the city in stereo, along with Tracie taking photos. Nacho also ran about town getting the last shots and cutaways that we needed.
On Tuesday we got out of UB to Terelj – a national park just over an hour’s drive away. After an ominous start, we crammed in the ‘van’ and just out of town we were lucky enough to see 2 wolves running towards the hills. As we warmed up, stocked up on biscuits and vodka for our guest, and the sun rose, we made our way into Terelj. We wanted to get some more shots of rural Mongolia, do some stereo recordings, and get out of UB – a rare treat for us and where the real beauty of Mongolia is. We stopped every couple of k’s to flim sheep, horses, homes, camels, and the stunning landscape. After a bumpy few hours of start stop driving, we arrived at friends of Oyunbileg – our first translator. They had cows and horses and were happy for us to film them as they went about their day – chopping wood, cooking, breaking ice for water, herding and feeding animals and other chores that made up their days. After filming in the cold, we were grateful for their hospitality and cosy ger – its amazing how warm these felt tents can get – 50-60˚C warmer than outside with only a simple wood oven and layers of felt. They’re also cool when the 30˚C summer hits.
Back in UB we finally got to interview Quiza in the city’s biggest venue where the concert was to take place, as well as spending time with him at home, at Amnesty where he is a ambassador, and in a bunch of places leading up to the gig. We also got to film the amazing breakdancing crew Crush – we had filmed them in a gym, but we managed to convince them to do some outside which they bitched about as it was freezing, but figured if we were mad enough to film twice in winter, they could bust a few moves. And after putting it off for ages we finally filmed the much dreaded sunrise, spending one and a half hours in minus 30 something pacing around the hilltop and watching one of the most un-majestic sunrises possible!
Griff had written a track on the train up from Beijing and 11pm the night before he and Trace were leaving, Gennie came around and wrote a rhyme, then with Mc Mo and another rapper went to a studio and put it down – they finished up around 4am and had to be up at 5 for a taxi ride to the airport!
This ‘Last minute Mongolia’ was a sign of our last few days.
To be Cont…
Benj and Team Bling
Gennie taking down Steve for poor sound quality
There are no hip hop albums by Mongolian chicks, however Gennie may just be the first to release one.
I met Gennie briefly when I was here 3 years ago. She had featured on an track by a group called Masta Flow, and aside from having an incredible voice and style, she was one of only 2 girls who we met who were rapping and the only one to have had a radio released track.
Three years later she is writing more than ever and working on her first album with producer Enkhtaivan, one of Mongolia’s hip hop godfathers from the band War and Peace. The last two weeks we have been hanging out with her loads.
We first went down to husband’s family’s house where she spends half her time and she showed us some of her latest tunes and introduced us to her husband, baby and her husband’s family. Afterwards we headed to uni with her, and then a few days later we caught up with her as she went to the studio of some young ’underground’ rappers to give them some tips on their tracks and raps.
We followed her into a studio that we had to enter through a corner store, and listened as she put down some tracks, and we also caught up with her producer, Enkhtaivan as he spoke about her potential and what it was that drew him to work with her.
We have just done a great interview on top of an apartment block overlooking the city and visited her grandma who pretty much raised her and is still one of her best friends. In their 4th floor apartment, Gennie taught up how to make buuz – traditional Mongolia dumplings – while her high energy grandma ran about making jokes and insisting we sit down all the time. She asked me if I was married and when I said no, she said ‘Good! Don’t get married. Women take up too much of your time!’ I think there’s another doco in her alone!
10,000 miles away in sunny Australia, Nubar received news that Mongolian Bling had successfully landed funding from FilmVic! We were lucky enough to get Advanced Script Development Funding, and then a few weeks later we hit the jackpot again and came thru with X-Platform funding! X-Platform is basically web relevant funding which means that along with the new site, Mikey will be able to really push the bling online and when we’re ready for it, we can afford to get a smashingly good site made by Squareweave.
We got 2 weeks and its going to be a busy 2 weeks. My mates Griff and Trace get out here in a few days and will be helping out with the sound and photography. Then we’re jumping the train back to Beijing for the flight back to Melbourne. Nacho is heading back with us so we’ll be sure to have a party when we get back – mutton and vodka. Yum.
deez and aso bombing the wall
massages looks very similar to swine flu
homies on the slope
filming gee’s clip in the ger district
After a few slow weeks, we’re now super flat out with the final weeks of the shoot and looks like things are only going to get more manic!
A mate of mine from Beijing, Vanessa rocked up 2 weeks ago (with no visa!!) and brought with her a new camera so I’m super excited about having a camera again and have been filming with it loads. Great to have a second camera as well. Thanks Van!
Lately we’ve been hanging out with Gee, a rapper whom we met last time, quite a bit. Last time we were here he was working on his 1st album, and now 3 years later, he’s about to release his third. As one of the more proactive artists here, we were keen to catch up with him and see what was going down.
