Created and casted by the producer Ralph Siegel (born 1945 in Munich/Germany) in 1979 Dschinghis Khan was a successful German group whose main period of activity ebbed out in the first half of the 1980s. The group has, however, continued to perform until the 2000s with changing line ups.
With lyrics by Bernd Meinunger and arranged by Norbert Daum Dschinghis Khan’s eponymous song was written and produced by Ralph Siegel as a possible contribution for the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson (or Eurovision Song Contest as it is known today) in 1979. Siegel was probably also influenced by the success of Boney M. which provided a similar model of a producer centered band: Frank Farian recorded and produced the commercially successful song “Baby Do You Wanna Bump” in the end of 1974. Released under the pseudonym Boney M. Farian saw the need to cast a band once requests to perform arrived (Farian 2010) and thus the band emerged. Siegel aimed to copy the concept with German lyrics (Schock 2004).
The original cast consisted of the singers Wolfgang Heichel, Henriette Heichel, Lesley Mandoki (Laszlo Mandokí), Edina Pop, Steve Bender and the dancer Louis Henrik Potgieter (Joint Venture Concerts n.d.). DSCHINGHIS KHAN was both released on the group’s debut album (Dschinghis Khan 1979a) and as a single together with the song Sahara on the B-Side (Dschinghis Khan 1979b).
With costumes created by Marc Mano and a choreography by Hannes Winkler the group won the German Eurovision nomination at the qualification in Munich (Norddeutscher Rundfunk n.d.; Joint Venture Concerts n.d.). On March 31st, 1979 they participated in the 24. Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson in Jerusalem where the song conducted by Norbert Daum reached the 4th place with a total of 86 points (European Broadcasting Union 2011).
The song combines two streams of (European) popular music history: Released at the peak of the disco hype DSCHINGHIS KHAN is firmly embedded within the (European) disco lineage of the 1970s (Eurodisco). At the same time the song is part of cover-practices common for European popular music of the time with national language covers of the song appearing in the same year of the song’s release (cf. “Reception” and Smith-Sivertsen 2007 for a general discussion of this covering practice).
The song also draws on a tradition of creating an exotic Other both on the lyrical level (Dschinghis Khan’s sexual abilities, his powers, alcohol consumption) and in the performance (colorful costumes, choreography). In a wider context this also alludes to the Russian folklore lineage which musically emerged in Germany following the Russian revolution and resulting civil war (Wickström 2010; Wickström 2011). By drawing on the mystical East and a historical person who is mainly known to have conquered what is now Russia this song and even more Dschinghis Khan’s song “Moskau” (Dschinghis Khan 1979b) as well as Boney M.’s “Rasputin” (Boney M. 1978) also plays on stereotypes associated with Russia (heavy drinking of vodka).
The song’s structure evolves around the chorus (actually a double chorus) which hook “Dsching, Dsching, Dschinghis Khan” is repeated four times over a dance orientated beat (around 140 bpm) accenting the 2 and 4. The rhythm section plays the same riff more or less throughout the whole song with the bass alternating between the chord root on the 1 and 3 before dropping to the chord’s fifth on the 2 and 4 of each measure. This is supported by the guitar which plays a recurring riff accenting the offs and the snare accenting the 2 and 4.
In addition to the rhythm section the song also draws on a string- and a brass-section which underline the beat, embellish the melody and provide variation in the overall structure (e.g. when the hook is heard the third and fourth time in the chorus the string riff on the 2 and 4 is supported by the horns).
After the intro the general structure of the song consists of two verses which are each followed by a pre-chorus and chorus (the chorus can formally be labelled C-C’ – hence double chorus).
The song’s lyrical content describes Dschinghis Kahn’s sexual and reproduction abilities, his alcohol consumption as well as how Dschinghis Kahn and his men terrorized the countries they visited. This is underlined by the choreography from the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson-performance (Dschinghis Khan 2010) – while the five singers primarily remain static around their microphones the dancer Louis Potgieter underlines the lyrical content with movements and gestures (laughing, emptying a mug of vodka, grabbing a woman).
The song entered the German album charts on April 2nd, 1979 and the single charts on April 9th, 1979 where the song spent four weeks on first place (Phononet GmbH n.d.). The song also reached 3rd place in the Swiss charts and 8th place in the Austrian charts (hitparade.ch n.d.).
As mentioned above national language covers of the song appeared soon after the release, amongst others in Swedish (Vikingarna: “Djingis Khan” – Vikingarna 1979), Finnish (Frederik: “Tsingis Khan” – Frederik 1979), Danish (Keld & the Donkeys: “Dschingis Khan” – Various Artists 1996), Spanish (Iván: “Sin Amor” – Iván 1979), Yiddish (Mordechai Ben David: “Yidden” – Ben David 1991, original release 1986), Cantonese (George Lam: “成吉思汗” – Georg Lam 1979) and as instrumentals (Ricky King: “Dschinghis Khan” – King 1979).
