1˚C and all’s well in UB

steve and bridget eating dumplings

it snowed!!!

the directors suite

the conference room

the mess hall

Shopping for rental apartments in Mongolia is like nowhere else. After buying the local paper, I got my mate Oyunbileg to go thru the classifieds and check out which ones looked ok. He then called about 15 places and narrowed it down to 2 options – both of which had a good location, reasonable price, the right size and agreed to our measly 2 months worth of lease. As soon as I walked into the first (and cheapest and closest) one the next morning, I straightaway knew it was perfect. Telling the landlord, she handed me the keys and that was it! No references. No forms. No ‘we’ll let you know’. Not even a deposit! Just handed me the keys and asked me to keep it clean and not write on the walls (!?!)

And so we have an apartment! Its bang in the centre of town and huge! I’ve gone for the minimalist look. It seems to be working.

Being back in UB after a year has kept me pretty busy. I’ve caught up with some old mates, met a load of new AYAD and Peace Corp guys, had some camera dramas (now mostly resolved) and even been interviewed for some new mag called City Nights – a monthly about modern Mongolia. I’ve got a bunch of contacts for translators and guides, so will be meeting with them in the coming days.

Steve landed in Beijing a few days before I left and had his first ever dumplings with Bridget and I in a great little restaurant that was hidden behind a wall of scaffolding and renovations. They took off to Xian for a few days, and if all has gone to plan, he’ll be on the train right now en route to UB.

Nacho arrives next week. With budget airlines in Spain, it was cheaper for him to fly to Barcelona for the day to organise his Mongolian visa than it was to get a courier to do it! A true cameraman, he photographed the entire day and made a video of it which if he hasn’t already uploaded to the Facebook account, will do in a day or so.

Will and Luke at Squareweave have been flat out working on the website so hopefully it’ll be up at the start of November so keep an eye out.

Am calling a bunch of the hip hop crew this week and filming will start next week!

This week’s high is 3 and low is -19. Needless to say, I should have brought more clothes!

More real soon – Benj

Live from the edge of the Mongol empire

Story Development with Bojun Bjorkman Chiswell

And so it begins! After a manic few last weeks, I’m on my way to Mongolia! I’m taking the scenic route and have just landed in Kunming, which is in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. I’m about to shoot a promo for my mates Mark and Vinny at the China Charity Challenge – an 8 day bike ride through some of China’s more spectacular and remote regions. I’m also enjoying some sunshine before heading north – I see that nights in UB are already hitting nearly -10!

The last few weeks have been manic with preparations for the trip. I have been lucky enough to have spent hours on hours with Bojun Bjorkman Chiswell working on character development and nutting out just which of the hip hop stars and other characters have got the most capturing stories. Bojun – huge thanks for helping out with the story!

And on the technology front, the very smart kids at Squareweave – Luke Giuliani and Will Dayble have jumped on the Bling Bus and are currently putting together a website for us!! I’ll let you know when its up and running – in the meantime you can follow us on Facebook, twitter, or here on the blog. Massive thanks Luke and Will.

Steve and I did a last minute equipment check on Saturday and everything is running smoothly, and Nacho is busy organising flights and visas (which thanks to cheap airlines, is cheaper to fly Madrid – Barcelona – Madrid to get a visa than pay for a courier!!) and is all set to head over.

Another investor has come on board which is awesome and we are now getting ready to hit UB. I have managed to pack super light and have a great set up that I’ll get to test out here in China before heading up to Mongolia.

We are planning another round of T-shirts in the near future for those of you who have been asking for one. Possibly in the new year with a return event. Ideas and thoughts and acts and volunteers welcome!!

Internet is rough, and censorship is tight here in China so I’ll try to get these updates out when I can or pass them over to the rest of the team. 1 month till the shoot starts!!! Can’t wait!

Peace – Benj

The Steppe is alive with the Sound of Steve

Sound Recordist – Steve Bond

Media Mogul – Mikey Leung

Manic times at Bling HQ! In awesomely awesome news, Steve Bond is bound for Mongolia as our Sound Recordist! I was lucky enough to meet Steve through a good friend of mine Gen, and he is super keen to get out to Mongolia and make Mongolian Bling the sweetest sounding doco this side of Siberia. Steve is based here in Melbourne and will head out at the end of October to meet up with me and Nacho in Mongolia. Great to have you on board Steve.

