Christmas came early this past weekend as Li Dong and Shanren brought high spirits and good cheer to Mao Livehouse for a night of unabashed harmonious fun.
Keeping with the Xmas theme, I would consider Li Dong to a warm glass of eggnog on Christmas afternoon. Li Xia and company are pure class act. Tender, cozy, scruffy, this was Ningxi folk music that buzzed along under the lead singer’s pristine while rough around the edges voice. The other members bring their own flavor to the home flavored concoction, ingredients apart that might not amount to much but together, blissful. Check out their dynamic below.
Like taking a scroll through backcountry, Li Dong set the mood for the night, bringing a breath of fresh air into our smog city.
And then Shanren came on and proceeded to blow my mind. This was like opening up a wrapped gift expecting a pack of socks but instead finding a PlayStation2. Playing for almost two full hours, these boys hailing from Yunnan put on a show like none other. Energetic, enthusiastic, eclectic and flat out fun, the band used everything from banjos to bongos, woodwinds to mouth organs, to instruments I never even heard of (one instrument even looked like a giant leather-bound game boy).
Each member brought something matchless to the table, whether the burly bass player, Aiyong, who does quite the female impersonation, the human instrument, Xiaobudian, who had the audience in stitches while he created earth-defining sounds out of thin air, or even the ‘token white guy’, who rocked out the bongos gleefully.
Everyone pretty much was a virtuoso up on stage working harmoniously together, blending traditional music from the southwest of China, a melting pop of diverse ethnic cultures, with rock, reggae, folk, rumba, and even metal, they created a wonderful sound. If that sounds convoluted well you’d be surprised at just how unified it all sounds.
In the end, it wasn’t a matter of spotting the style but instead an amazement of how they managed to transcend genres altogether, creating something truly exceptional. It was hours before I could wipe the Cheshire cat grin off my face. Check out their own “Drinking Song” below as well as two other songs of theirs.