The original cast started to fall apart with the departure of Steve Bender in 1981. The remaining members remained active until around 1985. While there were attempts to revive the band with both original and new members in the following years the first semi-successful reunion with resulting concerts in Russia and Mongolia was in 2005. The group’s original members have remained active within the music business both as performers and as producers (Bender, Mandoki).
Songwriter: Ralph Siegel
Lyrics: Bernd Meinunger
Arrangement: Norbert Daum
Producer: Ralph Siegel
Vocals: Wolfgang Heichel, Henriette Heichel, Lesley Mandoki, Edina Pop, Steve Bender
Label: Jupiter Records
Recording: February-March 1979
Dschinghis Khan. “Dschinghis Khan”. On: Dschinghis Khan, 1979, Jupiter Records, 200 690, 200 690-315, Germany (LP, Album, Gat).
Dschinghis Khan. “Dschinghis Khan”. On: Dschinghis Khan, 1979, Jupiter Records, 400 690, 400 690-352, Germany (Cass, Album).
Dschinghis Khan. “Dschinghis Khan”. On: Dschinghis Khan, 1981, Jupiter Records, 6.24799 AP, Germany (LP, Album, RE).
- Smith-Sivertsen, Henrik. Kylling Med Soft Ice Og Pølser – Populærmusikalske Versioneringspraksisser I Forbindelse Med Danske Versioner Af Udenlandske Sange I Perioden 1945-2007. Ph.D. thesis, Institut for kunst og kulturvidenskab, Københavns Universitet, Copenhagen 2007.
- Wickström, David-Emil. Kasatchok Superstar – Post-Sovetskaia Populiarnaia Muzyka, “Russendisko” I Traditsiia Russkogo Fol’klora V Evrope. In Russkaia Rok-Poeziia: Tekst I Kontekst, edited by M. B. Voroshilova, Iu. V. Domanskii, E. E. Nikitina, O.E. Nikitina, and A. P. Chudinov, Ekaterinburg, Tver’: Ekaterinburg, Tver’ 2010.
- Wickström, David-Emil. Okna Otkroi! – Open the Windows! Scenes, Transcultural Flows, and Identity Politics in Popular Music From Post-Soviet St. Petersburg. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society. Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag 2011.
- European Broadcasting Union. 2011. Eurovision Song Contest 1979. Eurovision Song Contest. URL: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/by-year/contest?event=295 [02.11.2011].
- Farian, Frank. 2010. Frank Farian About Project Boney M. (Interview 2006). Youtube. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sees4PzGlBE (added by abagoff, 12.06.2010) [02.11.2011].
- hitparade.ch. n.d. Dschinghis Kahn – Dschinghis Kahn. URL: http://www.hitparade.ch/showitem.asp?interpret=Dschinghis+Khan&titel=Dschinghis+Khan&cat=s [18. November 2011].
- Joint Venture Concerts. n.d. Die Geschichte – Seite 2 Von 5. DSCHINGHIS KHAN. URL: http://www.dschinghis-khan.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=28&limit=1&limitstart=1&lang=de [02.11.2011].
- Norddeutscher Rundfunk. n.d. 1979: Deutscher Vorentscheid in München. Das Erste: Eurovision Song Contest. URL: http://www.eurovision.de/laender/muenchen183.html [18.11.2011].
- Phononet GmbH. n.d. DSCHINGHIS KHAN – Single-Chartverfolgung. Musicline.de. URL: http://www.musicline.de/de/chartverfolgung_summary/artist/Dschinghis+Khan/single [18.11.2011].
- Schock, Axel. 2004. Hu, Ha, Hu, Ha. Berliner Zeitung, 31.03. URL: http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/archiv/hu–ha–hu–ha,10810590,10164900.html [23.11.2011].
- Artist homepage: http://www.dschinghiskhan.de/ [11.01.2012].
- Database: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dschinghis+Khan [11.01.2012].
- Download: http://dschinghis-khan.musicload.de/kuenstler/34861 [11.01.2012].
About the Author
All contributions by David-Emil Wickström
David-Emil Wickström: “Dschinghis Khan (Dschinghis Khan)”. In: Songlexikon. Encyclopedia of Songs. Ed. by Michael Fischer, Fernand Hörner and Christofer Jost, http://www.songlexikon.de/songs/dschinghis, 2011 [revised 10/2013].Print