Also, Mikey Leung, a Multimedia genius who I met whilst working for Intrepid has recently returned from writing a guide book to Bangladesh and now based in Darwin has come on board as the Media Manager. He’s been busy linking our media world and has set up the new Facebook page and will be making sure that everyone is kept up to date with the adventures as they happen. Mikey. What can I say? Awesome to be working with you man and thanks for the support.

Another applications is about to go in for Screen Oz so fingers crossed, and we’re still eager for anyone who wants to invest so let us know.

We’re going to be in Ulaanbaatar from October 22 – December 22 and we’re looking for an apartment as well as a guide slash interpreter slash fixer! If you know anyone or anywhere, get in touch with benj at nomadicgoat@yahoo.com.au.

Flat out working on getting everything together and a shoot script sorted so that we can get everything we’re after. Things are looking good!

More soon – Benj

Cheap Spanish Labour saves Mongolian Bling!

Director of Photography and Buuz – Nacho Penche Pérez


You’ll get loads of awesome news like………

Sweet!! My mate Nacho from sunny Spain is coming back to Mongolia for the shoot as Director of Photography! Nacho was out in Mongolia with me and Fiona for the initial shoot back in 2007 and has been refining his skills in Madrid’s fast paced media world since. Awesome to have you coming back Nacho!

The shoot has now been locked in and is all set to take place later this year, kicking off on November 2nd and wrapping up just before xmas.

Massive thanks to the investors who have come on board!! We’re really making headways and everything is falling into place.

More applications have been going out; one to FilmVic for a website so hopefully we’ll have a real website soon!! Another to the Sheffield Doc/Fest – we’re trying to pitch there and if successful, will be able to mingle with all the right people from Europe and the states.

More of the team over the coming weeks as well as updates as we get closer!

Peace – Benj

Team Bling. Investors. And Donators!

Producer Extraordinaire – Nubar Ghazarian

So, things are flying along with Mongolian Bling.

After much trawling through the footage and interviews we’ve shot, we now have a great story worked out and are about to head back to Mongolia to get the rest of the interviews, footage and translations we need.

My one time teacher and now mentor, Nubar Ghazarian has come onboard as Producer which has been awesome. He has been on the edges of Mongolian Bling since I began, and has now jumped in the deep end and is taking care of the champagne end of the business! We are assembling a team to head back to Mongolia in a few months to complete shooting – you’ll meet them over the coming weeks.

We’re flat out applying to funding bodies and have decided to release some shares to help us raise money to get us back in Mongolia. If anyone is interested in becoming involved in Mongolian Bling, contact us for an Investors and Donators Proposal.

Thanks to everyone for their mad support along the way. I’m really looking forward to getting back to Mongolia to wrap up this incredible journey and hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Big shout out to Christy Harris for all her help with designing the funky logo and business cards, and to Tom Hederics for the awesome design of the funding proposal and investors and donators proposal.


the first taste of mongolian bling!

aight! check it O.U.T!
as a huge thanks for all the love and support that we have received from everyone who has been with us over the last few years, and to anyone new who has stumbled upon the world of mongolian hip hop – here is a taste of mongolian bling!

this is a teaser that we’ve put together for funding.

i’ll let the video do most of the talking this time round, but basically, after 2 years of research and filming, we’re in the process of getting funded to head back to mongolia to complete Mongolian Bling – Adventures in Nomadic Hip Hop.

here’s what it’s all about…

Mongolia is a country of great natural beauty. The stunning low-lying hills of the steppe roll to the east. The arid Gobi Desert sits menacingly in the south. In the west are the rugged mountains of the Altai Range, and bordering Russia to the north are spectacular deep blue lakes.

In the heart of the country however, sits a growing metropolis, home to almost half of the nation’s 2.6 million people. This urban sprawl is the capital, Ulaanbaatar

It was here that hip hop arrived in the mid 90’s. Socialism had just ended, and after an initial tough transition, the Western world’s influence was quickly spreading across Mongolia’s new democracy.

