5 Questions With Nature Ganganbaigal of Tengger Cavalry: Culture, Music, Slipknot + More
Tengger Cavalry are unlike any band you’ve seen or heard. They mix traditional Mongolian folk sounds with rock and metal elements. We had the chance to speak with frontman and band mastermind Nature Ganganbaigal. He spoke in depth about his move from China to New York in pursuit of his musical career as well as how his culture and upbringing influenced how he approached music in a different way. Check out our interview with Nature Ganganbaigal of Tengger Cavalry below:
You moved here from China to pursue music. How was that initial move and shift of culture for you?
I wasn’t born in Beijing, I was born in another town but then moved to Beijing and was raised there. New York is actually the second city I’ve ever lived in, other than Beijing. I moved here almost three years ago, I moved here because I got accepted to the film and music composition Master’s program at New York University. When I came here, I wasn’t planning to move because I had no idea what the f--- was going on. [Laughs] I didn’t know what the future might be but after I graduated I thought that maybe Tengger Cavalry could be my main career. There’s a lot of stuff going on and people really like it and I can offer something different from other bands. I want to keep doing this as long as possible and try my best.
When did you realize it was possible to mix traditional Mongolian music with metal?
I was actually in a heavy metal band when I was in high school and then when I was in college I had another traditional metal band so I played thrash metal and this classical metal style for a long time. I figured I would do something that not many people can do and I wanted to do something more for myself. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, there are so many great bands already, I cannot ever compete with those legends, I can imitate them but I can’t be like them because that’s their own style. I grew up in Asia, not American culture – I didn’t grow up listening to all those classic bands until later. I wanted to do something for myself and I connect more with Asian and nomadic and Mongolian culture. I also listen to more folk artists and they have hybrid light rock, nomadic folk music and I thought, “Wow, if I expand this sound with what I learned from playing in metal bands I can combine it together.”
Having a diverse cultural upbringing myself, I have to ask, what does your family think about your band and the music you create?
[Laughs] They were not only confused, they were pissed – okay the first metal band I got into was in middle school and it was Slipknot. [Laughs] It was a little bit too heavy for them. Slipknot has so many different generation of masks and I put one of their first masks up on the wall in my room and my mother, every time she came into my room while cleaning the house she didn’t want to see the walls, it was creepy for her. I like it because I understand it, I came into metal in a really harsh way and the culture is very conservative. I think if I got into Metallica early on or even Megadeth they might not have had a problem.
When I gradually started making it into a professional career – I had to educate them to realize that in Western culture this is a legit thing, there’s a good industry here. We are in the entertainment industry, you have to work hard and you have to figure out what your parents and family understand and what they don’t and break through that. The Carnegie Hall show we did was a big break through to my family because back in China they don’t know what all the American metal magazines are but they know Carnegie Hall. They have to understand that America is a very accepting country and I got my green card approved because of the Tengger Cavalry band, this band is not just for fun I take it very seriously.
Talk about the latest release, Mountain Side, and how the overall creative and recording process was for you.
Mountain Side was a very interesting project because it was the first time the new American band members I have all created together. So we were just jamming in between rehearsals and in the beginning it was kind of like AC/DC style, like a hard rock thing it wasn’t like folk metal at all. We added some new stuff, Mountain Side is very different from the other songs. It has an old school rock and roll style and traditional blues, soul in there.
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
I think we are going to have two more U.S. tours, one is in September and I think one is in November. Next year we will probably launch our European tour. So we’re planning to conquer the world. [Laughs]
Our thanks to Nature Ganganbaigal of Tengger Cavalry for the interview. Be sure to pick up the band's Mountain Side EP via iTunes here.
Watch Tengger Cavalry's 'Mountain Side' Video