Piece image

From Sagebrush to Steppe

From: Western Folklife Center Media
Length: 16:47

Music bridges the language barrier as a group of cowboy musicians trek across the Mongolian steppe on horseback, making friends and singing songs with the nomadic herdsmen of this vast country.

Mongliangercamp_small In September, 2005 a group of American cowboys traveled to Mongolia for a horse trek across the steppe. This was a grassroots visit to local herdsmen and it also completed a cultural exchange that started a few years back when Mongolian herders came to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada to sing their songs and play music. Hal Cannon went along with the singing cowboys to document just how the music of these two horseback cultures would jive.

To hear the full audio, sign up for a free PRX account or log in.

Piece Description

In September, 2005 a group of American cowboys traveled to Mongolia for a horse trek across the steppe. This was a grassroots visit to local herdsmen and it also completed a cultural exchange that started a few years back when Mongolian herders came to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada to sing their songs and play music. Hal Cannon went along with the singing cowboys to document just how the music of these two horseback cultures would jive.

3 Comments Atom Feed

User image

Review of From Sagebrush to Steppe

A musical journey that takes the most-West to the most-East. Not since Paul Pena's journey to Central Asia (Genghis Blues) has a documentary captured the universality of music so vividly. A group of American cowboys travel to Mongolia and find themselves speechless by performing artists who demonstrate versatility in both Eastern and Western music. Music cannot be separated from the lifestyle of cowboys in Mongolia and the spirituality is shared in different aspects of it. The piece ends with a tune, sung both in English and Mongolian, where the message is quite clear; you can't measure friendship in miles or meters. A must listen!

User image

Review of From Sagebrush to Steppe

At first I thought the premise sounded too simple, almost cheesy - cowboys encountering each other across a cultural divide and discovering their similarities through the simple joys of music. That's been done before, I thought. Well to my delight I was wonderfully, remarkably wrong. This piece has definitely NEVER been done before and the narrator has a true gift for tackling complex issues like cultural difference from a simple (but not simplistic), genuine perspective. Unlike many public radio pieces which have a distant narrator, this piece has a warm involved, thoughtful narrator who pulls us inside the story without making the story about him. (That's a hard balance to pull off). I've been thinking all day about the questions raised by this story - what role does art/should art play in our society? how is the art we produce connected to the landscape we live in? what are the different languages we use to communicate with other people?
And, most importantly, you haven't lived until you've heard a rendition of John Denver's "take me home country road" involving tuvan throat singers!

User image

Review of From Sagebrush to Steppe

This fascinating cross-cultural journey made me wish I'd been there for the whole trip! It's easy to imagine Yo Yo Ma on the Silk Road, but American cowboys in Mongolia? And yet Hal Cannon recreates his unique experience in such beautifully aural fashion, not only is it easy to imagine - I felt like I was sitting there with him. The recordings are fantastic, the narration thoughtful and the mixing just right. Be sure not to fade out the music at the end too early and miss the Mongolian throat singer joining in with the American musicians. Cowboys seem to be enjoying a cultural renaissance at the moment - so treat your listeners to this warm-hearted and unusual story. It's still making me smile right now just thinking about it.

Broadcast History

Originally broadcast on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday November 27, 2005.

Transcript

SOUND: (mz36) Big Gong

ACT: (mz36) That?s letting the gods know there?s a visitor

HAL: After coming half way around the world we?re hungry to smell the cooking, see the sites and hear the voices like those of the monks at Gandan Buddhist Monastery.

SOUND: Chanting from monastery (mz32@2:46)

HAL: It?s been a long flight. We?re disoriented. The chants spin us like a prayer wheel.

SOUND: (mz32@ 5:36) Cymbals and horns/cacophony

HAL: Though it?s the middle of the afternoon jet lag triggers a yawning epidemic in our group. As we leave the monastery Byomba, our guide and translator, hands us seed to feed pigeons, an exercise for good karma.

SOUND: (mz07@ :44) Pigeons take off/fade to black

SOUND: (md#2@ 58:30) van ambience with techno music

HAL: The next morning we all pile into four vans and bounce along past railroad yards with retired trans-Siberian locomotiv...
Read the full transcript

Timing and Cues

"Sagebrush to Steppe" piece is 13:06 with 3:40 of extra music at the end for a total of 16:46.
Suggested host intro:
Two years ago, Hal Cannon of the Western Folklife Center participated in an unusual gathering in the ranching community of Elko, Nevada. A group of singing herdsmen from the Mongolian Steppe visited with a group of singing cowboys from the American West for a musical cultural exchange. This past September, the Mongolian herdsmen returned the favor, hosting their American counterparts. Upon their arrival in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, they received a traditional welcome.

Additional Files

Related Website

http://www.westernfolklife.org