He met us out front of our apartment and we all crammed into his car to head to the studio he was working with. In the basement of an apartment block we listened as he lay down the lyrics to his tracks in T Records. Two mates – Tombar and Bumbar work together as a recording studio and filmclip production house. Tombar is T Records, and Bumbar is 2016 studio – the quality of mixing and especially the clips is amazing. Check out this clip that we saw the making of 3 years ago that Bumbar made in his bedroom studio prior to moving here.
We also hung out with Gee at HiFi Radio where he runs a radio ship called HiFi Jam – playing hip hop twice a week to the youth of Ulaanbaatar and the other day we went out to his hood to watch him film his latest film clip. Next week we’re doing an interview and trying to talk him into showing us his home and family – something he’s slowly warming to!
Then, just to totally juxtapose that, we met and interviewed a Shaman in a gorgeous ger – a traditional Mongolian circular felt home similar to the Central Asian yurt – complete with candles and incense burning, offerings stacked around stuffed animals, and a massive live eagle perched on one side of the ger. The shaman told us about the traditional music that the shamans have used for hundreds of centuries and invited us back to observe a ceremony when he returns from the countryside next week.
Feeling the traditional vibes, we were also lucky enough to meet one of the countries most awarded traditional musicians who agreed to do the interview (for a modest price!) and show us the countries traditional instruments. We’re catching up with him next week.
got out to the ger district and have started hanging out with some kids who are writing and rapping,
are filming Quiza all Saturday as he prepares for his concert the following Saturday,
filmed a few graffiti artists as they bombed a wall near the train station
ripped it up at the new ski resort that has opened just 13km’s from downtown UB!
Had a massage!
And in the coming days will also;
film a beatbox crew,
film some break dancers, and
celebrate the fact that the swine flu imposed 9pm curfew has finally been lifted!! We went out last night and saw the great Altan Urag play!
Back to it!
Hip Hop Driver – Tomor
Steve rugged up
Seggie taking care of split ends
Nacho taking 5
So it’s a lazy sunny Sunday in Ulaanbaatar and the sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky and it’s almost reached today’s high of -17˚C. Big week.
It kicked off with a phone call from one of our potential cast who lowered their price over the weekend, but we were flat out with road trip preparations. On Tuesday we all jumped in a van at 7am and set off for Onderkhan in Khentii province. We were heading out catch up with Arslan, who was mixing traditional music and hip hop the last time we visited. Three years later after we first met him, we were keen to see what he was coming up with nowadays. We also wanted to film some ‘traditional’ Mongolia and get out of the pollution that descends on Ulaanbaatar every winter.
After a 45-minute drive there was still ice on the inside of the car, so our driver Tomor pulled up in front of a friend’s ger and as we huddled inside, he ripped out the passenger seat. Using a Phillips screwdriver, a rag and a set of pliers somehow managed to get the heating cranking. Within a couple of Ks we were peeling off layers as our van shot across the vast white landscape. Ulaanbaatar is a dirt bowl with a few patches of brown snow, but as soon as we got out of the city, we entered a world of white – as far as we could see the landscape was covered with 10 – 20cm of snow.
Stopping to film herders, vultures, landscapes, and old missile shells (the shells doubling as road markers!), we passed cars that had skidded on ice and landed in the ditch, and a truck that was missing its rear axle on its way to Jargaltkhaan. Arlsan had a mate there who was a traditional musician and we were keen to chat. We found him, got a hotel and wandered back to talk. In a small ger on the edge of the tiny town we chatted with Ganchuduru and learned about the epic singing of eastern Mongolia. Following the local custom, we gave him a bottle of vodka and promptly polished it off before walking back to our hotel through the snow. Half an hour later and climbing into bed, Tomor came into our room and said that Ganchuduru had come back. We walked into their room and there he was with his wife in one side and another bottle of vodka in the other!
The next morning we did a bit of filming of Ganchuduru (who was in far better form than us) and the town before driving the last hour to Onderkhan. We met Arslan for lunch and after he had finished his music rehearsal with the local traditional music ensemble, we filmed him with his mates blending traditional and hip hop (somewhat crudely on an ancient out of tune piano and morin khuur). After we did an interview in his place, then filmed him over the next few days as he rehearsed with the orchestra and went about life in country Mongolia. We were meant to film him performing with his mates, but none of them showed up, so we postponed it until Friday night – our last.
