Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nisvanis - The first Grunge rock band

Nisvanis was formed by a few SUIS (University of Performing Arts, or literally translating University of Arts & Culture) students in the late 1990's. Modeled after Nirvana, they were the first (and perhaps the only) band to bring in grunge rock to Mongolia, along with the jarring guitar solos and Cobain haircuts. While obviously modeled after Nirvana, their music and lyrics were original, powerful and raw.

Their debut single "Huchilturugch" (Хүчилтөрөгч) meaning "Oxygen", was a popular hit amongst the youth who were into metal and rock at the time. I had a tape of their early recording sessions, which were raw, underproduced but extremely good. They had a song called "Esreg Utgaaraa", which was one of my favourite songs: fused with a pseudo-traditional chorus backing vocals and the singer's deep growly voice, the song was probably not the most radio-friendly song, but was definitely their most experimental.

A year after I had left Mongolia, they released their album "O2" or Oxygen. I was, however, disappointed with the result. The raw power and jarring guitar of their demo tapes and live performances were watered down, you could hardly hear the guitar, bass was too loud, the drums were muffled and didn't seem so grungy anymore. To further dampen the effect, their LP was sponsored by "Stella Artois" beer, which required them to include a sponsorship message in their album by way of a song. A song called "Stella Artois", consisting of 3 lines ("Stella, Stella Artois! My Favourite Beer, Our Favourite Beer!") over a repetitive tune reminiscent of the Peter Gunn theme. Not very grungy.

Since then, they had released 2 more albums. I haven't heard the entire albums but judging from what little I had seen on youtube, they headed in a nu-metal "Korn"-esque direction.

I do look forward to seeing them perform again in Mongolia, although I am not sure how active they are as a band nowadays. Enkhamgalan, the lead singer, has done some solo projects (he is a prolific song-writer who has penned a number of hits for various pop-singers) including a popular song for a recent movie soundtrack.

Anyways, here be "Gerelt Ireedui Namaig Duudna" a song from their first album: