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February 18, 2012

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'Folk on the Way' shows genre's diversity

THE 2012 Folk on the Way music festival features popular modern folk singers in China. The festival stops in Shanghai on March 9 and 10 at Mao Livehouse.

"If rock music is a spirit, then folk music is an attitude," says Ma Tiao, a folk musician famous for his tough northwest style who is part of the tour. "It determines how you work on your music. For me, it is just to express myself directly with my voice and guitar, without any elaborate decoration."

Initiated in 2010 as China's first urban folk music festival, "Folk on the Way" this year is expected to show the diversity of Chinese folk music, according to Sun Mengjin, the organizer.

The diversified lineup this time includes Ma with his drunk-like stage performance, Liu Dongming with his sincere folk music from Shandong Province, Guo Yifan with his peaceful singing style and Troupe Band, known for their wild live show.

Other big names include Zhou Chao, Zhong Lifeng, Wang Fanrui, Yang Jiasong and Chuan Zi.

Sun says folk songs are much deeper in meaning than they used to be.

"Folk songs are no longer pure ethnic music directly linked to the Earth, or simple campus ballads," he says. "With more folk musicians realizing their social responsibility, quite a number of folk songs today focus on society, culture and humanity."

To present a full picture of Chinese folk music, "Folk on the Way" has invited as many musicians as possible and is always on the lookout for new talent.

The upcoming show will include Xiao He, who just appeared at the 40th Hong Kong Art Festival last week. In addition to a solo singer and guitarist, Xiao is a band member in Glorious Pharmacy, a Dada-esque performance art-rock troupe. He also collaborates with his musician friends including those in a Peking opera troupe.

Know for his excellent live shows, his music is somewhat experimental.

He believes in the concepts "freedom and love."

"People play music for different purposes - being a 'good man,' being a 'scientist,' being a 'revolutionist,' being a 'poet,' being a 'mob,' being a 'thief,' or just for making a life. For me, my musical goals is 'Let's be happy together'," he says.

Last June the festival toured 15 Chinese cities, giving 33 performances. The Shanghai stop held free outdoor concerts at Pudong's Jinqiao International Commercial Plaza.

Li Dalong, owner of Mao Livehouse, says the festival's success is a good example of how to build a tour brand.

"'Folk on the Way' gives over 30 shows around China every year, initially with the slogan 'Folk Music Revival'," says Li. "In the messy performance market now, this festival brand is growing stably and is quite precious. The success of this brand is gradually becoming a good example of how to operate a live tour in China."

However, compared with the folk music industry in the West, Chinese musicians still lag behind, especially in technique, says Li. However, most Chinese folk musicians are interested in expressing ideas and emotions through song, regardless of the limitations.

Date: March 9-10, 8:30-11:30pm

Venue: Mao Livehouse, 3/F, 308 Chongqing Rd S.

Tickets: 100 yuan (pre-sale); 120 yuan (at door); 180 yuan for a two-day package

Tel: 6445-0086

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