web analytics

Yep, that’s a banjo

So, this is an indie band from Beijing called Shan Ren. It means “Mountain Men” but they have a lot of different, mostly modern Western, influences. This playlist will give you a taste (huh. Amazing how much an electric guitar through a wah-wah pedal sounds Chinese).

Last year, they traveled across Yunnan province filming the locals and recording music. Turns out, most folk music is about drinking moonshine. How strangely familiar.

In honor of that, they recorded this Drinking Song, which I thought was lots of fun. Based on a local folk song, the main chorus means, “you have to drink, whether you want to or not.”

What? Oh, no. If politics wants me to pay attention to it again, it’s going to have to stop sucking so hard.


Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: January 4, 2012, 11:43 pm

What? Banjos, and the orient? Reminds me of the time I went searching for Japanese Bluegrass and found this YouTube clip from these guys.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: January 4, 2012, 11:57 pm

Great video AGT!

And, of course, I just had to do the ‘R’ and L’ thing when I read your comment 🙂

Comment from Redd
Time: January 5, 2012, 12:11 am

It is a good song.

It sounds like they are singing: Up your ___ (you fill in the blank).

Comment from GregO
Time: January 5, 2012, 12:46 am

Just checked out Shah Ren doing “Give Me My Money Back”. Sounded pretty hard-core! I like it…and AGT most excellent video – Japanese musician on Dobro made it for me.

Comment from Spad13
Time: January 5, 2012, 12:48 am

“If politics wants me to pay attention to it again,it’s going to have to stop sucking so hard…you have to drink, whether you want to or not.”

The perfect mash up.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: January 5, 2012, 1:05 am

I haven’t had a chance to pull them up yet, but the presentation you put up kind of reminds me of a Peruvian band that shows up at the Colorado State Fair each year. Pretty damn good, if you ask me, I could stand and listen to them for hours..

Of course, my sister found out, and gave me a Peruvian pan flute for Christmas a few years ago. I haven’t got the SLIGHTEST idea how to make it produce anything even remotely resembling music. Mostly it just sounds like a Yak with a dog biting it on the ass…..

Oh. BTW, if you are looking for a novel take on pop-culture music, I strongly recommend googling “the red hot chili pipers”. It’s a rock band centered around bagpipes, and some of their music is cool as hell….

Comment from tx_lurker
Time: January 5, 2012, 1:08 am

Yunnan is a beautiful place to visit and well worth the trouble. It’s kind of like China’s Appalachia, complete with indecipherable (to Han Chinese) accents, strong likker, and weird food. And this post exemplifies why I love lurking here, there always some bizarre new nugget of awesome to discover.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: January 5, 2012, 1:24 am

The banjo player is the guy at the back, right?

The man in front is playing a ”yueqin”, I think. (Not that I know anything, I’m just consulting Wikipedia.)

The man to the right is playing… I can’t match it to anything in the Wiki article. The band has a stub website. There’s a big picture of them at the top, which shows more detail on that guy and his instrument.

The man has dark brown skin – clearly from some ethnic minority. (In some other pictures he just looks swarthy.)

The instrument appears to have a cylindrical soundbox that that is 20-25 cm across and 40-50 cm deep. In the photo posted here, if one looks carefully, one can see that instead of the back of the soundbox resting on his abdomen, like a banjo or guitar, the side of the soundbox is against his hip and buttock.

There’s a slideshow at the site which includes a close-up of him playing. The soundbox looks like a middle-size drum.

I bet it makes a very interesting sound.

BTW, the band may be in Beijing now, but they’re from Yunnan. Some of them are from the Wa (or Va) and Buyei ethnic groups, which live on the Burmese and Vietnamese borders respectively.

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 5, 2012, 2:52 am

Mountain Sodomy Banjo Band

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: January 5, 2012, 4:03 am

@Oceania – Is that a local New Zealand phenomenon?

Comment from Anonymous
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:17 am

Saw a kick-ass Japanese bluegrass band at the Galax Fiddler’s Convention back in 72 or so, so no surprises there. There was a couple who played guitars and sang at one of the eateries in the Lido Center in Beijing back in 05/06 who did a lot of Lightfoot and similar stuff – learned all of it by rote listening to the recordings, so sometimes the lyrics were only close enough.

I also heard some truly kick-ass Chinese music on a number of those bizarre instruments they make – I was very tempted to drag one or two back to the house several times, but what would be the point?

Comment from Anonymous
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:34 am

Once upon a time I asked a luthier what serious students used for violins, and he told me most of them were either Chinese or Japanese in origin – who knew? Everybody knows names like Fender, Gibson, Martin, Taylor, Vega, Stelling, Wildwood, Ovation, Dobro, etc., etc., etc. for guitars, banjos and mandolins, but respected names (aside from the astronomicaly expensive antiques) for violin family instruments are a lot less well-known.

FULL DISCLOSURE – I have a McClatchy bodhrain. And a “Fender” (AKA American Banjo Co. – long out of production) banjo. Used to have a Lyon and Healey banjo way back when.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:37 am

Well how the hell did that happen? Those last two comments were from me, but the laptop lost my ID stuff somehow.

Stupid computers…

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: January 5, 2012, 3:34 pm

“Ah searched the world over
“An’ Ah thought Ah’d found true love;
“But you met another and
“‘Phffft!’* — you was gone!”

(* Razzberry/Bronx cheer noise. Hard to render phonetically)

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: January 5, 2012, 6:15 pm

I’ve tried and tried to resist posting this, seen on a guitar site:

Q: What’s the best pickup to use on a banjo?

A: A Ford F350.

Oceania – It’s a race now, to see which of us gets banned first


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:01 pm

Pff! I’ve heard all the banjo jokes, Some Veg. Go bug the accordion player.

(No seriously. Go bug him. Dude drives me nuts).

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:21 pm

Far Side:
“Welcome to Heaven. Here’s your harp.”
“Welcome to Hell. Here’s your accordion.”


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: January 5, 2012, 10:58 pm

You ACTUALLY know some one that plays the accordian? The closest I’ve come to one is Accordian Crimes by Ann Proulx. A very interesting novel, as is her book The Shipping News…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 6, 2012, 12:08 am

Yep, my dad does. He also plays the bagpipes, the banjo, the French horn…are you seeing a pattern here? He blew out an eardrum when he was young, and now the most important musical quality in his life is volume.

He likes to practice in the john. The acoustics of the tiles, don’tcha know.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: January 6, 2012, 10:06 am

“After a long immunity from the dreadful insanity that moves a man to become a musician in defiance of the will of God that he should confine himself to sawing wood, I finally fell a victim to the instrument they call the accordeon…

My passion for the accordeon finally spent itself and died out, and I was glad when I found myself free from its unwholesome influence. While the fever was upon me, I was a living, breathing calamity wherever I went, and desolation and disaster followed in my wake. I bred discord in families, I crushed the spirits of the light-hearted, I drove the melancholy to despair, I hurried invalids to premature dissolution, and I fear me I disturbed the very dead in their graves.”

— Mark Twain, “A Touching Story of George Washington’s Boyhood”

Comment from Alice
Time: January 6, 2012, 11:28 pm

Love the videos, but this is giving me a case of early-onset Spring fever. This, plus it’s 61 degrees in January … but alas our fantastic Spring Mountain Music festival isn’t for 4 more months.

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny