Music is an incredible art form because it can touch so many lives across different countries, languages, and cultures. Songs can elicit emotions in someone even if they don’t know what is being said. This sonic brilliance takes us all the way across the globe to the country of Mongolia where one passionate dancer and Christian hip-hop fan is trying to change the landscape of his entire country.
This is the story of Tuugu Saruultugs aka TuGo, a professional dancer and instructor who’s studio is called 116 and whose class is called Rapzilla.
If you’re wondering about the studio and class names, no they are not an endorsement or advertising by us or Reach Records. TuGo really named these after his favorite things.
He admires the 116 Movement of Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, Andy Mineo, KB, and everyone else who has ever been involved. When he would search out music for these artists he’d always stumble on Rapzilla. Soon, Rapzilla became his go-to place to find Christian Hip-Hop, his favorite music.
“I was creating an event. Mongolian people know the word ‘rap’. So I was searching on Instagram using the word ‘rap’ and the first thing that popped up was Rapzilla,” TuGo explained of his hip-hop dance course at 116 Studios. “So I figured I’d name the course that and then the kids would go home and look up the course and find Rapzilla.com. Then they can find Christian rap songs and get positive messages.”
He said the classes have been going very well and he teaches four sessions a week. They occur Tuesdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
“At two or three of my classes a week someone is left is crying at the end of it,” he revealed. “When we speak about life and what alcohol, sexual assault, mental health, and anxiety is doing in Mongolia… they cry. Only 5% of the population believes in Jesus and 95% of the people don’t. We are having this movement praying for Mongolian people to get to know Jesus and we’re doing it for the bright future of Mongolia.
TuGo says the class is the first of its kind in Mongolia. After putting it up on his website, 400 people signed up in two days.
Last week, he covered the song “Where is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas. Most of the students in his class said they never heard a message that’s so powerful in their life.
“Hip-hop is not big in Mongolia. The youth like it but there aren’t a lot of rappers. In the country, they have no knowledge or use of the Internet to really search the underground. They only know the biggest artists,” he said. “Mongolia has only had democracy for 26 years. The people who are in control are still old school minded.”
He continued, “Rap culture is a completely new thing. Mongolia’s population is only three million with more than half of the people living in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. The people who live in the city, 70 percent of those people live in a Yurt (traditional teepee home). They don’t have showering systems in there or have a bathroom inside the yurt. Around 30 percent of the people in the town use the Internet for research reasons.”
However, things in Mongolia are changing. TuGo says people are hungry for knowledge, especially about other cultures. Aside from its own culture, Mongolia is influenced by the neighboring countries of China and Russia but they are starting to look to the West. TuGo wants to help bring that outside culture in.
“I was in L.A. one month ago and what I learned was when they have something to offer, they make it their business. That’s what I needed to show to Mongolian people,” he said. “My English isn’t perfect but I’m using rap songs to teach English because in America there are about 30,000 Mongolian people and almost 29,000 of them can’t speak English fluently to get into the society and make ‘The American Dream’ come true.”
He continued, “They mostly work as cleaners, chefs, and assistants, those kinds of part-time jobs. I wanted to help them, help the kids and youth who want to travel to America or any other countries and that’s why I started to use rap songs as teaching slang words, American culture, and hip-hop culture. Most importantly I wanted to give them a good message. The media in Mongolia doesn’t really report on relevant things. They’ll talk about the new iPhone but they don’t hit anything deep.”
TuGo started dancing when he was 16 because he was a huge Chris Brown fan. He began krumping (street dance), then traveled to South Korea to learn their popping style of dance, before traveling to Japan and then eventually back to Mongolia to teach everything he’s learned. From there he started to travel to Europe and America, absorbing everything along the way.
“While I was gaining this knowledge, I started seeing that I have a very large responsibility to the people of Mongolia especially their spirituality.”
His next stop around the globe is Los Angeles. He’s moving there in December to further pursue the dream of dancing. He also plans on getting a Masters Degree in Bible Studies while in the U.S.
He’s leaving Mongolia with his popularity at his highest. He was a finalist on “Mongolia’s Got Talent” and the main star of the country’s first street dance movie, “One Above All.” He also served as the movie’s choreography and it’s still in theaters over there.
When he arrives in L.A. the goal is to spend some time training and then hopefully get picked up by a dance agency. He also has an opportunity with a Christian Mongolian businessman from Inner Mongolia. Together they want to make a website that empowers the young people of Mongolia to pursue their dreams and to be encouraged.
Lastly, TuGo had some words for Rapzilla and the rest of the Christian hip-hop community.
“I’m moving to America and I see this as a huge opportunity for future collaborations between the U.S. and Mongolia to awaken the youth out here. Mongolia has a very rich history starting with Genghis Khan to being under Qing’s rule,” said TuGo. “I think God has a great plan prepared for Mongolian youth. Honestly, they are very hungry for knowledge, wisdom, and guidance. Therefore, what you’re doing as a Christian community to the world could change our lives here forever. Thank you for your hard work and time.”