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March 18, 2010

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Bringing reggae vibe to China

THE reggae band Far East Lion Soundsystem was formed last December, making it one of the youngest and freshest indie bands in Shanghai.

It's reggae, with some Chinese elements and lyrics about Shanghai, and Far East Lion has a lot of fans. The four members are Chinese, Japanese and Zimbabwean. They perform - in English - every Saturday night at Anar Bar on Xingfu Road.

The band's founders are DJ/MC Chen Ning (known as Jado) and Jr Lawrence Tsu H. Liu (known as Jaeson), both Chinese. They first called themselves the Fire Multipliers.

In January this year two more musicians joined the band: DJ/MC Koteng Shohei from Okinawa, Japan, and MC Yung Raas (Ignatius) from Zimbabwe. The name was officially changed to Far East Lion Soundsystem.

"The group makes the reggae vibe. We have two select DJs and all of the four members are MC at the same time," says Jado.

As the four members come from very different places - one Chinese member is from Taiwan - the group has a lot of cultural energy and international elements.

Jado is a Shanghainese. When he studied in university in 2002, his talents were admired by many local musicians. He started to give shows in pubs as an MC and take part in rap competitions, getting exposure and stage experience. He began to play reggae in 2003.

"Buju Banton from Jamaica is one of my favorite reggae musicians. I combine rap in Chinese into the reggae music to form my own style," says Jado. Some of their songs are about Shanghai.

When Jado met Jaeson?at a party last winter, they soon became friends and decided to form a reggae band.

"We want to make real reggae music, from ska to rock steady, roots to dancehall, jungle to dubstep," Jado tells Shanghai Daily. "We hope Far East Lion Soundsystem can boost reggae in China and pay respect to Chinese-Jamaican dub creator Clive Chin.

"Let's bring the reggae vibe to China, the land of the Far East," he says with enthusiasm.

The idea of the name Far East Lion Soundsystem comes from Jamaica, the cradle of reggae.

"In Jamaica reggae is played in the open air with a sound system," says Jado. "We wanted to add some humor and fun to our band name."

Without any complicated equipment, Jaeson started to create hip-hop with only a beatbox and two tape recorders, as well as his passion for music.

He started listening to reggae in 2007 and became very familiar with Rastafarian culture. He is also a DJ of jazz, hip-hop, lounge music, house music and turntable.

Jaeson arrived in Shanghai two years ago as a product designer. He still keeps that day job, and the other three also have regular jobs.

Music is their real life.

"We enjoy this kind of lifestyle. We work in the day time and play music after work. We don't feel tired as we are doing what we like," says Jaeson.

They recall with amusement the night they all arrived at their performance venue, still wearing suits from work.

"Sometimes it's very interesting to change into a singer in one second, or even to give the show wearing formal suits," says Jaeson.

MC Yung Raas (Ignatius) from Zimbabwe has played music for only two years, but his powerful voice, freestyle hip-hop and reggae make the fans scream as soon as he takes the microphone.

"There are many talented bands in Shanghai, which have been at this stage for a long time, like Blue Garden and Crystal Butterfly. We think Shanghai is fertile land for indie groups to create music, performance and make progress," the band says in a statement.

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