'Sultans of Swing' rocks

By Yao Minji (Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-26 09:24

The blues rock band "Sultans of Swing" with musicians from Shanghai, Zhejiang, Hebei and Sichuan provinces plays tomorrow night, along with "Mint" at Yuyintang, one of the city's few rock houses, writes Yao Minji.

Angry young men wearing black tee-shirts and metal accessories, shouting and yelling in a basement smelling of stale food, cigarettes and liquor.

This would seem de rigueur for an interview with a rock band, but it didn't happen for the interview with "Sultans of Swing," rather casual rockers who look more ordinary than average youths on Shanghai streets.

"We don't smoke, we don't drink alcohol. If there has to be something, well, we like teas, we often drink Chinese teas together, and talk about music." says Huang Yongqiang, vocal and guitarist.

Instead of a grungy basement, Huang and Pan Wenzhe, the bass player, were interviewed by Shanghai Daily in Huang's guitar store, Shanghai Blue Sugi Musical Instrument Ltd - nice, clean and filled with sunshine.

Pan has won television competitions and calls all band members professional musicians.

"As professional musicians, we can make a living as musicians, we don't have any other jobs," says Pan.

Even Huang, who owns the guitar shop, only goes there once in a while.

Other band members are Huang Se from Shanghai on harmonicon and guitar; Liu Lin from Sichuan Province on guitar and vocal; Wang Wei from Hebei Province on drums. With Huang from Zhejiang Province and Pan from Shanghai, the "Sultans of Swing" is quite national compared with other local bands that are mostly all Shanghainese.

Since Beijing is considered China's rock capital, it seems strange that the "Sultans" has settled in Shanghai, especially since Huang, Liu and Wang once had a band in Beijing.

"Well, the air here is better, much less sandy than in Beijing," Huang jokes. He also has a different opinion about the two cities' music environment.

"It depends on what perspective you take. For example, Eric Clapton didn't go to Beijing, he only came to Shanghai for his tour. Many internationally famed rockers come to Shanghai nowadays."

All the members went to the Clapton concert together. After all, they define their music style as blues rock, just like Clapton's.

Although they have a few original songs based on group efforts, they mostly imitate and reedit master works from their idols, such as Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Tomorrow night, the "Sultans of Swing" will perform together with "Mint," a very different band.

The four members of "Mint" - American-born Gao on vocal, Xiaojing on guitar, Zhang on bass and Xiaolian on drums - hold regular jobs to support themselves and their spending on instruments and rehearsals.

Gao and Xiao Jing met through the Internet and soon decided to found a band. It didn't take long for them to find bass player Zhang and drummer Xiaolian, members of Xiaojing's former band who also share their love for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Compared to "Sultans of Swing," "Mint" has more varied music styles. They have touched almost all areas of rock, including hard rock, punk, Brit pop, folk rock, and funk.

"Sultans of Swing" and "Mint"
Date: January 27, 7:30pm
Venue: Yuyintang, No. 100, Lane 200 Longcao Rd
Tel: 021-63460072
Admission: 30 yuan


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