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Folk music a calling for young singers

2013-10-16 15:16:13

(Shanghai Daily) By Victoria Fei


Increases the bookmark digg Google Delicious buzz friendfeed Linkedin diigo stumbleupon Qzone QQ Microblog A group of Chinese independent-minded musicians is spreading modern Chinese folk music by drawing inspiration from local experiences in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

These entrepreneurial artists are making opportunities for themselves and other musicians, and some have found popularity by expressing the hopes and fears they find on city streets.

Both the performers and promoters say they're doing what they love and willing to make sacrifices for it. Some are learning as they go, while others have had experience that helps guide them.

"In a man's life, youth might be the only period one would pursue the hobby of playing music without any worry," says Fan Qie, a stage name that means "tomato."

Fan Qie, who declines to reveal the real name, is the founder of Youth-us, an independent folk records label started in his hometown of Shanghai in August 2011.

"We do it because we simply love it," the 26-year-old ballad singer says.

Fan Qie started to listen to folk songs in middle school and was deeply influenced by the Chinese campus folk singer Lao Lang, who was very popular at the time.

It was no surprise to his acquaintances that he quit Shanghai International Studies University, where he majored Japanese, to focus more on music.

"From the bottom of my heart, I knew that whether or not I graduated from the university, I will play music," Fan Qie says.

In 2009, he formed a partnership with a friend to establish an ill-fated record label.

"It did not end well because we did too much, including rock, folk and other styles," Fan Qie says. "There was no focus and soon we drained our resources."

The experience led the young man to strike out on his own with Youth-us, which is dedicated to a local niche.

"It is no exaggeration to say that I might be the only one who has founded a records label to focus only on folk songs in Shanghai," Fan Qie says. "Folk songs are delicately composed and performed by artists who want to reveal small things happening in life and their own feelings about it. The songs are gentle and can always bring city people the sense of healing."

Like him, Beijing native Hao Yun uses his hometown experiences to inspire his folk music.

At 34, the Beijing native has been a music teacher, a music executive and a member of a motorcycle gang. Now he is dedicated to urban folk music as a performer. Relying only on a guitar and his voice, Hao speaks of the changes in Beijing, both in its people and the city itself.

From iconic singles such as "Beijing Beijing" and "Suddenly I Thought of the Word Dream," Hao's works showcase what is bitter and sweet about living in the city.

This Friday, Hao and his band will perform at Qingshuiwan Art Center in Shanghai as part of the "Guinness Made of MORE" concert series which is to showcase China's growing independent modern folk genre.

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