The seven members of the band Ih Tsetsn were all born and raised in the grasslands, where music plays a vital role in Mongolian people's lives. Photo provided to China Daily
It was early morning when 30-year-old Altengaro bid farewell to his 600 sheep and 50 horses on the pasture at Xilin Gol League, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and set off for Beijing. After a 12-hour bus ride, he went directly to a small studio with his hubosi (a Mongolian plucked stringed instrument) on Dongsi Street, where his "brothers" were rehearsing for their first tour to North America.
"We can smell the grass scent on him," says Zhu Zhizhong, 52, the producer who gathered these Mongolian folk musicians and formed the band Ih Tsetsn in 2008.
The group will perform at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington from June 25 to 29 and July 2 to 6, before moving to Toronto's Harbourfront Center to participate in the China Now Festival from July 11 to 13.
Altengaro has not seen his bandmates since they last performed in Beijing six months ago. But when they start to play, it is as if no time has passed.
Zhu, who was also born in Inner Mongolia, has been producing ethnic music for nearly 20 years. In 2004, he produced a program featuring ethnic bands for China Central Television's Music Channel, and he met many Mongolian musicians performing in bars and restaurants in Beijing.