Hip hop stepped off the train into downtown Ulaanbaatar, bringing with it foreign images of jewels, clothes, women and fame. The locals were quick to take on the American culture as status symbols of their own and were soon mimicking the style and image of their Western idols. It wasn’t long before dance crews started, which soon grew into hip hop bands.

As they’ve gained popularity, the country’s youth – over 40% are under the age of 20 – have taken to imitating their local heroes, who in turn have followed the latest MTV trends. Even in the most impoverished parts of the city – the slums on the outskirts, and the underground tunnels where the street kids sleep – they wear baseball caps and recite their favourite hip hop tracks.

But in their haste to take in the outside world, many of the youth have ignored their rich musical history. It’s a history that goes back beyond the start of Mongolian Democracy, beyond the start of American hip hop, and deep into the country’s 800 years of existence.

Now, some bands are starting to delve within their culture to create a new sound, a sound that is true Mongolian hip hop.

let us know what you think of the teaser and more real soon!

peace – team bling

eclipses, gold medals and movies

man, i love it here!
apoligies to anyone still in beijing, but it is sooooo good to be out of that smog hole, and waking up every day with sunny skies, hot days and crisp winds. things have been pretty manic since i got here. in fact, things have been pretty manic since i can remember, and here it’s no different.

i left beijing about a month ago. prior to leaving, bree sent me a link to a moby music video comp and i decided to enter it. since being in china, i had wanted to shoot something set on the great wall – with a location like that in my backyard, there was no way i was going to skip on an opportunity to film there. im mad into my photogrpahy at the moment, so ended up compiling a fun film with two mates – vinny and lotti – from over 3500 photos. we didnt win, but had a blast making it. you can check it out here


then it was up to mongoila. i took the train, and had a week in ub catching up with mates and organising to start editing. i then put the tour leading hat back on for a trip out to see the eclipse. 40 hours in a russian van brought us to the edge of mongolia, and we set up camp on a huge basin with a few hills on the horizon. the eclipse was incredible. it took about 2 hours to become fully covered, was fully covered for about 2 and a half minutes, then took another two hours to uncover. well, i think it did. by that time we were well into the vodka and praising to wonders of nature and ranting about how could anyone need drugs when there’s so many natural highs such as eclipses, shooting stars, and peyote. and while it only lasted around 150 seconds, it was super eerie. as the eclipse started, the winds got up. slowly the light began to change, and about an hour into the eclipse, there was this incredible light – imagine being in the reflected light of a glass facaded building. then, with a burst of light, the moon covered the sun, we took off our flurescent lime, orange and pink $1 eclipse glasses, and the stars came out. the sky was a rich dark blue, the sun haloing around the moon, and there was a 360˚ sunset on the horizon.

then, it was pack up and back in the vans for another 6 days of driving to get back to ulaanbaatar. worked out we basically drove 100 hours over 10 days to see the sun get covered for 2 and a half minutes. the next one’s in india and lasts for a whopping 6 minutes something.

by the time we got back to ub, the olympics kicked off. i was hoping for karaoke at the opening ceremony, but was still pretty happy with the lip syncing and digitally enhanced fireworks. days later mongolia won its first gold medal, which was its first in 28 years. it was chaos. streets were closed off, the athlete – tukshunbayar, judo – was praised by the president on the main square, the prime minister got drunk, thousands took the the streets with flags, men hugged each other, debts were forgotten, the sick were healed, and all round miricles and wonders consumed the country into the early hours of the next day.

and then there’s the hip hop!

so. with all this action and excitement, i’ve even had a chance to work on my doco! i have slowly been catching up on the scene here – there’s no huge developments, but its awsome to be back and catching up wiht the artists and seeing what they’re up to. as we were always interested in the inclusion of traditional music in hip hop, i were very interested to discover that a french organisation is organising workshops and a festival in which 15 french and 15 mongolian traditional and hip hop artists will develop tracks together to create a range of tracks. these guys – machu and phanette – have done this twice before, the first time causally, and the last time wiht electronic music, and are a real inspiration. im even more keen to get some aussie bands out here to be involved next time in 2010. you can check out what they’re doign and the bands participating here


but back to the doco. ive spent ages writing, and rewriting the script, and am getting at a stage where i;m really happy with it (that could change very easliy!) i have a cool little set up that im couch surfing with and working loads on the project. the main theme is mongolia’s search for identity post socialism, and how hip hop has been involved in that. i am here for just another 3 weeks, so hope to have a trailer up before i leave. there is so many interesting elements to the scene here – its a nightmare trying to work out what to leave in and what to take out, but im making headway. albeit slowly. after mongolia, its back to beijing to box up my stuff there, and if all goes to plan, over to japan for a 3 week photogrpahy trip before heading back to the land of oz for the summer.

todays the last day of the games and mongolia has gone all out and won a second gold medal. i found out today that gold medal winners have already recieved literally thousands of girfs – including 1kg of gold from a mining company and an apartment each from a building firm! any budding athletes out there may want to check out flights to mongoila!

stay tuned. i’ll have an update soon and check out www.mongolianbling.com for photos.

im off to celebrate with vodka and mutton.


The Bling’s Still Shining….

Hey Y’all
So, I’m flat out and no time at the moment to sit down and write all the emails I want to. I’m still in Beijing. Been teaching photography and working part time at The Hutong, and doing freelance photography here and there – just did a great trip with GAP (Canadian version of Intrepid) where I was the photographer for a two week trip around China. Awsome. Hoping to do more with them. Haven’t had much time to work on the script for Mongolian Bling since the 6 weeks I spent on it in Thailand at the start of the year, but am getting ready to jump back into it. Have just booked a ticket to Mongolia, and will be heading up there mid July to hopefully wrap it up!!!

The script is in a rough stage, so I will be working pretty much on getting it refined. If I have time, I’ll also try and get some clips online. Anyway, updates should be pretty regular from here on in so stay tuned to hear that latest of Mongolian Bling. Big thanks for all the support over the 18 months we have been working on it!! It’s getting there and keeps me going!

Also, if you want to know what Beijing’s skies are really like, I have just started a daily photo blog at www.smog2008.blogspot.com.

Huge love to everyone and hope to have the doco out this year to start a fresh in 2009. Man, this year is flying! Hope you’re all well.

Peace – Benj

Where are they now? – Mongolian Bling

yo mongol hip hop heads! long time no hear!!!


huge thanks to lieu pham for the words, and dan joselyn for the photos!

also massive thanks to everyone who’s been involved so far. been getting a few people asking me whats happening with the project, so this’ll fill you all in a bit.

i’m back in melbourne, living in fitzroy. i arrived home with no money, and owing a few people (thanks dad!). i tried the working and editing part time for a few weeks, but it was just getting the man down as i ended up working a full day building, and the tried to get myself set up and into the doco and it wasnt gelling. so, have decided to work for dad for a few months flat out to save up some cash and then take off a few months and edit full time – probably a month at violet town and a month at my mates, mark, up near mildura.

in the meanwhile, i’m doing some behind the scenes stuff – trying to get a business set up (anyone with the know-how, would love to hear from you) and getting all the footage and translations together so that i can hit editing hard when i have some cash (ganzo and bolor, i need your translations!). plan is to get a trailer together and try and sell off the doco to some rogue tv station. got a few radio stations and mag’s after me at the moment, but really want to get at least a trailer together before i start pushing it more. hopefully the dazed and confused article will bring in some interest – anyone who wants to throw a few dollars in, gimme a shout. more than willing to work out some kind of deal with you.

looking into a range of options for distribution – festivals, tv, online. but first got to get into the editing suite and hit it hard.

check out more photos for this and last email on www.mongolianbling.blogspot.com

sorry if this is slightly more boring than previous emails! life has become noticably more normal in the last two months! looking at being back in mongolia later this year.

more soon! benj

manic moments in mongolia

WE DID IT!!!!!