Friday got off to a good start. We visited some of his friends who are herders, and as they had a new ger and international guests, they were in celebratory mood. Arslan played a blessing on the morin khuur and the food, drinks and songs were plenty. Steve was battling a bit with the legs of sheep that everyone was gnawing at around him, but seemed to be comfortable occupying himself with drinking as many bowls of airag – fermented mare’s milk – as possible. As I was drinking my 7th bowl of vodka, it was midday, and someone suggested that we go horse riding. I jumped on and got led around. Seggie made fun at me, telling me that she’d show me how to ride a horse. She jumped on, and straight away it took off over the hills and the family started shouting and chasing after her! It was then that Steve stumbled from the ger and with a Mongolian hat and, with a belly full of Dutch courage, jumped on a horse for the first time ever. With his flowing beard he looked like Chinggis khan himself!
Nacho was still inside eating the last of the sheep, so we dragged him out and the Icelandic guys filmed us as we went to check out the horses. We jumped in a van and drove about 15 minutes past a few very similar looking herds of horses (is that the correct collective noun?) until we found the right one. After doing some filming, the father of the family we were staying with appeared on horseback (we had left him at the ger when we jumped in the van) and he was dragging a horse with him that he proceeded to give to me! Although Nacho and Steve were keen to eat it, the deal was that they would look after it, train it and race it in annual horse race of Naadam. They may have also named it after me, but by that point my memory wasn’t the best.
Sobering up on the way back to town, we confirmed with Arslan that we’d meet up at 06.00 for a performance with his mates who were blending the two. At 5.30 he came over and told us that the rest of the band was in prison! Apparently they had got in a fight with the cops and landed themselves two nights in lockup. We asked him to go there, explain the situation and find out if they could get out tonight for some filming, but he wasn’t keen on the idea. So Seggie and I went in there and asked and they said that they would be out by, 9.30am. Probably. We changed plans again, and Arslan said that we could do it first thing in the morning.
The next morning Arslan came over to the hotel and told us that although everyone was freed, one had gone to UB, another had gone to the countryside, and the others were in trouble with their wives. He was extremely apologetic and said that he’s send us footage of them jamming, but I think I’ll believe it when I see it.
On the way home we stopped off at Ganchuduru’s place and he played some more music for us. He’s the regional champion for a style of singing where the judges choose a topic and they have to come up with a song about it on the spot – ancient freestyling! We said we’d love to hear more on the history of Mongolia and came up with a mad freestyle which we heard the words Chinggis khan, Mongol, and hip hop! Can’t wait to get it translated!
We arrived home late Saturday night thanks to the amazing driving skills of tomor, and it was great to have Seggie on board, who put up with the three of us for five days straight. If anyone wants to place some bets on next year’s Naadam, I know a good horse…
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
Jama – my Mongolian Dad
Dinner with Steve and Jama’s brother, Otto
10 days after I arrived in Mongolia, I surprised the Mongolian family whom I lived with the first time I was working on Mongolian Bling to discover that Jama, my Mongolian father, had passed away last Friday.
When I arrived out here at the end of 2006, a Mongolian friend of mine, Tuya, organised a place for me to stay for a month so that I could learn some Mongolian, teach some English and get a bed and food in return. I moved in with a gorgeous family in small unit on the 6th floor of an old soviet apartment block. There was Jama, the father, Dosma, the mother, their son Gungaa, and his cousin, Ultzi who was living with them whilst he studied wrestling,
Over the month I stayed there, we became great mates. I spent shin jil (new year) with them, visited them during the Mongolian new year (tsaagan sar) and even braved cooking them something that wasn’t made of mutton, potatoes, onion and flour! Jama was always up for a laugh and a game of sheep knuckles, taught me the ins and outs of sumo and, despite not knowing a word of English, never failed to chat endlessly to me.
Fiona was lucky enough to visit the family before I left and we had a great time – Jama, only able to pronounce Piona, resorted to renaming her Namuna. When I arrived the other day, I had with me a wooden elephant that Piona had got in Afrika and given to me to give to Jama – his living room was full of model elephants, and when I gave it to Dosma, it was blessed then placed next to a portrait of Jama which looked out over the room from the top of the cabinet. A blue scarf was draped over the picture. A candle burned, and Buddhist chants crackled out of a radio that appeared to play the hypnotic hymn endlessly.
When Otto, Jama’s younger brother walked into the room, the mood instantly lightened. He started making fun of me, made us drink airag (fermented mares milk) by the bowl full, told Steve that he would come back to the countryside to marry his daughter, and offered to teach me how to wrestle! He reminded me so much of Jama with his infectious laughter and lust for life. We had a meal with the family, and recalled many of the great times that I had shared with Jama and the family. He even appears at the very end of the Mongolian Bling teaser in the section titled Mongolian Culture. He really was an image of Mongolian Culture. After a few hours of catching up, Steve and I left, receiving a hug from Otto, and blessing from Dosma.
Jama died of a heart attack the day after I arrived back in Mongolia. Every visit to Mongolia will not be the same without a visit to him. Jama, all my love.
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