Reggae music may have come from Jamaica, but a band from Beijing is building on the genre to create something pretty unique. Long Shen Dao’s distinct sound is attracting fans around the world.
Music acts from China, Japan and South Korea are taking the West by storm. The Asian pop stars are reaching beyond their home markets and achieving global success. Perhaps the best known example is South Korean singer Psy, whose videos attracted billions of views around the world.
Dreaming of similar success is Beijing-based Long Shen Dao, China’s first ever reggae band.
"Reggae is one of the easier genres of music with which to communicate with listeners," said band member Guo Jian.
The novelty alone of this Chinese-Jamaican musical marriage is enough to pack Canadian concert seats. But Long Shen Dao wants to be seen as more than just a Bob Marley tribute act. "It’s a mix of several different influences. Reggae is where we start, but then we bring in electronic music, traditional Chinese music and others," Guo said.
Chinese reggae band Long Shen Dao.
As China’s role in the world grows, it’s become a bit easier for Chinese bands to market themselves abroad. Music promoter Jonathan Campbell said, "In my experience of bringing Chinese bands into the West - the amount of people whose heads perk up at the idea of Chinese 'blank' band, whether it’s a Chinese punk band, Chinese reggae band, Chinese rock, people are just like, 'that I gotta see'."
But with that global interest in all things China, comes a challenge. Chinese musicians, actors and artists often find themselves spending more time in interviews dispelling myths about their motherland than discussing their actual work.
"Bands sit through these interviews where they don’t get to talk about the reason they do what they do. They’re only talking about what their country is like, or more accurately, what people think their country is like," Campbell said.
Nevertheless, the cultural intrigue and novelty helps new artists build some initial notoriety. The task for this band now is to turn fans of China and reggae - into faithful fans of Long Shen Dao.