Street Fest band preview: Namgar

Modern arrangements amplify the sounds and stories of ancient Siberia

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Namgar plays the Revelstoke Summer Street Fest on Aug. 11. Photo: N Ulanova

Namgar (meaning “white cloud” in Tibetan language) is the name of the Mongolian musical quartet that fuses together ethnic melodies as light as a morning mist, with earth-shaking beats as heavy as the historic drums of war.

Yet somewhere between the gentle percussion instruments, the melodic dings of the chanza strings, and vocals that tell the story of ancient Mongol history – there lies an odd sense of rhythmic familiarity. The kind that makes you want to tap your feet, nod your head, and dance around in circles like no ones watching.

This summer, Namgar will be gifting Revelstoke with their music for the first time. On Sunday, August 11, the band will be performing downtown on Mackenzie Avenue, as part of their 2019 tour around North America. Audiences can expect a fun fusion of Indigenous-Rock-Folk-World-Music. Really — there is something to suit everyone’s taste.

Growing up in a small village in South Central Siberia, Namgar Lhasaranova (the lead singer) was immersed in a rich tradition of song. Oral melodic versus were passed down to her by her father, mother and grandparents, to tell the story of her peoples’ history. Fast forward to present day, Namgar is able to fuse together the stories of her youth with modern, Western arrangements and instruments – such as electric and bass guitar – to bring us a fun and familiar sound that explores a deeper cultural heritage.

Namgar’s band has two permanent cofounding members: Namgar herself (vocals, yataga, percussions) and her husband, Eugene Zolotarev (chanza, bass, back-up vocals). Her current acoustic lineup also includes drummer and percussionist Alexey Baev and guitarist Timur Zolotarev. It is not uncommon for Namgar to play around with her line-up; she’ll perform with between one and six other musicians.

So, how did they end up in our small town? Since the band’s inception in 2001, their unique sound has developed as quickly as their appetite for travel. Their second album (released in 2009 and appropriately named “Nomad”) moved away from traditional ballads and ancient nomadic songs of their first album, and instead boasts sounds of new ethno-rock arrangements. The album went on to receive critical acclaim from both Russian and Western music press. As a result, the band began to travel and make a name for themselves in European, North American and Asian markets.

Namgar is simply one of the many world music bands playing at this year’s Summer Street Festival, put on by The Revelstoke Arts Council. More information as well as the full line up can be found on their website at www.revelstokeartscouncil.com.

Correction: This story was attributed to another writer when published and has been updated. We regret the error.

 

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