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Tiger bells in Asian folk-rock music

China (former Inner Mongolia)

Tiger bells are of the A type.

Photograph: screenshot courtesy VPRO Vrije Geluiden

After Hanggai's concert on December 11, 2010 in Groningen (Neth.), Hans Verzendaal who lives in Groningen was allowed to make some close-ups of the tiger bells and band leader Ilchi agreed to answer some questions. Below is a summary of Ilchi's answers:

The bells were bought in the south of Mongolia (former Outer Mongolia) by the group leader Ilchi, in a hardware store for agricultural goods. They came into two bundles, a smaller and a bigger bundle. The smaller bundle is made up of tiger bells and ordinary bells; the bigger bundle has only tiger bells. The bundles are used on horse harnesses, the smaller ones on the bridle, the bigger bundle on the rein. The bells are newly made, in a local factory. Ilchi decided to add the bells to the drum set.

According to Ilchi the design on the tiger bells is a stylized tiger's head. The name in Chinese is indeed 'tiger bell' (unfortunately the actual term in Chinese was not clear). The Chinese character ('Wang') on the forehead symbolizes the strength of the emperor or king. Originally tiger bells come from China. They were spread over Asia and the West by Chinese migrants.

Group leader Ilchi lives in Peking but comes from former Inner Mongolia (now Northeast China), so are two other members of the group. In Ilchi's statements nothing came up that related the bells to religion, magic or shamanism. The interview was held in English without a translator. Questions and answers were sometimes not fully understood.

In the two bundles three different types of tiger bells can be recognized. In the bigger bundle there are at least 15 tiger bells, of which eight bells have the design in relief and six or seven have the design engraved. In the smaller bundle the four tiger bells have the design in relief. Also the tiger bells in the smaller bundle are smaller than the bells in the bigger bundle. All bells look brand new.

Tiger bells on the bigger bundle, view 1

Tiger bells on the bigger bundle, view 2

The smaller bundle has four tiger bells and five bells of a different type, view 1

The smaller bundle has four tiger bells and five ordinary bells, view 2
Photographs: courtesy Hans Verzendaal

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