music • 21 Jul, 2017
Tune In To Korean-Japanese Post-Rock Duo Tengger
The Pair Play An Intimate Show At Salon Saigon
Tengger are two people. Itta is from South Korea. She plays the Indian harmonium and sings, and adds effects with other musical toys. Marqido is from Japan, and he plays a modular synthesizer. And this is the start of their Spiritual Tour.
They arrived after two shows in Phnom Penh – at Neverland Artspace and Meta House. And they will continue on to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. “We think of our music as spiritual. We improvise. So the music comes from here – the air, the connections in the place we are,” Itta says, “We never really know exactly what we will do.”
Besides being experimentalists, Tengger are also compulsive collaborators. On tour, they like to connect with local like-minded souls. Here, at the start, they join the stage with the support group, the local collective Ran Cap Duoi, and bring all five of them back for the sprawling final song.
This all started when Itta met Marqido around 2005. Itta means to ‘exist’ in Korean, and Maru means ‘circle’. So when Itta finally combined with Marqido, pronounced Ma-ru-ki-do in Japanese (after seeing him live in Seoul and following him to Tokyo, then inviting him back to South Korea for a festival on Jeju Island), the one and the circle made 10, the name of their first band - a name that lasted until 2013.
By then, as they had grown and they had had a child, they felt it was time to change the name. So 10 became Tengger, to signify their psychic and physical expansion. “We took the name from Mongolian and it means infinite sky,” Itta says. Although the name has grown, their music has become more direct. “More minimal. More simple. Zen-like,” Marqido says.
For the entire show at Salon Saigon, Marqido leans over the synthesizer intently, eyes covered by a fisherman’s hat pulled down over his eyes. In contrast, Itta sways hypnotically. At one point she walks into the audience and blesses everyone with a tiny tambourine. And they play their whole set against a projection of the sea that gently zooms in and then out, and slips from focused to blurred.
When this summer Spiritual Tour ends, they’ll return to Seoul and prepare for a show using homemade cassette players. “There will be an installation with twenty or thirty players, each will play different music we have recorded. Then we will play live over them.”
But for now, you can find them playing their freeform post-rock hymns to audiences across Southeast Asia.
6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Ward 7, District 3, HCMC
Words by David Kaye