Research for Mongolian Bling has been completed!

well, kinda! but, yeah, nachos back, fi’s back, and now i’;m back! landed in melbourne monday – which wasnt as easy as it sounds!!

been a bit manic over the last weeks, so this’ll be a bit of a cram of info. wrapping up the final two weeks in ulaanbaatar were great. interveiwed a dj, a breakdancing crew, an epic singer who sings songs that can go on for hours (although he was talking to us about 300 year old hip hop songs from shaman tribes in mongolia!) a foreigner working with the cristina noble childrens foundation who helps the street kids, street kids living underground, snep crew – another hip hop group, a political activist who asked me where my cameraman was and if it was a professional or holiday camera i was using!, two beatboxer who were mad!, a random 77 year old lady who stopped to talk to us in the street and turns out she’d been working as a radio presenter during and after communism, a doctor working for chistina noble childrens foundation who visits the street children weekly, head of the mongolian film and televison university, bb – our first female hip hop artist (it stands for bitches butcher!!! – she had hard lyrics and wants a hard name – which is even more interesting when she rocks up in an office suit and has to get changed into her hip hop get up in the state department store as her mom doesnt approve of hip hop and she has to hide it from her!!) anz – an amazing artist and graffiti artist, the much raved about, hard to find dain ba enkh (peace and war), the best chick (and possibly only other) chick in hip hop – gennie, and masta flow – some real smooth cats, and finally the leader of the third biggest politial party, oyun.

also, had a small segment about us on a local tv channel, organised a bunch of kids at one of the save the children schools to take photos for the project, did some great filming in the ger districts, and best of all, got dan and carl (massive thanks guys) to jump on board as photographers – the last few weeks we did a lot of photoshoots with people we were interviewing – mainly aritst and some graffers and djs’ – and now have an awsome collection of photos to promote the doco. massive massive thanks carl and dan.

thursday before i left, i organised a bit of jam session with a bunch of the artists that i;d been working with and a load of mates. we ended up with about 4 mongolians playing morin khurs and singing humi (throat singing), a aussie chikc on a luscious cello, an american jumping between double bass, guitar, and a kazakh guitar, and throwing in humi, an aussie on a didge, two mongoilan beat boxers, a french guy on guitar and humi, and me and a mongolian chick rappign nonsense!! was a great hilarious mixture of cultures, instuments, and texhniques – and age!! from 17 to 50.
then friday i got my passport stolen. had just been picked up from the chinese embassy with a visa in it when viola!! it was gone. prayed that it’d turn up over the weekend (i hadnt been offering food to the earth post shaman treatment as i was meant to so maybe prayer went unheard……or were ignored) and got down to enjoying my last mongolian weekend.

had a great going away party at my place (highlights – vacuming for the first time – thats for you fiona – and dan’s photo series – photos soon) which rocked on to round 6am when i woke up on the loungeroom floor to kick out the scottish banjo player and ukraine timeless drummer, and tuck carl in on the couch and andy on the spare bed. woke a few hours later and went out for brekkie, then some contraversial filming of break dancers in a few malls which involved going in, stealth fliming of very obvious breakdancing, dan being caught by security, and me being chased out and down the street! me and dan felt bad. breakdancers had utmost respect for us! then sunday arvo, i had invited everyone who had worked on the project down to a pub to say thanks and goodbye. wasnt sure what the norm was regarding inviting 70 odd people to a pub for a budget film going away, but at 10 past 6, when there were 15 people sitting around not really talking, with menus and with no drinks, i figured it was time to get a tab going! with around $300 behind the bar people sparked up and we drank on into the night!

woke up early monday wiht one hell of a mission. i had no passport, no chinese visa, no evidence of being in mongolia, wasnt packed, and a flight at 20:40 that night! luckily i had made contact with the oz embassy (in china – none in mongolia) and also the british embassy in ub so had the forms filled out. the day kinda went like this:

08:34 woke up hungover

09:00 race to the british embassy, call the oz embassy on the way and cancel my passport

09:14 get a passport photo taken and print scan of old passport and copy of birth certificate that laura had sent me

09:34 enter interview room at british embassy (the guy whose running the show was on my team at quiz night a few weeks prior)

09:36 get told that oz embassy in beijing hasnt sent anything thru to give him the ok to issue me one

09:37 plead with him about options. ask if i should call, but then get told off to intending to use mobile phone in embassy

09:44 ask him to check once more. he does, and there it is.

