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February 12, 2010

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Weghur fuses folk, flamenco

THE three members of Weghur - a Chinese Uygur and two Frenchmen - sing in Uygur, Chinese and English. Their rock is a Xinjiang fusion of Central Asian folk with pop, rock and jazz. Nie Xin listens in.

Weghur rock band fuses ethnic sounds from China's far western region of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and elements from the West - from flamenco to modern jazz and pop.

In the name, "we" stands for West and "ghur" for Uygur.

The three-year-old band is comprised of a Chinese from Xinjiang, Hassan Mahmud, and two Frenchmen - percussionist Maxim Lenik (Xeum) and bass player Jay Lasry.

A chance jam session three years ago at Melting Pot bar on Taikang Road led to exchange of music ideas that would become the catalyst for the creation of Weghur, says Lenik.

Four and a half years ago, Lenik arrived in Shanghai with French bass player Lasry and started to give shows at live houses. When they met guitarist/vocalist Mahmud, the three decided to found a band - that is today's Weghur.

The two Frenchmen had previously collaborated on classical, jazz and pop projects in France; Weghur is their first live project in Shanghai.

"We started to give shows since we came to Shanghai and we decided to form the band with Hassan when we met him," recalls Lenik.

Mahmud has been performing since he was a youngster; this is his eighth year in the city.

"We like this city and enjoy the life and stage here very much," says Lenik.

Now the band has become one of the best on the list of indie music in Shanghai. They give shows both in Shanghai and Beijing, also collaborating with a music company in France.

"The name Weghur refers to a symbolic fusion of West and East," says Lenik.

The band staged last Saturday at Yuyintang live house, playing Xinjiang rock, folk rock and fusion. The show "Wild Ride EP Live" featured guest appearances from Sara Routh & One Consciousness.

"Wild Ride" is a full-length CD of the group's original music that was highly successful on the Internet.

The show became a hit.

The three members of Weghur have different music backgrounds, though their approach to song writing is collective and in performance they play off each other's musical ideas.

"We sing in Uygur (Torgut, a variety of Oirat), English and Chinese. Our music is a mix of Xinjiang rock, pop and classic rock. Various music styles are combined in our songs," says Lenik.

Xinjiang rhythms intersect with flamenco-style guitar fused with modern jazz elements and beats that are held in place by a solid, danceable rhythm. The band is tight and has been getting better, building a varied repertoire that includes freestyle improvisation.

The result can best be described as "Xinjiang fusion" but their sound really defies description, and the members keep it simple, fresh and honest.

The personalities vary as much as the musical influence, all adding to onstage intensity during improvisation, and the members say many of the performances just simply happen and are unlikely to be heard ever again - at least unless somebody hits the "record" button.

From the virtually empty tables at Melting Pot (288 Taikang Road) several years ago to their current Tuesday night session at Logo, the band's passion and persistence has earned them a core following. What Yuyintang's boss says about Weghur

Weghur has a bright feature of Xinjiang Uygur ethnicity in their rock music, presenting enthusiasm for life. Their music is very modern and their live show is exciting. The team comprised of two Western members and a Xinjiangnese makes the band both international and folk.


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