Much like their infamous countrymen Genghis Khan (who they rhapsodize in the song "The Great Chinggis Khaan"), Mongolian folk-metal band the HU are a mission to conquer the world. Over the last couple years they've made great strides in that effort, thanks to viral hits such as "Yuve Yuve Yu" and "Wolf Totem." But they have their sights set on even greater conquests: In late 2019, the self-described "hunnu-rock" band staked their first claim to "a galaxy far, far away," contributing the song "Sugaan Essena" to the Respawn Entertainment video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The HU not only wrote the original tune specifically for the game, but they also penned its lyrics in a fictional language authentic to Star Wars, created with the guidance of Lucasfilm and Respawn.
"We'd been on a voyage of exploration trying out various approaches to a band for Cal Kestis, the main character in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, when players first meet him," explains Nick Laviers, Audio Director at Respawn. "Lucasfilm helped us hone in on a direction that was cool, but also felt very Star Wars and authentic to the time period of our story. During the process, we heard 'Wolf Totem' by the HU and a light bulb went on. The music had otherworldly-sounding vocals and unfamiliar ethnic instruments that could be alien, all on top of a classic-rock backbone.
"When we first connected with the band, their team was very excited about the project. They were amazing to work with and after some initial direction they were able to put together a track that really hit the mark on everything we were looking for. After a couple of rounds of revisions and the HU basically creating an entirely new language that felt authentic to Star Wars, 'Sugaan Essena' was born."
With the song finally getting a wide release via digital streaming platforms — as well as a striking performance video, which you can watch above — Revolver caught up with the HU's Galbadrakh Tsendbaatar to get the inside story on the making of the stirring single.
HOW DID YOU GUYS GET INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT?
GALBADRAKH TSENDBAATAR It started when Steve Schnur from Electronic Arts reached out to our managers, Tuga Namgur and Brandon Friesen. He said EA was interested in our music and wondered if it would be possible for us to work together on something for a Star Wars video game. And then our managers started the process. When they told us we might be working on something for Star Wars, and possibly writing a song for a Star Wars video game, it was a jaw-dropping moment for all of us. We were so excited!
WERE YOU FANS OF STAR WARS BEFOREHAND?
We were all fans of Star Wars beforehand. We started watching the movies at such young ages and all wanted to be Luke Skywalker. The character of Luke gives us a desire to be strong, honest men.
IS STAR WARS POPULAR IN MONGOLIA?
I think there are Star Wars fans all over the world.
WAS IT HARD MAKING THE SONG IN A STAR WARS–AUTHENTIC LANGUAGE? HOW DID YOU LEARN OR DEVELOP THE LANGUAGE AND THEN WRITE THE LYRICS?
Everything in Star Wars is unique, the characters included, and many have completely different alien languages. That's why we had to create a unique language for our Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order song. Writing the lyrics was a really creative process that we also truly enjoyed. This song was written for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order specifically. For the song to mean anything and make sense to us, we had to write the lyrics in Mongolian first. Then we performed it during our live shows in Europe and the U.S. After which we wrote lyrics in a language authentic to Star Wars with the guidance of the game's creators as we got closer to the launch of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
IN WHAT OTHER WAYS WAS THE SONG INSPIRED BY STAR WARS? DID YOU WATCH THE MOVIES OR PLAY THE GAMES FOR INSPIRATION?
We're all fans of Star Wars so the movies were definitely behind the inspiration. As we worked on this song, we were instructed to not use an "of this world" language so we resorted to our spiritual guides, we thought about Tengri [Eternal Blue Sky], about its power, how it aligned with power in Star Wars and how it would translate into a spoken language.
WHAT DOES THE TITLE "SUGAAN ESSENA" MEAN? WHAT IS THE SONG ABOUT?
"Sugaan Essena" means "The Black Thunder." This song is about a warrior's heart and spirit as the power of thunder. A quality that the lead character, Cal Kestis, possessed.
IS "SUGGAN ESSENA" A HARD SONG TO PERFORM LIVE?
We wouldn't say it's an easy song to perform live, but we enjoy playing it live anyway. There are eight musicians on the stage including our four touring members. We all do throat singing, which is considered an instrument itself. We can sound as huge as the recording when we perform live.
DO YOU GUYS PLAN TO PLAY IT AT SHOWS GOING FORWARD?
Absolutely! We have been performing it during our live shows in Europe and the U.S. in Mongolian. We will be playing it live because we love this song so much. We would love to perform it in the Star Wars language we created, but it would be too hard!
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THAT LISTENERS GET OUT OF THE SONG?
We want our listeners to feel the power of thunder and warrior spirit from this song. Through "Sugaan Essena," we wanted to wake up those inner warriors in each of us so that you can face your fears and overcome them.