How The Hu Are Coping With Being Stranded In Australia

The Hu
E. Altankhuyag

The Hu

The global coronavirus crisis has resulted in canceled tours, artists getting crammed into long customs queues, and in the case of Mongolian rock band The Hu, being stranded in another country because the borders of their homeland have been sealed off. In the midst of this, Billboard called the band at their Airbnb "bunker," as manager/translator Tuga Namgur calls it, where they are staying in the Sydney, Australia area. Given that right now they're not making money and had to cancel two months' worth of touring, it's a wiser housing option than a hotel.

The Hu played three shows in Australia before their other events were canceled. After their March 16 concert in Adelaide, they had a date for a 1,000-person capacity crowd in Brisbane on March 17 that, because public gatherings of more than 500 people are now prohibited, was split into two shows that night. While Namgur says that the experience was a little taxing on the group, who are known for their high energy performances, they wanted to ensure that everyone could see them and that all the fans could enjoy themselves for an hour and a half and not think about the pandemic.

Prior to their arrival in Australia, The Hu had taken a break from their first world tour, which commenced last June, to record part of their second album in a remote location in Bali, Indonesia.

"Where we were in Indonesia it was okay," says The Hu's multi-instrumentalist and throat singer Jaya. "They had two or three cases which were from outside of the country in Jakarta, and they isolated those people to another island. In Bali, there weren't any cases in the site but we were deep into the island, about an hour into a little town with nothing much going on, with only the villa we stayed in. The studio is totally isolated, and we were just focusing on creating more songs."

Where the band is staying now near Sydney, life is going on as usual. They are practicing social distancing as the Australian government cracks down on the spread of the virus. But there is no panic buying at grocery stores. They are visiting "a friend here with a nice studio," says Jaya. "We're staying a half mile away. We're recording a lot so we can use the time wisely." The group are continuing to evolve their brand of "Hunnu Rock," which became globally known through last year's debut album The Gereg, and have been playing four new songs at concerts.

The group's lead throat singer Gala says that Mongolia has been containing the virus well; people with the coronavirus coming into the country have been quarantined. He also applauds the efforts of the government to rescue its citizens beyond its borders.

"They have been bringing in people who are stuck in airports and stuff," says Gala. "Even though they closed the border, they are sending private charters to bring Mongolian people in. Our producer was stuck in Istanbul, Turkey, and he got back to Mongolia two days ago. Mongolia has closed its borders until the 28th, but we are talking to our government and the Mongolian embassy in Australia to try to get to Mongolia before then with a private charter. The border is closed, but there are certain exceptions."

Even if they get back early, the band members will still be tested and then placed in quarantine for 14 days before they are allowed to go home. After that two-week period, they will be tested again; if they are given the all clear, they'll be allowed to go to their homes and see their families.

"We don't want to contact family members because it's very hard to contain," says Gala of the novel coronavirus. "You've got to make sure you know that there's nobody outside to bring it into our population. We are going to follow all the regulations and do what needs to be done."

As Jaya notes, the entire music industry is suffering, and although they are naturally disappointed that many large festivals they planned to play -- including Download Australia, two Lollapalooza events in South America and Coachella -- have all been postponed, the group respects the governmental efforts in each country to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (A New Zealand show on March 23 and their next U.S. tour in April and May have also been canceled.)

"We want to follow the rules and just support," says Jaya. "This is a time we should be working together and have everybody get united as one huge family." The Hu were happy they were able to play the shows Down Under and allow fans to have a good time in the face of the crisis. "It was just amazing to see because our message is inspiring others," adds Jaya. "Be courageous and be united and stand together against injustices. We want to remind people how important it is to stay together and work together as one family."

While economic catastrophe looms over the concert industry right now, Gala says that financial losses are the last thing that the band can think of. "We want to stay healthy and get through," he remarks. "There's a Mongolian saying: 'If you're heart is in the right place, everything will be good.' We believe that we'll get through this, and after all this crisis we will pick up where we left off and just keep going. Hopefully, we're going to finish up our second album."

Namgur is based in Chicago, so he needs to leave them shortly, particularly because his pregnant wife is expecting in a month. There are also concerns about border closings in Australia and the United States. "I really hoped to stay here and help the guys out, but I really have to go back," says Namgur. "They'll be okay here. There's a Mongolian community in Sydney helping these guys with translating and day to day stuff. I feel I can go back and take care of my own family business."

Jaya adds that everyone is experiencing similar circumstances around the world as far as coping with coronavirus, and he says the band encourages people to be calm. "Let's just face it in a smart way and try to stay healthy," says Jaya. "Music is powerful because when you're stressed your immune system goes down, and it doesn't help with this kind of virus. Please listen to good music and be happy, be careful, and wash your hands. We will get through this sooner or later. Let's do it together."

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