Echoes of China

Updated: 2013-09-26 00:32

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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A band takes its commitment to folk music on a national tour for the first time.

It is easy to imagine Liang huamin as the lead vocalist of a metal band. Fronting his six-man Echo Band, the tall, thin, singer-guitarist appears onstage in a tight T-shirt and jeans, with his waist-length hair whipping through the air as he becomes intoxicated by the music.

But as he plucks the guitar strings, he doesn't sound like a rock star. Instead of fast picking and sharp tones, he produces smooth and relaxing melodies. Together with his band members, percussionists Liu Teng and Wu Hao, bassist Su Wei, guitarist Zhu Meng, and flute and xiao (Chinese end-blown bamboo flute) player Jin Peng, Liang calls their music China rhythm.

Echoes of China

Liang Huamin (center) with his band members bassist Su Wei (right) and flute player Jin Peng. The band is touring the country with their debut album, Picturesque Motherland.Zou Hong / China Daily

"We want to make a kind of music that refers to China the moment you hear it, just like jazz coming from the African-American people. We want it to be contemporary and represent China," says Liang, 44, a native of Weifang city, Shandong province.

The title song of their debut album, Picturesque Motherland, according to Liang, is dedicated to his lifelong idol, Hong Kong kung fu novelist Louis Cha.

As a teenager, Liang read all of Cha's novels over and over again, imagining himself as one of the kung fu masters being on the road with his sword.

The detailed plots from the novels are all still vivid in his mind, which inspired him to write the song.

The song is also the title of the band's ongoing national tour, which kicked off at Peking University in Beijing on Sept 11 and is now traveling to 23 other cities around the country until the end of October.

"Just like the kung fu masters, we hit the road and spread our music," says Liang. "I hope our music can echo in people's mind after we leave."

It will be the first national tour for Echo Band, six years after they formed in Beijing. The band is the brainchild of Liang, who fell in love with rock at 15.

However, he didn't become a rock star as he'd planned. For a time in 1995, when Liang came to Beijing and studied guitar, he was living in a basement without a window and worrying about his next meal. To make ends meet, he sold Western original and copied cassettes near the old Summer Palace, which accidentally introduced him to world music.

"I listened to various world music from different countries, like India, Spain and the US," he recalls. "I was totally fascinated. Then it made me think: Why not make a kind of music representing China?"

He notes that many pop musicians integrate Chinese music styles, like Taiwan pop singer-songwriter Jay Chou, who uses lots of poetic lyrics in his songs. However, Liang says, the form is still borrowed from Western pop music.

While recruiting his band members, Liang travels around the country to be exposed to music that he cann't find on TV or recordings.

Among all the Chinese music elements, he likes the music of yangko dance (popular rural folk dance in Northeast China) best. "The moment you hear it, you picture the dance in your head, the big colorful fan and the heavy makeup," Liang says.

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