09:46 he tells me it will be ready wednesday sometime

09:46:16 i swear

09:47 i repeat pleading stressing that i have a flight that evening

09:52 despite other work having to be done, he agrees, and tells me it will be ready “in the afternoon”

10:04 come out of interview room to find out that yoda has called chinese embassy (opening hours mon, wed, fri – 09:30 – 12:00) to find out that i can only get a visa today if i get there before 12:00 – highly unlikey given e.t.a. of replacement passport

10:29 visit chinese embassy in person and tell my sorry tale – she tells me to come back at 16:00

10:43 visit border control to get evidence of when i arrived in the country. only yoda is allowed in so i sit in a chinese restaurant drinking apple juice

11:21 yoda comes out having to call back later and we head home

11:43 arrive home and start packing, throwing out, cleaning, etc.

15:02 british embassy calls to say that my passport is ready

15:04 jump a taxi to british embassy and gleefully collect my british temporary passport

15:40 catch up with a mate dave who is taking care of some final things for me

15:50 see carl and get quiza photographs

15:55 arrive at chinese embassy gates

16:00 irrate mongolian man starts banging on doors as its just gone 16:00 and the doors arent open

16:05 mongolian man (now even more irrate) picks up a small rock to increase volume of knocking

16:09 chinese embassy opens

16:12 she takes my visa and application

16:20 i pay for and pick up my chinese double entry visa

16:27 i leave $20 behind the bar for the guy in the british embassy who has got me a visa in 4 hours.

16:40 arrive at immigration and start explaining (yoda is back at border control) get the ok and pay at 4 different counters

17:05 pick up passport with exit visa

17:21 arrive home to finish packing.

18:43 leave home having paid landlord, and left the place looking schmicko!

19:00 arrive in the centre of town where we have to pick up the final miniDV tapes that are being transferred to dvd!

19:08 my great mongolian mates, soaza and ichko are in town to meat me and have a car to take me to the airport so i transfer everything into it

19:12 go to the bank cause i’ve run out of money!!!

19:15 leave ub for the airport

19:40 arrive at airport

19:47 say goodbye to guys

19:55 check in as notice that my flight is boarding. 33kg is somehow not questioned. lug on my 3 carryon bags and roll of posters

20:01 get around 115 miniDV tapes thru customs no worries

20:04 arrive at gate

20:15 call a bunch of people to say good buy and give the last of my credit to the girls on the gate.

20:22 sit down and sign. then laugh! i have made it and cant believe it!!

20:29 we start taxiing

20:40 we take off!!!

so basically, ub to beijing for one night in a hostel, then wiht only a shoulder bag (what a nice change that was!!) popped down to hong kong to please an investor, then back to beijing for a catch up with a bunch of mates, and sunday off to the airport where, somehow, all the gods came together and yours truly was flown first class back to the land of oz!! and i’m talking like electronic seats, and champage BEFORE take off, and sex with the hostess in the bathroom……..oh, that last one may have been ralph. anyway, i’m obviously an obvious celebrity vying for a bit of privacy (why else would anyone grow a beard!!?!) and china air was smart enough to recognise that and seat me accordingly!

arrived on monday and had a gorgeous bbq iwht mates in a park and now in violet town for the week sorting shit out and getting ready to start working on story development. have run out of money, so plans to live by the beach for two months and edit whilst eating freshly caught oysters have changed to live in fitzroy and work full time to make some money and edit in all spare time to try and get the film together! have around 115 hours on tape so hoorah!! see you sometime next year!!

have no moblie so can be contacted on +61 3 9417 4345 as of monday. (+61 3 5798 1234 this week – its my parents number and will never change)

too long to thank anyone, so will save for next time.

any investors? get in touch – we have a wikid doco on our hands. hoping to produce a teaser within a month.

massive love, respect and thanks to everyone who has supported, helped, responded and just red these mails. its been an amazing experince and cant wait to show you something!!

will keep the updates coming during the next stage – computer at doctors so photos up next week

peace – benj

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