Khoomie, or throat-singing, is not something one comes across very much and what a shame that is. Let me be more specific: It’s almost tragic if you’ve never heard Ajinai’s music. The Mongolian flute and the the iconic horse-head fiddle take you to the windswept grasslands of the Mongolian-Manchurian steppe.
Despite being a denizen of Toronto, it took me a few years to make it down to the Harbourfront Centre while all the festivals were on. A friend took me along, in search of a coffee shop by the water. We failed to find one as most of the eateries down there are pubs. What I did find however, was a Mongolian folkrock band: Ajinai.
The haunting music pulled me from one of the piers, where said friend and I were having a bit of a photo shoot, along with a dozen other people all vying for a perfect shot without a stranger in the background trying to do the same thing.
Usually easily bored by live bands, I sat and listened to them till they finished and I was certain they weren’t going to come back for another set. They were selling CDs and I decided to buy the music online. Foolish decision as it turns out. There are lots of clips of them on YouTube, but that’s just not the same. They are on ethnocloud.com though!
This year I had a look at their itinerary as saw no mention of them coming to Toronto. Except they did – again to the Harbour Front, and I missed them, finding out about it the week after they’d played. I lamenting the fact that I’d missed them on their Facebook wall and they responded (!) by telling me that they’d be playing one last gig in Toronto before leaving the country. It was on a Wednesday and they’d be playing at 10:30pm…
Apparently I’m an old fogey; it may as well have been at 3 in the morning! But there was no way that I was going to miss it. They’re based in Beijing and while China is on my list, there are no plans to go there in the foreseeable future. Besides, they’d actually written back to me! (Note to PR self: building loyalty is done like this! It’s not just the stuff they teach in school.)
The band members were new – the bass guitarist and back-up vocals, and the drummer were not the guys that I had seen the year before. But man, were they absolutely fantastic! Hugejiletu, the founder, horse-head fiddle player and khoomei singer, and the guitarist were the same. The drummer exuded a cool factor all drummers think they have, and the bass guitarist just upped the level of fun Ajinai had last year. He even did a traditional dance! (Check that out at the bottom of the page)
The venue, The Silver Dollar Room, is in an intimate space and it felt like we were all just a massive group of friends who’d gathered together to listen to our extremely talented friends jam. I’ve never felt more included by any group of performers.