China is well-known for its opera and folk music, but a dreadlocked Beijing band is about to show New Zealanders an entirely different side of the country’s music scene.
Reggae band Long Shen Dao (Way of the Dragon Spirit) will perform at the Auckland and Christchurch lantern festivals and at gigs in Manukau and Wellington.
Long Shen Dao, widely considered to be China’s first proper reggae band and its best, has been playing reggae together since 2006.
“We all like reggae music and Bob Marley and it brings us happiness,” band manager Wang Haifeng said.
Reggae was “quite hot lately” in China, particularly in the cities of Beijing and Chengdu, and in the southwestern province of Yunnan.
The band’s reggae music has distinctive Chinese elements and incorporates traditional Chinese instruments like the guzheng (zither). Their music also draws on rock, dub, hip-hop, ska and electronica.
The group cites the philosophy of Taoism (“the way”) and the Chinese martial art form of tai chi as inspirations – and have even been known to perform tai chi at gigs. Their debut album was entitled Tai Chi Reggae.
The band's New Zealand shows would be their first overseas, which Wang Haifeng called “just a first step on ‘the way’”.
Long Shen Dao’s members grew up in different regions of China before meeting in Beijing.
Rapper and guitarist Niu Mu and drummer Gao Fei studied together at the Beijing Midi School of Music – China’s first school for modern music – in the late 1990s. They later moved to Shu Cun (tree village), an area on the outskirts of Beijing known for its underground music scene. There, they met vocalist and bassist Guo Jian and guitarist Gao Xu, who were also residents. They later met keyboardist Zang Hongfei at shows.
The group will be joined in New Zealand by Zhang Yi, who plays the zither.
Aside from performing with Long Shen Dao, Gao Xu runs Beijing’s Temple Bar; Gao Fei is a drum teacher; and Zang Hongfei and Niu Mu produce music for other artists and movies. “Guo Jian basically plays taiji [tai chi] every day,” Wang Haifeng said.
The band is particularly looking forward to meeting Kiwi reggae artists and performing alongside them during the tour.
Long Shen Dao was brought to New Zealand with the support of China’s Ministry of Culture, and Cathay Pacific.
Image: Long Shen Dao (L-R) Gao Fei, Niu Mu, Guo Jian, Zang Hongfei and Gao Xu.